River Road

Wanda Wilbur watched the paddle holster holding the grip-worn .38 Special slide onto the sturdy, sweat-stained leather belt. “You goin’ out? You been patrolin’ near every afternoon.” Wanda took off her Buddy Holly glasses. “Who my s’posed to talk to?”

“Well, Miz Wilbur, lack of an audience has never bothered you before.” He smiled to himself. That was a good one. “Missoura’s now the meth capital a the United States accordin’ to the Feds.” He grimace-smiled this time.  “Gotta keep the hopheads outa our backyard.”

Wanda nodded and clicked her tongue as she rearranged a large bobby pin in her hair. “Well, lucky for us, we got six-term Sheriff R.T. Barnes on the trail.”

The Sheriff ambled toward the fly-friendly screen door. “I’m gonna go cruise the river a bit. The wife calls, tell her I’ll be home for supper at six.”

Butler County had no towns over 200 people, so Black River, which crossed the county, had been the de facto activity center for as many generations as anyone could remember. It still was.

As the lone department cruiser crossed the rat-a-tat-tat bouncing boards of the canopied wooden bridge, it slowed so he could scan up and down the river for signs of miscreants. Nothing marred the tranquil shimmering of the flowing water and the forest of trees jutting out over the water, hanging onto the banks despite the earth being slowly eroded away by the winding and swirling currents below them.

He eased off the bridge, turning north onto the gravel road that roughly paralleled the riverbed. The artery had no name, but most called it River Road.

The car rolled to a slow stop next to a well-traveled path that ran down to Big Eddy, a popular swimming hole and party place on hot summer afternoons. He could hear laughing voices and giggles and the whoops of boys using the rope swing to show off.

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