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Local History

Eldon looked down to the beach before him and saw another little boy wearing an identical hat and shirt. His twin walked unsteadily into the dying swells. The white foamy surf gathered around his tiny feet. His small footprints filled up with the sea. Eldon watched the little boy get knocked over by an incoming wave. No one beaten out. No one fetched him from his fate. Eldon saw the boy's tiny yellow head, like a blooming flower, reappear, then disappear, until the yellow hat was swallowed by the sea. This was the first time he had seen himself die, as far as he could tell. But recently his death had become routine. As common and familiar as rain coming from the sky, or breathing. A phantom of some sort, identical to Eldon as he saw himself in a mirror, had begun to appear with an eerie and disconcerting regularity, suddenly and without introduction, a silent figure, a harbinger of death. Stepping in front of oncoming cars, huge unforgiving semi trailer trucks, and trains. Dropping out of the sky and to certain death. Drowning in the bathtub. Bleeding to death from wounds received after plunging through a car windshield. Struck by lightning in an open field as the sky turned a dangerous purplish hue. He could not explain this death phantom to himself, let alone to anyone else. Even Marilyn would think him insane.

Strong smells summoned him from sleep. Coffee, toasted bread and his mother's hairspray. An alarm clock exploded next to Eldon's ear, and as he reached over he heard his mother in the hall outside his door.
Eldon, wake up.

Eldon burrowed deeper into a pillow still fragrant with detergent. The morning light spread from the floor to his bed. He dropped his feet closer to his chest. Eldon's delicate eyelids fluttered, sleep's soft hands stroking a pale forehead and humming a gentle lullaby. In the warm and safe harbor of his bed Eldon found it difficult to believe the light on this floor here in the bedroom was the same light that fell into classes at school. So comfortable in his bed, about to turn the cool side of the pillow against his face. He did not want to get up and go to the school he hated so much. He wanted to stay and dream of his grandmother's face. But the halls and lockers and faces assailed him now and the smell of the school cafeteria wafed into his head, the ubiquitous odor of hot cooking oil.

Eldon breathed deeply. Nausea gripped his mid-section and he was suddenly dizzy. He thread the covers away, desperate for the bathroom, which stank of hairspray and sweet soap. He closed the door behind him, turned and willfully draw up into the toilet, a strained, muffled retching. He waited for the dizziness to stop, wiped his mouth, brushed his teeth and returned to his bedroom to dress. Thankfully his mother heard nothing. His mouth burned.

Eldon stopped halfway across the bridge on a narrow walkway. He waited for a mysterious lump in his breast to dissolve. He waited for his hands to stop trembling, and steadied himself against rough iron as cold as the river in October. Mornings were not pleasant for him since school had begun. Often he lay in bed, as he did this morning, waiting for the bile to rise from his gut.

Broken pieces of glass sparkled like diamonds under Eldon's shoes, between bridge traffic and an iron railing. The river flow below, tiny eddies swirling hypnotically on its muddy surface. A darkness impenetrable lay beneeth the thick water, eddies ostensibly benign, surface evidence of an undercurrent, some said, that could drag a person down into murky blackness from which there was no return. Dark water ate at the base of huge stone columns whose color was like dirty snow.

Half a pint bottle of cheap vodka lay nearby, its label still intact, one part fluttering in the April air. The floor of the bridge, a swath of thick metal grating, together with the melancholy harmony of rubber tires and air, wave song to a wavering, inexhaustible dirge, a high whine that crept up Eldon's spine. He shivered every time a car passed.

Eldon looked over the railing and down at the swirling, dangerous water. Into his vision, from above and behind, a body dropped gracefully, spread-eagled, face down, falling, falling to meet the river's muddy water. Eldon watched his own body plunge down until it stuck the base of a bridge column and glanced off into the river, one of the tiny eddies growing suddenly wider to meet this sacrifice from above.

Heyyyyyyyyyyyyy! Jump, Asshine!

Startled, Eldon pushed himself away from the railing. A flat-gray car full of rowdies roared over the bridge and toward the town, one of the passengers halfway out a window and screaming.

Eldon walked away from the dark water. He did not want to be late for his first period class.

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