The 2River View

Jeff Friedman


When we hit a slick spot on the road, my mother's purse tumbled to the floor, and her hairpins shot everywhere. A small blue bird streaked toward the spinning sky. In the back seat, my sister's slender arm dropped to stop me from hurtling toward the windshield but found only empty space as I bunched on the itchy carpet like a rabbit in the grass. The car stopped twirling with its back wheels inches from the edge of a cliff. Now the electric windows smoked and the front doors burst into flame.

In an instant my father grabbed the blanket from the trunk and beat out the blaze. While my mother gathered her hairpins and clipped her loose strands of blond hair, shaking her head and mouthing the words, "some shortcut," he winked at us and said, "Between you and me, Mullin sold me a lemon."

Cars were few and far between—I counted ten in two hours—and each time one raced toward us my father waved his arms and shouted for help, but no one stopped and after a while, tired of standing in the road, he pulled out his ukulele and played "O Susanna" and kept my sisters laughing until, miraculously, a patrolman arrived. "That's a fancy car," he said and gave us a ride.

At the motel, I strummed the ukulele until my thumbs blistered, and fat horseflies skimmed the windows. In the noonday heat my father and mother slept, and my sisters, lying in their twin beds, whispered to each other that we'd never see the ocean.


Five of us were here a moment ago, but then came a cloud, all of us coughing and choking and when the cloud cleared, Seth was gone, and then came a flood tearing apart our city, ripping through buildings, and Jason flew headfirst over the waters like a dolphin coming up for air, but then the wave grabbed him, and we never saw him again, and then came the drought and men with forked sticks, and Esther dissolved into sand and salt pelting our faces, and then came the bombers and the missiles, and Saul exploded under the tent of stars and all we found of him was a ruby from his royal crown, and then came the nights of fire, the conflagration that surrounded us, the air boiling, Rachel shrieking in a feverish fit, as she fell deeper and deeper into her final dream, and then came the dove and the rainbow and the offering of peace, and then came the ravens dripping blood from their beaks, the hyenas ripping into flesh, and then came the voice out of the wind as I lay down with all the unburied bodies.

Jeff Friedman has a fifth collection of poetry, Working in Flour, forthcoming from Carnegie Mellon University Press.
His poems and mini stories have appeared in American Poetry Review, North American Review, Poetry,
and The New Republic. contact