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My town is divided. Not by politics or class, mind you, but a river. A wide shallow, rocky river with water the color of rust. It's a funny color. Look at it too long and you begin to swear it's not water. Some folks say that the water is the color that it is because of the old cotton mill. The heart of this old city for so many years that closed down and went to India. The move made a lot of folks around these parts mad, but that's another story for another time.
Let's see, what was I talking about. Oh, yes, the river and the color of the water. Well it seems that a lot of chemical was dumped in the river by the mill. I even heard that some divers wanted to swim in the water. They even did some tests that came back with scary results. The divers said that nothing could even live in the water. I wish they would tell that to the fish dangling from the end of my line.
I love this river. I love the sound the water makes as it flows over rocks and logs. It's nature's music if you ask me. Sometimes the river talks to me. It might sound funny, but we carry on some good conversations. Oh, we don't actually exchange words. The river talks to me in other ways.
Just the other year, I was on this very bank just wetting my line when something brushed against my bare ankle. I looked down to see something small and tan floating in the water. I picked it up and realized it was a wallet. I opened it up only to see a familiar face staring back at me.
"Now where have I seen this face before?" I asked. "Oh, yes, this is that fellow that was on the front page of the paper--the one that jumped off the bridge. The wallet must have fell out of his pocket and washed down the river."
I put the water-logged wallet in my tackle box and continued to fish. As I watched the cork bob up and down in the water, the river started talking to me again. It told me that it felt sorry for the poor man that jumped that night. It said that he probably thought that he didn't have a friend in the world. Well, this conversation caused me to take a second look at the wallet. I opened it up again and found a folded piece of paper tucked deep inside. Somehow the water had not gotten into this pocket and the paper was dry as a bone. I pulled it out to find a picture of two of the prettiest babies you ever saw sitting with their mother. Everyone looked so happy. Suddenly, the river gave me an idea.
"You outta go find them,' it said.
"They don't want to see me," I heard myself say out loud.
Well one thing I learned is not to argue with the river. So, I got into my truck and drove to the address on this fellow's driver's license.
When I pulled up to the trailer, my heart began to thump wildly. This was a crazy thing to do. I mean, I've done some crazy things in my life, but that's another story for another time.
I walked up to the door and knocked softly. Toys were scattered all over the redwood deck. I waited for an eternity before she came to the door, and she looked like she had been to hell and back. Well, when you think about it, she probably had.
I introduced myself and handed her the wallet. No other words were exchanged, but I watched her as she stood there in here bare feet clutching the wallet as if it was a priceless diamond. When you think about it, I guess it was.
Not knowing what to do, I looked around at the trailer. I started to see the state that it was in. It needed work, and winter was coming. Not knowing what else to do or say, I pointed at a broken rail on the porch and asked, "Would you like for me to fix this? I have some tools in my truck."
Well, she nodded and I went to my truck for a hammer, nails, and whatever else I could find. All the time I was thinking that someone needed to show this grieving family a little mercy. After I finished the porch, she thanked me. I told her it wasn't much. I reached into my wallet and pulled out a twenty-dollar bill, handed it to her, and told her to buy the babies something nice.
As I walked back to my car, I thought about this chance meeting and how I probably would never see this family again. It was just a few minutes, but I never will forget them as long as I live. Again, I thought to myself, "Someone needs to show this family mercy." It was then I heard the river say, "Someone just did."