Quiet River

By on Sep 12, 2011 in Fiction

Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4

Quiet River graphic

The air was still the day he crossed the flowing border of the town.  The air was still, and the sun leaned on this side of the river as his hiking boots rang the dull timbers of the bridge.  The gnats and mosquitoes held their convention along the length of the river and shore, and they swarmed a halo around the stranger, but, I declare, not a one touched down on his dusty ball cap, nor lay tiny feet upon the sweat of the man’s face.  He came with company that day; a dog the color of dried clay trotted at his side, looking neither right nor left, and moving as a dog would move, had it walked a hundred miles in a handful of days.

At the end of the bridge, man and dog hopped down to the river’s bank, forsaking the road’s itinerary for one of their own.  The man walked to the water’s edge and squatted so that he leaned out over the soft-running surface.  He stayed that way for awhile, occasionally stretching out one arm and gracefully dipping his hand in the cool water.  The dog drank its fill and lay down in the shade of an old elm.  The dog neither panted nor drooled much, as one might expect a dog to do on a day as warm and as humid as this was.  It appeared either too exhausted to behave as a normal dog, or it was impervious to the heat and the multitude of insect communities which loved this land like no other.  After a while the man stood and began walking downstream, toward me.  He gave a soft whistle, and the dog appeared instantly at his side.
The man hiked along the river path with long strides, and he approached me rapidly.  He wore tired jeans and an olive-green, military-style rucksack.  His T-shirt was faded and soiled, and his cap was rife with road dust and sweat stains.  I sat upon my favorite fallen live oak, with my pole out above the shining river, and the blue-tinted line ran as slack as ever into an arbitrary point in the water’s surface.

I shifted myself slightly as I sat, so I might view the stranger’s face as he drew near.  I nodded my head and raised my hand in greeting.  “Nice dog,” I said to him.  He slowed his pace and nodded in return.  He stopped and looked at me once.  His hair and his face were darker than his arms, and the shade which fell on the man’s face from his ballcap mixed with the road tan, dirt and beard stubble so as to erase any prominent features from view.  His eyes, however, flashed into view as he first looked me over.  They were a deep, forest green; a green which grows where rain falls, more often than not.

He looked down at the dog, as though he had never seen it before.  “You think so?”  His gaze moved on to where my line lay dead in the water.

“Sure!  She’s a Lab, isn’t she?”  The dog was sitting patiently by the man’s side, looking straight ahead, down the path.  As I watched, she turned and looked at me, the sun falling full on her face and bringing out a beautiful metallic rust color.  Her face was rather small, but her eyes were huge: a big, strong brown.  She looked at me, unblinking, for as long as I looked at her.  The gnats swarmed all over me, as they always did, regardless of the amount of bug spray I used, but the dog didn’t flinch.  She didn’t scratch or pant; she just looked at me.

At last, the young man hitched his pack up a bit, touched his cap in my direction, and began to move on down the path again.  “Good luck,” he said as he walked away.  I heard him give the same soft whistle as earlier, and the dog trotted off to be at his side.

“Good luck to you, Sir,” I called after him, and turned back to my slumbering line.  I sat on my log for a while longer, until I had to admit to myself that the fish were not at home today.  I strolled home leisurely, enjoying the bright sun on my face.  I put away my rod and tackle, and packed today’s earthworm survivors back in their corner of my ice box.  I was starving and, as I had no fish to eat for lunch this afternoon, I decided to walk into town and get something at the cafe.

Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4

Pages: 1 2 3 4


Richard R. DiPirro is a writer, a husband, and a father who works and lives in Savannah, Georgia. Richard has been published in several magazines, including Calliope and Fiction Reader, and in the online journals Fringe and Raving Dove. He was the winner of the 2000 Lillian Spencer Award for Fiction and the Jones Scholarship at Armstrong Atlantic State University and was the second place winner of the 2008 Baltimore Review Short Fiction Contest.