Eight PM by the River

Sam Walker-Smart

BY THE TIME I arrived a small sad crowd had gathered by the right of the bridge. The helicopter was the first thing I noticed as I snaked my way through the edges of an industrial estate trying to find my way back to the river. Jumping a wall I was back onto the towpath and could see the police vehicles, four of them in total, parked by the marsh.

The police also looked sad, but weren't going to pretend they'd stopped trying in front of onlookers. An officer was up to his chest in the water disturbing the reeds while another on the bridge above gave direction and waved his arms desperately.

"He threw himself in,” cried a housewife from the side. "They scared him to this."

Just then the body, no older than sixteen emerged from the water face down. His left shoe was missing.

"He couldn't swim, he could never swim," said a girl of a similar age.

The police angrily forced the crowd back and radioed for the surrounding area to be put on further lockdown. A bag was produced. I made my way to the back of the group and quietly asked what had happened.

A middle-aged man I recognised from a nearby boozer leaned in.

"Kid from up on the estate, just two days out of the nut house, starts losing it again so his folks call the cops. Next thing we know he jumps right through the fucking front room window. Through it. Coppers turn up, foolishly put the fear of god into him and cornered him 'ere. Well you can guess what happened next."

"He never could swim," the girl repeated.

People slowly returned to their homes shaking their heads in a manner only shared disappointment and shame can produce. Now with some breathing room I cautiously approached a young officer who understandably seemed tense. I explained I felt the gravity of the situation but facts as they were my boat, my home, was just fifty feet from the incident and this being a river I had no choice but to take the bridge to reach it.

He barked that my request was ‘an impossibility’ and, looking over his shoulder as the body was placed into a van, appeared guiltier than any man I'd met. The sun had begun to set and I made my way two-miles downstream to the nearest crossing. On the other side I cut my way through a nature reserve, birdcalls and the smell of a recently ending barbecue accompanying my every step. It was a beautiful summers night by the water.

Originally from darkest Cornwall, UK, Sam Walker-Smart now resides in Barcelona, Spain and can be found skulking around Gotico. He's previously written for CLASH, Tribe, Little White Lies, Artrocker and once had his poetry read by the Prince of Wales.

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