02 Mar

From the Swamp (part 4)

They heard another “Fuck you, Sherri.”

“You wanna put up with this all night?” Mike said.

“You don’t even know what this guy looks like. He could be Mr. T or something.”

“Or he could be like you.”

On the brink of saying, “What’s that supposed to mean?” Chris stopped himself. They both knew what it meant.

Mike walked away, toward Sherri and her bad night. Chris grabbed his flashlight and headed toward the lake.

Next to the “No Cliffjumping” sign, Chris found a set of rock steps that headed up the outcropping. At the top, he found a smooth boulder near a ledge littered with crushed beer cans. He turned off his flashlight and sat down. Once, in high school, he’d gone cliffjumping with some friends at Taylor Falls. The place was full of teenagers, daring each other to perform various aerial stunts on their way to the water. Chris had jumped a couple times, relishing his brief flight before crashing into the river. But then fifteen minutes after his final jump, some kid impaled himself on a pipe under the water. Chris saw it from the clifftop. The boy emerged from the depths screaming bloody murder; once the white, bubbling water had calmed, a red blotch could be seen floating under the surface like a maritime ghost.

It’s funny. He knew that boy. But when he tried to remember his face, he could only picture Mike, flailing his arms and gazing upward toward the clifftop.

He looked over his shoulder toward the campground. Three or four campfires were still burning. Mike was at one of them now.

Sherri’s man was definitely no Mr. T. In fact, he looked more like Keith Richards with a mustache – leathery, thin, dried up, and used. “What do you want?” he said when Mike showed up in his fire light.

“You need to shut the hell up.” Mike stole a glance at Sherri. She was a pretty woman – slightly overweight and at least a decade younger than her camping partner, but still old enough to be Mike’s mother.

Keith eyed the tire iron. “What are you gonna do with that?”

Mike considered it, then threw the tool on the gravel.

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