THE MITTEN RIVER

I’m lying by the Mitten River. The Mitten River.

Across from me, on the opposite bank of the river, is a man my age, or older. Though he is like a child, and cries. Leaning on his elbows, his hands closed over his nose, choking, the sound. He cries and cries. Watching the river so carefully, even through the second river (this is his crying).

Next to me, too close to me, is Marion. She has told me her name, this ancient woman. I feel … that she is somehow a child. Again. When I feel her hand, on my shoulder … I restrain myself. I turn my gaze, to the river.

We are all watching. The water. From time to time, the man rises up, cries out throwing, his hands. Only … to crouch back down, again. And resume his watching.

She will not stop talking. This child-woman. If any pity remained in me, I would give it to her. I imagine her screaming, is some other thing. A wind, that cannot be stilled. I quiet my mind, like a room cleared of staggering men. And resume my observation.

Then …

At first, I think … it is an illusion. A wishful miscalculation. I do rub my eyes, like a cartoon man. Walking swiftly, by the river. Keeping pace. I wait until I am certain.

And I am certain.

I step into the water. I step into the water, and I grab them. I grab them. I take hold of them. I hold them, my own … mittens.

They are just as I remember them. Gray, and woollen. Hand-made. By my mother’s … mother. I have not seen them. I thought they were lost. I have not seen them. They should have been lost. They should have been lost. Like everything.

Joy, is a strange thing. Is it not what we each of us seek? Is it not, our reason? It is more than golden, joy; and less, for there is less, than any gem, any precious thing. We cannot each of us know it, no. It can be borrowed, only. Or – stolen. For a moment, known. Then … forgotten.

Across from me, on the opposite bank of the river, the crying man – cries no longer. He is silent. He is silent, and it is like he is dying. His face…. He has let his hands fall. He is falling. On the side of the water, he falls into the water. He is somewhere in the water.

Marion is screaming. She watches my hands, the mittens, and screams. Her shrivelled face is itself a river, and a river again. Canals of skin, filled with water. When she springs, we both list into the river. She is soon drowning. She can swim … but cannot remember. She is in the river. The man, is in the river. I am … somewhere. In water.

It is a strange thing.

So I let go, of the mittens. I let them fall, from my palms. I drop them. And the river carries them … away.

Marion, is calm. She remembers how to swim. The man … stands. The water, is not too deep. I am standing, as well. Again.

It is a strange thing.

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