Tom Sheehan

 

The Last Flag of the River

     Dangers are everywhere about the river: the porous bog whose underworld has softened for centuries, the jungles that cat-o-nine tails leap up into. Once, six new houses ago, one new street ago along the banking, two boys went to sea on a block of ice. They are sailing yet, their last flag a jacket shook out in dusk still hiding in Decembers every year. An old man has strawberries in his backyard. He planted them the year his sons caught the last lobster the last day of their last storm. Summers, strawberries and salt mix on the high air. A truck driver, dumping snow another December, backed out too far and went too deep. His son stutters when the snow falls. His wife hung a wreath at the town garage. At the all-night diner a waitress remembers how many times she put dark liquid in his coffee. When she hears a Mack or a Reo or a huge cumbersome White big as those old Walter plows used to be, she tastes the hard sense of late whiskeys. He had an honest hunger and an honest thirst, and thick eyebrows, she remembers, thick eyebrows.