Saturday, November 6, 2010

Last Boat Across




One night in late winter we’re short-staffed. I am the sole deckhand aboard the last ferry leaving Surry County. Above me only the captain. Below sits one Lincoln, polished and black, with a thin-faced woman at the wheel. We three push off into the fog.

A quarter way across the river I hear her engine still running. Down onto the lower deck I go and knock on her window. She stares ahead, her eyes dry as glass. I check for a pulse in her neck and run up to the bridge to find it empty. The captain’s coffee is spilled out onto the instruments, and a police scanner is crackling some report I barely hear.

I race below, calling out to no one. And now the Lincoln’s empty too, it’s door hanging open like a mouth. Somewhere above me I can hear the click, click, click of high heels on the metal floor. The police scanner’s report: A theft. From a funeral home.

Click, click, click – something comes down the stairs. I see a hand grip the rail. Skin the color of old snow.

Now I am in the water, swimming away. Weeds tangle around my legs promising bad things. But I make it to the wet bank and climb up. Then a hood goes over me, everything dark.

“We have to take someone across this river,” says someone holding me hard by the hand.

“You’ll do just fine.”

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