R. L. Futrell






They are heading east on 35, crossing over the Kanawha and into West Virginia when they see that the traffic has slowed. The man is flipping through the AM stations, listening to bits of sports talk radio, weather reports, and the like. As an act of kindness he has the volume low. The woman is reading.

The man says, For a class?

Mythology, the woman says.

She is not really reading. Just skimming. Looking out the window at the traffic, at the town, noticing that the water is up, that there are barges pushing coal at what seems too slow a pace to be going anywhere.

The man says, Which ones?

The Five Ages of Man and the Flood. Prometheus. All of them, really.

This is months before the separation, years before what will become “a bitter time in all their lives.” Before the accident at the house. Before the job transfer. This is the melancholy they will look back on with some fondness—driving through the fertile bottom-land of early marriage, of new love.

They take the ramp off 35 and circle down into Henderson, just across the river from Point Pleasant—the radio popping and fizzing with static as they pass under the bridge. On the left, the river pushes slowly into West Virginia. The man has his window down and can smell the river, he thinks, mixed with diesel exhaust from the tractor trailers ahead of them. Can smell late summer and fresh cut lawns. Occasionally he catches a glimpse of shirtless men on barges between the clap-board houses and mobile homes that line the river.

The man says, Is it interesting?

The reading? Not really, the woman says.

The traffic is as thick and heavy as the slow moving river. She is looking out her window now, further up the mountain to where they are building the new interstate. There are orange signs at regular intervals warning of two-way radio communication and blasting zones.


A number of rocks have rolled down from the construction site and have smashed small trees and flower beds, have spilled onto the road in places. There are larger boulders lodged against the corners of homes, embedded in screened-in porches and resting against rusted swing sets. She sighs loudly as they pass a blue Ford Taurus with the hood crumpled completely by a bright tan boulder nearly twice as big as the car itself.

Jesus, the woman says. Those poor people. Just so we can get there sooner.

The man says, I wonder where this river goes?

She rolls her window down to feel the humid warmth of summer on her skin.

The ocean, the woman says, still looking at the flattened Taurus.  Always to the ocean.


Copyright © 2004 R. L. Futrell.  All Rights Reserved.


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