How the World Was Made

The Water Cure

Glass vials rolled down a thin chute. I measured their length, width; placed them gently on a rolling belt that rattled through a long hot oven. When the vials collected at the other end of the oven they made a soft clinking sound — so delicate — like water falling from an icicle onto hard snow: The signal to leap from the stool, stack them quickly in a wood crate, then run back, start measuring again.

I was at the factory six months before I asked the night foreman what the vials were for. "Detonators for landmines," he said. The woman who sat across from me, headphones on, looked over, smiled.

After work I plunged my hands in a puddle of black ice-water. Two days later I was laid off.

Sparks sail over a black river. A friend of mine once lit a stump on this beach and a handful of locusts flew out of the flames. They took off across the river, right in the middle of winter. I imagine they kept flying right through the night — bright as stars — until they found that farmhouse at the edge of the earth, the one with all its lights blazing, a woman standing at the front door, the one who waits for all of us with open arms.

number 20 in the 2River Chapbook Series