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The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes

The River
• Oswaldo Jimenez
Lawrence Frost ( Larry to you ) was the only child in a household where love and responsibility had always gotten along very well. He’d been born under the sign of Aquarius to an upper-middle-class family who had  provided him with the right education which had buoyed him to success. Today, his daily horoscope had ominously read: “Your usual routine is likely to be disrupted now, either by "freak" accidents beyond your control or by your own impatience with the status quo.”


Larry was not a difficult man. He wasn’t intolerant with most people; his mind just moved faster and more efficiently than the average mind. It was easy to misjudge him, because of his quickness of thought, and impatience with the mundane, which often came across as arrogance. He got along with most people, despite his inability to develop and maintain strong ties with any individual. He never had a ‘best friend’ when growing up. For all intents and purposes, Larry was alone, yet he never felt lonely. He had managed to navigate the world without the practicality of a compass. He had trusted the direction of the wind and the placement of the stars as his guides, which, for a man of his intellect may have seemed impractical, but Larry preferred it that way. 

Larry was ambitious. He knew of no reason not to go after the things he most wanted: a successful career, a beautiful wife, a large house, two children--whose names he had already chosen: Alex and Ivy, a boy and a girl, respectively--Lawrence Frost understood about telling the world what the world wanted to hear: little white lies and big fabrications. Once, when asked if he’d rather be the stone that sinks to the bottom of the river or the twig that’s carried away by the its current, he’d replied: “I’d rather be the river.” 

At the end of the day, Larry had instinctively driven his black Mercedes Benz to a secluded park overlooking the Potomac river just as he had done many times before when seeking solace and refuge from his problems; or to wait for the alcohol to leave his system before driving home.  Larry, of course, did not just drive his Mercedes, he wore its luxury wrapped around him. The car had been custom-designed and built specially for him. It moulded itself to his spine and the length of his legs and arms. It wrapped itself to Larry’s body like a very expensive escort. When he climbed into the car he felt shielded from the responsibilities of the outside world. The love of comfort and luxury was the engine that propelled Larry’s life and his ambition was the driver.

The sun had long left the sky, all that remained was its footprint as a thick suffocating heat that slithered on the atmosphere leaving a gooey trail in its path like a snail on a garden-stone.

Larry had parked on an empty spot ignoring signs that read: Handicap Parking, and Park Closes at Sundown. He sat inside the car with his mind idling while listening to Glen Gould make every note count playing his version of Bach’s Goldberg Variations playing on SiriusXM.  During a lull in the “Aria mit verschiedenen verandernungen” Larry lifted his right leg and violently smashed the dashboard with the heel of his boot killing the radio. Hurriedly he left his cocoon, slammed the car’s door, and walked across a patch of grass that stood between the empty lot and the river.  Larry’s boot-heels dug into the soft grass as he placed one foot in front of the other like a toddler learning to walk. He felt his boots sink deeper and deeper into the slimy mud as he entered the water. His eyes were focused on the river’s surface that hissed like a thick black snake, its shimmering scales slithering in the darkness between him and the distant shore.

It became harder and harder for Larry to lift his legs. He nearly lost a boot to the muck below the surface of the lapping water. He waded into the murky liquid, ignoring the sign at the edge of the water that read: “No Wading or Swimming.” Larry made slow progress, fighting the reluctant river that seemed to be pushing back defiantly.

The temperature on the surface was several degrees warmer than it was five feet below. Larry was wearing full-quill ostrich boots he had bought during a trip to Austin, Texas, pants fastened by an ox-blood color belt from Brooks Brothers on K st., in Washington, D.C., (made in the Dominican Republic) red underwear (clean, as his mother had taught him) and a shirt from Banana Republic. His pants and boots became heavier as he floated farther and farther away from the shore. Lawrence Frost’s body felt lighter, and his garments heavier, as he got farther away from the river bank. He felt the bulge of his wallet pushing against his right buttock which prompted his mind to inventory its contents:  a dollar bill he kept for the boatman; gold and platinum credit cards; a wallet-size photograph of his ex-wife; a receipt for tonight’s bar tab, and his  driver’s license with a difficult likeness of himself.

Larry’s mind was alert. His senses were sharp. He had figured that fear, and some sort of survival instinct, would make him panic. Instead, he felt at ease. His thoughts were mundane rather than desperate or introspective. To relieve the pressure he felt in his lower stomach, he released a steady stream of warm fluid that lingered around his lower body and then ran the length of his leg until settling inside his right boot. He felt no fear.

The strong scent of diesel fuel on the surface of the water overpowered the yeasty smell of his breath. What caused these trivialities to occupy his mind as he floated farther and farther from the shore was beyond his comprehension. He noticed every nuance of his surroundings as his body remained suspended on the water. Beneath its surface, subtle currents wrapped around his floating body, flowing like ribbons of varying degrees in temperature. At one point he could see the thoughts inside his head as if he were outside his own body looking down from a satellite. He saw himself as a tiny figure floating in the water. His mind then swept across vast distances: across town a member of a theater company was busy applying make up on her cheeks in front of a large mirror lit by yellow tungsten lights while other members of the cast busied themselves with their costumes. He saw people on the opposite side of the world watching shadow-puppet shows in a theater. He saw a woman in a blue-tiled bathroom washing  her hands repeatedly, then he watched as the water from the tap flowed through the woman’s hands and splashed into the basin, flowing in rivulets down the drain, then disappearing along dark pipes covered with slime and wads of human hair, until reaching a dark repository filled with gray water.

A whisper wedged between the sounds made by tiny waves gliding on the surface of the water reached Larry’s eardrums and brought him back to the river: “If you intend to drown yourself you shouldn’t go about it like a lady going for a summer swim.”  said a thick voice. Lawrence Frost followed the source of the sound by pivoting his head. He turned his submerged body by pedaling fast with his legs, and rowing with his extended arms. He then tilted his neck to free his ears from the water. The humming sounds of the wind became stronger as his ears cleared the surface. He turned and turned, rowing and pedaling, creating swirling eddies around his body.  He continued to search for the source of the whisper by scanning the darkness with his eyes and using his ear as radar: nothing. He couldn’t get a fix on its source.

‘You’re not going to change my mind” Larry shouted at the evening stars. His tongue tasted a horrid amalgamation of metal and seaweed when his lips let in the splashing water into his mouth. He spat repeatedly, trying to dislodge the nasty taste out of his tongue. He took short, hurried breaths, and floated still as if waiting for a reply to his angry shout. No reply. For a brief moment there was only silence. Insects circled around him as wolves on a wounded animal. He sunk into the water and held his breath for as long as his aching lungs would allow; when his lungs were ready to burst, Lawrence Frost’s  head breached the surface of the water with his mouth agape.

As Larry’s head bobbed on the surface, his eyes detected a blue tinge of shimmering lights dancing on the tips of the tiny waves. Their intensity increased and became more and more apparent to Larry that the lights came from the parking lot he had left behind him. He shifted his body in the water, pedaling his legs while using his extended arms and cupped hands as rudders to pivot his body in the direction light source. The blue beacons of intermittent light came from the roof of a police cruiser. Faint scratchy noises of a walkie-talkie drifted across the grass, glided over the surface of the water, and reached Larry’s eardrums with their piercing, jagged jabs. Larry saw a police officer step out of a cruiser with one hand resting on his holster and the other wielding a flashlight. Larry witnessed the officer encircle his Mercedes Benz still parked in the sport reserved for the handicapped. Larry became keenly aware the weight of his boots and the stinging of insect bites. He faced two choices:  become the stone that sinks to the bottom, or the twig that is carried by the current of the river.

The officer brushed the flashlight on the surface of Larry’s car, it projected a circle of light that varied in diameter as it moved back and forth on the shiny Benz. The officer bent his knees and brought his face close to the hood of Larry’s expensive car. The circle of light from his flashlight shrank in diameter to the size of a dinner plate as the officer scrutinized the surface of the car’s front fender. His eyes reflected the light bouncing from the shiny fender as they came closer to the car's surface. Balancing his body on the balls of his feet, the officer brushed the metal surface with the tip of his left index finger and brought it close to the light. He rubbed a crimson substance between his thumb and index finger as his nostrils sniffed the familiar scent of coagulated blood.

The surface of the water became Lawrence Frost’s sky when he let the weight of his garments pull him underwater. Colder and colder water enveloping his body. Darkness descended from above like a blanket over his head,  but it was only a partial darkness, not the complete darkness he had hoped for. Larry sunk deeper and deeper into the waters of the river.  He realized he was leaving behind a life that had meant nothing to him until that very moment: his ambition had amounted to accumulating peripheral luxuries that had no redeeming value. Larry’s successful career had become his prison. The beautiful wife that he had married had left him for a less successful man. The two children--whose names he had already chosen: Alex and Ivy, a boy and a girl, respectively, will never be born. He now realized that the little white lies he had been telling the world were big fabrications that he had wanted to hear. Lawrence Frost wasn’t the river, after all.

The freezing water punctured holes in Larry’s flesh and thrust itself into the very marrow of his bones. He felt its pressure pushing him back to the surface.  Larry fought as hard as he could: pedaling his legs, rowing with his arms, to remain submerged. He lusted after the only refuge he had left: the dark confines of the river’s womb. He fought against the unyielding force of the waters that pushed him from below. He did not want to be pushed back up to the surface. He flipped his body and pointed his head downward towards the cold darkness of the river. He grabbed handfuls of water, clawing, digging, desperately trying to get an edge against the recalcitrant river that rejected his advances and pushed his body back. It did not want him. Its waters would not be complicit to his death. The river would not harbor the blasphemer Lawrence Frost. It would not stand to be mocked by Lawrence’s ego-maniacal force. The river spat him out like poison:  Not you, Lawrence Frost. Not you.

Larry surfaced with a splash. He looked up at the dark vault of the sky and didn’t see the light of the moon. Instead, what he saw was the search-light of a Park Police helicopter looking for the driver of a car involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident. The bright beam from the helicopter exploded into shards of bright white light when it hit the surface of the river with the intensity of the Holy Ghost coming down to redeem the souls of humanity; but it wasn’t Larry Frost’s salvation, it was the wrath of the gods in the shape of lights and sounds from a man-made machine that churned the surface of the river with the force of a hurricane.

Lawrence Frost was blinded by the intensity of the light. With a single deep breath he sank into the water until he felt its pressure crushing his chest. He then released the air from his lungs and swallowed the river’s water which came  flowing through his nostrils and mouth, traveling down along his dark esophagus until reaching his stomach and filling his lungs. Thoughts flashed inside Larry’s head: he saw a member of a theater company rehearsing her lines while cast members nervously waited to go on stage. He saw people on the opposite side of the world admiring themselves in mirrors. He saw  a shadow-puppet show conclude in thunderous applause. He saw the vivid image of a woman standing in her blue-tiled bathroom washing her hands repeatedly, then he watched as the water from the tap flowed through the woman’s hands and splashed into the basin, flowing in rivulets down the drain, then disappearing along dark pipes covered with slime and wads of human hair, until reaching a dark repository filled with gray water and vanishing into darkness.

© Oswaldo jimenez Feb 2012
artzineonline at

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