river creatures

It only took Karen a moment upon waking to remember her anger from the night before. That was all bullshit, anyway, the whole never go to bed angry adage; unrealistic, really. Whatever. She had gone to bed angry and awakened in a slow simmer.

The night before, she had wanted to leave. Not forever, just to get her bearings, but she had been trapped by booze and country living. Which was to say, she had drunk too much to drive, and walking around in the pitch black of a hilltown middle-of-the-night was out of the question. So she had slammed and locked the bedroom door and scribbled in her notebook until she passed out. Now, she thought she better have some coffee and clear her head before she read what she had written.

Monica was still asleep on the couch, but Karen ran the coffee grinder anyway. She figured, correctly as it turned out, that Monica was still giving her the cold shoulder and would keep her distance. And fuck her, anyway. Karen fed the cats while her coffee brewed, pulled on her boots and her fleece overshirt, and knotted her hair into a messy ponytail. Coffee decanted into a travel mug, Karen set out into the morning air.

It was a beautiful walk, and ordinarily Karen would have paid attention, would have attuned herself to her surroundings. Today, she was too pissed to notice. She stomped down the main road and turned right on Old South Road, trying unsuccessfully to slow her pace. She blasted past the farmhouse with the huge trampoline, the house that she and Monica had dubbed "John-John's Hilltown Getaway," and the house with the purple door without observing any of the details that usually made her smile. By the time she reached the "Trustees of Reservations" sign, she was full-on enraged again.

When she reached the cliff's edge, Karen finally took stock of her surroundings. On other days, being in this place made her happy. Today, the natural beauty of the gorge made her catch her breath. The rushing water, the glacier-hewn rock, the creeping yellow-flowered sage, all far below. As usual, she stood back from the rail in an attempt to avoid that sucking vertigo feeling in her abdomen, but she leaned against a rock and let the scene and the sounds rush over her.

After a few moments of listening to water crashing like the angry thoughts in her head, Karen crept along the path and carefully down the rough steps toward the dirt road. Following along the river, the road was more like a path, where at this time on a weekday morning, she was all alone. After about a mile's walk, she reached her favorite bend in the river. She tossed down her mug, shedded her fleece and boots, and tiptoed out to the furthest rock. She spread her arms wide open, as if to embrace the sun, pulled all the way back to feel the stretch across her ribs, then bent all the way down to touch her toes, stretching her spine.

She spotted the rock and picked it up, standing tall again, rolling it around in her hands, smooth and round. She held it to her mouth for a heartbeat and then hurled it into the river. "That's for making me cry!" Karen grabbed another rock and threw it. "I HATE CRYING!" Another. "That's for not loving me!"

Another. "That's for not touching me!"

Another. "That's because I need you to want me!"


She spied a huge rock, as big as a football, oblong and smooth from years of wear. If she was going to throw rocks, she was glad for the smooth, round ones, the ones that belonged there, that had been forged there. She hoisted up the heavy one and stayed bent over, cradling it there like a baby, aware of her spine again, the pressure of the pull of the weight, keeping it there.

"This is for me being in it with you forever, this is what I signed up for, this is for my destiny." Karen choked, then coughed.


She had not yet thrown the rock. Another splash registered just beyond her, toward the opposite bank. Karen slowly raised her head, blowing wayward hair from her eyes.

There she was, five hundred pounds of mama black bear, eyes like coal looking right back at her.

Karen dropped the rock.

This week in the Indie Ink Writing Challenge, The Drama Mama challenged me with a prompt I might have written for myself: "If you must throw stones, make sure they are smooth and round from the river." I challenged Stefan with "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt." (He lives on another continent, so probably can't actually show up here to kick my ass. Whew.)