They are heading east on 35, crossing over the Kanawha and into West
Virginia when they see that the traffic has slowed. The man is flipping
through the AM stations, listening to bits of sports talk radio, weather
reports, and the like. As an act of kindness he has the volume low. The
woman is reading.
man says, For a class?
Mythology, the woman says.
She is not really reading. Just skimming. Looking out the window at the
traffic, at the town, noticing that the water is up, that there are
barges pushing coal at what seems too slow a pace to be going anywhere.
man says, Which ones?
The Five Ages of Man and the Flood. Prometheus. All of them, really.
This is months before the separation, years before what will become “a
bitter time in all their lives.” Before the accident at the house.
Before the job transfer. This is the melancholy they will look back on
with some fondness—driving through the fertile bottom-land of early
marriage, of new love.
They take the ramp off 35 and circle down into Henderson, just across
the river from Point Pleasant—the radio popping and fizzing with static
as they pass under the bridge. On the left, the river pushes slowly into
West Virginia. The man has his window down and can smell the river, he
thinks, mixed with diesel exhaust from the tractor trailers ahead of
them. Can smell late summer and fresh cut lawns. Occasionally he catches
a glimpse of shirtless men on barges between the clap-board houses and
mobile homes that line the river.
The man says, Is it interesting?
The reading? Not really, the woman says.
The traffic is as thick and heavy as the slow moving river. She is
looking out her window now, further up the mountain to where they are
building the new interstate. There are orange signs at regular intervals
warning of two-way radio communication and blasting zones.
number of rocks have rolled down from the construction site and have
smashed small trees and flower beds, have spilled onto the road in
places. There are larger boulders lodged against the corners of homes,
embedded in screened-in porches and resting against rusted swing sets.
She sighs loudly as they pass a blue Ford Taurus with the hood crumpled
completely by a bright tan boulder nearly twice as big as the car
Jesus, the woman says. Those poor people. Just so we can get
The man says, I wonder where this river goes?
She rolls her window down to feel the humid warmth of summer on her
The ocean, the woman says, still looking at the flattened Taurus.
Always to the ocean.