There was Jeanie, stuck up against the reeds and the green brown summer slime all around her ankles. Fitz pressed a last cigarette to his cracked lips and they waded up to Virginia Bridge where the old hardtops passed idle by. She had the baby in her arms and was once holding it over the edge of the bridge, then rolling the blue blanket around the face. The blanket was sick blue and Fitz was reeling with the first puff when he noticed. Go on ahead, he was nodding and Jeanie had a streak of mud tears down one cheek. She was bursting open, the sun humming down thin and watery through the bridge shadow. The light wobbled and was trapped in the red, white prehistory of the riverbed, then cast out wide in a net that scraped the bottom of the bridge and curled around Jeanie’s wet chin. She bobbed up and down on saddle hips with the baby squinting hard in full sun.
Vagabond teens were queuing on the rocks below. They drove soft nailed hands into the water and came out holding rough river clams, blooming green under life. Now one of the old Buicks slowed on the bridge and took in late September with a royal glance. He tossed a smile at Jeanie while she dipped her hips low again, the baby warbling up a steely, desperate sound. The cigarette fell from Fitz’s mouth and landed soft on the water’s surface. He struggled with Jeanie and had the baby in his arms, a finger pricked in on the blue blanket. The baby moved swollen limbs in slow motion and Fitz eyed the teens jamming heads down under water, the young boys fielding empty years that crackled and sparked in the near distance. Jeanie had the streaks on her face again and her thin bamboo arms pale, spotted, swung empty at her sides. Fresh plumes came off the river with a green smell that had her jangling at the fence with her two lucky knuckles. Go on, Fitz nodded again and he handed the baby back to Jeanie. She laid the bundle down on a stretch of gummy concrete and stepped back. The legs kicked out with the slow pump of a new caterpillar.
Fitz rubbed against his own fingerprints, jutted his hand out half way, but a hot jolt passed his eye and he crushed his fingers back in his no money pockets. A young smile spread out under the mud streaks on Jeanie’s face as her hands stretched up against the thin sun. She was breathing wide, heavy, her two knuckles playing keys on the wire fence. The teens were high up in the trees now, swinging feral legs against a feather breeze. Fitz looked down through the red wire and tried to catch an eye, but they were full speed on to the tops of the laurel boughs. He took a last look at the bundle and moved the blanket up over its face. Rubbing the seeds from his socks, he slumped on towards the low roar of the freeway with the sound of Jeanie’s wet feet slapping on the pavement behind him.
Helen Ganiy is a graduate student at Sonoma State University. Her work has been featured in Thrice Fiction, Apt, Big Muddy, among others. She lives in Santa Rosa, California.3