"Tales From The River" is an anthology of five short stories from four Wabash Valley authors: Matt Ramsey, Molly Daniels, T. L. Bishop, and N E Riggs. First City Books, 2023, Printed in USA, 96 Pages. Matt's story signed on request.
"Tales From The River" Short Story Anthology
Marshall maintained a little calendar on the brown refrigerator that mapped the month to its yard appointments, and also tracked Jayson’s progress toward fulfilling the requisite annual number of school attendance days. After the requirements of the latter enterprise were satisfied, Jayson was routinely repurposed to the former.
Many of those flood-mornings being in the Springtime, Marshall would nap after boating Jayson to the school bus, in the pickup truck which remained there, there being no lawn maintenance required nor desired at that pre-dawn hour, and Marshall bore a secrecy of guilt around the nap, not wanting Jayson to know that as he labored at the educational workload, his father was soundly and blissfully asleep under a grove of budding poplars. The guilt-nap was one of a very few secrets Marshall kept from Jayson, with the others being equally egotistical and trivial, though Jayson imagined his father’s secrets were manifold and important, and that his father, who was by reputation of a fairly unserious demeanor, was maintained so by the gravity of bearing these secrets and waiting for Jayson to arrive at the maturity to unburden himself of them, and Jayson did tend to think of his development as this process of being prepared by his father for a great divulgence of wisdom so profound it would cleanly initiate his adulthood at a singular time, on a singular vector. However and heretofore, Marshall tended to speak to his son in vague observational aphorisms that seemed to spring from noplace, signify nothing, and vanish with the cigarette smoke they rode in on.
The floods’ springtime arrival likewise meant Jayson’s annual academic obligations were largely fulfilled, and, those waters now receded, he was as many days, including this one, employed in the busyness of lawns as learning.
Sixteen years ago, Jayson was conceived in this spot where the dirt road departing the mobile homes dead-ends at The Point, in the cab of the very truck on which he rests and watches his father lift the hose high overhead into the sun to arrest the noise of the pump cavitation, a maneuver Jayson never would have considered, to solve a problem he never would have anticipated. After being told in crystal-clear alternations that his mother was incarcerated, ill, deceased, away on business, and lost in “the Conga”, he’s avoided asking, though he will eventually learn that the second explanation was circumstantially most correct. After giving birth to Jayson, his mother Sara disconnected herself from three monitoring machines and escaped the maternity ward leaving only her hospital gown, a backgammon board, and a napkin note that clarified: “I SAID NO BABIES!”
She was a college student who sometimes visited the confluence of The Point on weekends to stare at the slow drift of the water and not think about anything, which is the opposite of the reason Marshall would venture beyond the mobile home he’d inherited from his grandparents every morning: to think. But on this day Sara sat thoughtlessly for so long she climbed the bank to find a dead car battery, and followed the voices, a faint music, and a seemingly endless strand of hanging incandescent bulbs toward the circle of trailers.
“What do you do?” she asked Marshall as he lifted the hood.
“I work in car parts,” he said.
“That’s lucky. Do you have a specialty?”
“You heard of cutoff exhausts, steel rims and lift suspension parts?”
“I think so.”
“Well, that’s what I do—cut off exhausts, steal rims and lift suspension parts.”