From Night at the Bottom of the World

The next morning, Rod fished below a rapid when he snagged something on the undertow.  It almost broke his line but he used horsehair, enough pounds per inch to haul in whatever it was.  He made out a large star shape that swirled in an eddy near his piece of shore.

“Aw no,” he mumbled. “Robin!”  

Robin trotted up.  She’d been gathering kindling for breakfast.  She dropped the bleached driftwood on the rocks as Rod knelt on a boulder and grabbed the body by the torso.  He knew better than to wade into the icy water.  The body hadn’t bloated yet so it held together.  He turned it over. 

“It’s Abel,” she said.

“Throat’s been cut,” he said matter-of-factly as Abel bobbed in the riffle.  “His boy shouldn’t see this.” 

He glanced up at her.  

“What should we do?” he asked.   

She looked back toward camp.  No one could see her or Rod from there.  Rod shivered as the water slapped his arms.  He unsnagged his line from Abel’s ankle. 

“Let him go” she said.  He released it.  “Wait.” 

She jumped into the tawny water, chest-high on her, and lost her breath. 

“Are you crazy!?” 

He scooped his elbows under her under arms and held on from shore as she held onto Abel. 

She mouthed a silent prayer she’d learned in divinity school.  She kissed her fingers and made the sign of the cross on his forehead.  She released him.  He floated off dutifully and melted into the silk of the Colorado. 

Rod hauled her up on the rock.  She wrapped her arms around her chest and shivered as she watched the last of Abel’s face dissolve into water that ran thick like blood.  He was anonymous now.  She recalled a line from the Upanishads about all rivers losing their names once they reached the ocean.  She wished she could lose her name right then.

“Didn’t take long for them to turn on each other,” Rod remarked as he reeled in his fishing line.  “Who did it, I’m wonderin’.”

“He did,” she replied.

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