Sunday, July 12, 2009

The stream

The little brook collected somewhere in the hills just out of town. When it reached the state road it trickled in and out of culverts and catch basins, then meandered through woodland for a quarter of a mile. Channeled and bordered with plantings of yellow iris, it ran in orderly fashion through the center of town, but once past the heart of the business district, unable to flow uphill once more, it sank beneath the pavement and emerged on the other side, winding serpentine and forgotten into a patch of green and inaccessible wetlands. The railway lay just beyond, its smooth stone-bedded rails running straight and level in either direction as far as the eye could see. The stream would continue on its course, parallel to the tracks, sometimes on the right side, sometimes on the left, until it reached the great city and discharged into the bay.

Back in town, two men were descending the hill the stream could not climb, going downtown for a meal at the end of a day's work. They were short of stature, compact, their skin light brown. Just in front of the little streetside restaurant, where a middle-aged couple sat on the porch drinking ice tea and watching the traffic go by, they met a third man on the sidewalk, heading away from town. They smiled and exchanged greetings in the language of the place where they were born, then continued walking until they were out of sight.

They had come a long way.

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