The Creek is Swelling

The creek is swelling, you don’t need to be told, because you can see it spilling over the creekbed into the backyard, which wasn’t muddy before, but now is, all the grass drowned by hungry water, hungry for what, you don’t know, and you can see strands of grass from the backyard carried away on the eddies, which are now more like rip currents after the thunderstorms that keep coming every Wednesday, and have been since June, and you’ve seen other things carried away as well, your mother’s peonies (the whole bed), and shiny silver chocolate wrappers, and cherry blossoms of course, and plastic bags, and once a salad fork, and crumpled balls of paper, and strands of your sister’s hair because sometimes she cuts her bangs with the window open when it’s windy, and yes, you’ll admit it, a few of your fingernails because the trashcan was full and it was nice to see something of yourself let free in there with the other remnants of everyone’s lives that flow right through your backyard and onwards, eastwards, and you can smell the river overflowing too, how it churns up the mud and the living things within it, the worms that the thunderstorms send squirming, the roots cursing the overabundance of water, so no, you don’t need to be told that the creek is overflowing, although they tell you anyway, the neighbors rocking away the evenings on their front porches as you walk by, the mothers of the children you babysit making small talk as they put on their shoes, the old man at the corner store who has known you since you were small, and everyone in the whole wide world on Wednesday mornings when they wake up to yet another crack of lightning, more reliable than alarm clocks by now, and then the drumbeat of warm insistent rain followed by the sound of the creek, so every morning you’ve been going to the backyard barefoot despite the mud, with a glass of water and ice cubes, to watch the river creep closer and closer to your toes, while thrashing along merrily in the frothy middle, and there’s the chill of icewater on your tongue as you think about moving away, which you must do at some point, everyone says so, and that point is likely now, when the water seems to be tugging you east and that’s where the jobs are, they all say that too, and as the water slips down your throat, you imagine it’s riverwater, although you know it’s silly, riverwater pooling in your stomach and then flowing out through veins and arteries into your elbows, hair, bones, fingernails, all the things that make you up, this riverwater that flows from here to there, carrying almost everything to places that are faraway, where people might lean down to pick up a crumpled soggy letter and wonder what was once written on it, and you’ve never looked on a map to see where the river ends, and maybe for a second then, as you’re thinking about maps, you taste moss on a riverworn rock or silty mud, but it’s gone by the time you realize it was there, and once you’ve finished the glass of water you go back inside to wash your feet, and that’s when you find your mother at the kitchen table with the phone facedown next to her, and she tells you what you must’ve already known: the creek is coming for the house, the boards will rot soon if they haven’t already, and the foundation will be eaten away, and then there will be nothing left, nothing at all for you here, and that makes you thirsty again, so you walk to the sink and turn on the tap and in the split second before the water comes rushing out, you hope, or maybe you wish, or beseech, or pray (or maybe it’s not any of that, maybe it’s just a request, from one old friend to another), that when the tapwater does come rushing out, as it always does, that it will be brown and muddy and mossy and taste of the creek that has swelled, is swelling, into your home, so you will have to leave this place where the thunderstorms are more predictable than the electricity and people throw love letters into the river, and yes, you will leave at last, but you will do it on your own terms, with the taste of real creekwater on your tongue, and beneath.

Zoe Goldstein is a recent high school graduate from Massachusetts. She has attended the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop and the New England Young Writers’ Conference at Bread Loaf. Her work appears in Body Without Organs. She also edits Sunbow Zine, a zine about identity, social justice, and the climate.

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