Chapter 4: The Potato River

Busy day here at the shack. It’s our one month anniversary, and a musical Friday, but since it’s a special day I’m treating my readers to the next installment of “For Tomorrow.” If you’re rusty on where things left off, be sure to read the first 3 chapters: A Cape Catharsis, Fish Traps, and The Just Friends Trap. As always, commentary and feedback is welcome, use the Leave a Reply box below to post a comment or post and “like” us on our sister Facebook page.  

DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. All characters are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual people, alive or dead, is purely coincidental. 

Jake gathered his supplies from the lab and fed his fish before driving the three blocks to Alex’s house. He was several minutes early and he noticed that her car wasn’t parked on the street in its usual spot, so he circled around the block to kill a few minutes until she returned. When he came back and saw that her car still wasn’t there he pulled up and parked anyway, deciding to wait. He recognized her roommate Kate trying to shovel the snow from behind her car with a broom, so he took the shovel out of his truck and began clearing the driveway behind Kate’s car.

“Well hello, Jake! Aren’t you the good Samaritan?” Kate shouted. “Are you going to shovel our sidewalks, too?”

“Sure, just give me a few minutes to finish the driveway first,” he said, smiling.

“No, seriously you don’t have to do this, Jake, our landlord will come by later and take care of the sidewalk with his snow blower.”

“Okay, if you say so, but I don’t mind.”

“No, please. Alex should be back any minute, she told me you were coming by. Why don’t you come in and have some coffee while you wait for her?”

“Thanks, Kate. That would be great. How are you?” Jake asked cordially. He was always happy to chat with Kate. She was a gorgeous 22 year old graphic design artist. She was tall and thin with blonde hair and green eyes and a beautiful friendly smile. Very much the girl next door type.

“I’m great!” replied Kate. “Isn’t this snow beautiful? Coffee’s in the kitchen, help yourself, you know where everything is, right?”

“Yeah, I think I remember. Thanks.”

“So you guys are taking a drive? That sounds fun,” Kate said as Jake took a seat on the sofa across from her.

“Yeah, I need to go up to the river for my field research, and I thought we could make a day of it, go around the countryside a bit and see some sights. Should be pretty with the snow on.” He was trying to sound nonchalant, as if he made a habit of driving around the countryside in fresh snow with beautiful women all the time.

“Wish I could go,” Kate pouted. “But I have this project due next week for art class and I have to finish it.” She showed him her abstract sketch of a coffee table that she had been working on, but to his non-artistic scientist’s eye it was all lines and circles, nothing at all resembling a coffee table.

“It’s awesome! That’s so great, I wish I had some talent like that,” he said.

She blushed at his compliment and folded her sketch book. “Jake, you’re so sweet. Do you want some more coffee? Or a soda or something?”

“No, I’m good, thanks. I’ve already had about a gallon of coffee this morning. I’m trying to get rid of this hangover.”

He had just uttered the last syllable when the door opened and Alex walked in. She looks gorgeous, he thought, jumping up to give her a hand carrying the grocery bags to the kitchen. She gave him a quick hug between handing off groceries to him.

“What’d you buy?” he asked.

“Just some random stuff. I thought we could have a little picnic. It was supposed to be a surprise, but you got here early and ruined it!

“Oh sorry. Well, I could leave and come back, pretend I didn’t see you.”

“Okay,” she answered. “But don’t go too far.” He walked back into the living room and plopped down on the sofa and began flipping through a magazine.

“Since you already ruined the surprise you might as well get in here and help me unload this shit!” she yelled from the kitchen, laughing.

He was by her side almost before she had finished speaking. They packed her canvas rucksack full of cheese, chocolate, French bread, sliced mushrooms and other snacks. She produced a bottle of white wine from a separate sack.

“We’ll put the wine in the back of your truck and it’ll get chilled on the way. Let me go change clothes and we can go,” she said.

He returned to the sofa and went back to flipping through the magazine.

“You’re grinning like the cat that ate the canary,” said Kate.

“Hmm, am I?” replied Jake. “Just happy, I guess.”

Kate gave him a knowing smile, recognizing the tell-tale symptoms of a man in love. After a few minutes Alex reappeared wearing fur-lined boots, tight ski pants, a fleece jacket, a wool Sherpa hat covering her straight dark hair and a pair of wool gloves tucked into her pockets. Jake choked back a chuckle, but she caught it.

“What?” she asked.

“Nothing. Just looks like you’re preparing to climb Mt. Everest,” he teased as they walked to the door.

“Bye you guys, have fun!” said Kate as they went out the door. Jake turned to wave bye to Kate and was immediately pelted in the back by a snowball.

“That’ll teach you to mock my sense of style!” said Alex. Jake was starting to reply when a piece of the snowball worked its way under his shirt collar and trickled icy water down his back.

“Jeeeeezuz! That’s cold!” he yelled, trying to shake out the ice as he ran for cover behind his truck. Before he could reach it he was pelted again by another snowball in the back. Alex had deadly aim.

He was packing snow into a ball to return fire when Alex yelled, “Don’t hit me! I’m carrying the food and wine!”

“Alright, truce,” he said, dropping the snowball. As soon as he dropped it Alex hit him in the chest with a third accurate throw.

“You fiend!” he yelled.

“Sucker!” laughed Alex.

“Okay, you win, you nailed me, now please stop throwing snowballs and get in the truck so we can get going,” he said in mock annoyance.

Jake shoved the wine bottle deep inside a pile of snow in the bed of the pickup to chill. He drove carefully, but the roads were mostly clear by now and traffic was light. It was a weekend, and the first snow of the year, and most people were staying home to read the paper and drink coffee.

It took half an hour to reach the river, and they chatted about school along the way.

“So what’s this river called?” asked Alex as they pulled onto the access road. Jake skillfully navigated the slippery trail with his sure-footed four wheel drive truck.

“It’s the Potato River,” said Jake with a straight face.

“No. Seriously? I’ve never heard of the Potato River.”

“Well the Osage called it the big bone river due to all the fossils they used to find in it, but the French came along and dubbed it Pomme de Terre. The potato. I have no idea why.”

“Hmm, well maybe they literally meant ‘apple from the earth,’” she replied. “But I like potato just as well.”

Jake had forgotten that Alex was a double major in Biology and French and had lived in Switzerland for a year. Her French was better than his, which he had picked up while bumming around Europe.

“Whatever the meaning of the name, I know the water is damned cold and I don’t look forward to jumping into it,” he said, pulling on his waders and tightening the suspenders. “If you want to walk along the trail on the bank and carry the food and wine, there’s a really cool place about a mile downstream where we can have our picnic.”

According to the depth gauge under the bridge the water level was only about six inches higher than normal. Not enough to worry him, he knew where the deepest pools were and would have no trouble staying out of deep water.

“So what exactly is it that you’re doing, anyway?” asked Alex from the bank of the river.

“Well, it’s a two-part study. First, I’m doing this behavioral study of minnow reactions to various other species. I’m testing them against smallmouth bass, a predator, to see if they exhibit a fright reaction. Then I test them against sculpin, which are a bottom-dwelling cryptically-colored ambush predator, and finally I test them with a suckerfish, which is a harmless non-predator. The hypothesis is that they take visual cues of the threat they are facing and will either school up for safety or move further away, or if it’s not a threat they won’t react at all. I have to test that over and over until I get a large enough sample size to verify the results.”

“Wow that sounds cool. Behavioral ecology was my favorite course last semester. Dr. Adams is awesome.”

“Yeah, she’s incredibly smart, but she’s a real hardass to work for. She really keeps me on my toes.”

“So what is the second part?”

“Well, this river is home to an endangered species, the Niangua Darter. Darters are tiny members of the perch family, like a tiny little pike but only a couple inches long at most. Cool little fish. Very little is known about them, and they are only found in the Niangua watershed, which the old potato river here is part of. So the state is funding me to survey and document all sightings of darters, and record all of the habitat variables. It’s a nice arrangement, I get to trap minnows and other species for my behavioral studies, and the state pays me to keep tabs on the darters. A win-win.”

“That is so cool,” said Alex. “All this time I thought you were just playing around out here. I didn’t realize you were doing important endangered species work. That must be very rewarding.”

“Well, I was pretty excited about it when I started, but now I’m just getting tired of it. Wading up and down this river every day gets old. And I haven’t even seen a darter since last July when the guys building the new road came here every day and pumped water out of the river for a month. I can’t imagine why the state would let them do that when everything is so tightly controlled here. I had to request a special collection permit from the Director of the Conservation Department to even do this research. Yet they just let some half-ass road building crew come along and suck up all the water and probably a bunch of darters along with it. Crazy!”

“Well, it’s probably political,” said Alex thoughtfully. “You know how it works. The Governor probably owns the construction company and he appoints the Director of the Conservation Department. Voila!”

“Yeah, sadly you are probably right.”

As they talked he carefully secured his fish traps every 200 meters and recorded the water conditions in his waterproof notebook. Each trap was set in slightly different habitat, varying the depth, substrate and flow rate. The traps were affixed with bright orange tags reading “Property of Missouri Conservation Department. Experiment in progress. Do not tamper with under penalty of law,” with Jake’s name and address at the university. When he had placed his final trap he climbed out of the water and joined Alex on the bank.

“You must be freezing!” she said. “Your hands are bright red. Here, give me your hands.”

She massaged his hands between hers for a minute, then, wrapping her arms around him she told him to put his hands inside her jacket and warm them up. He obliged, rubbing his hands up and down her back, letting her warmth soak into him. They stood embracing for a few minutes. She smiled at him and hugged him tightly. It felt good. It was the first time he had held a woman in a long time and he longed to kiss her there on the banks of the Potato River.

“Thanks for warming me up, you know how to get my blood stirring,” he whispered in her ear. “How would you like to have a little fire to warm up while we have our picnic?” he asked.

“That would be great, I would love a campfire.”

They quickly walked ahead a few more minutes to the site Jake had selected. A towering limestone bluff jutted over the river, creating a grotto that was protected from the weather. A well-used campfire ring showed that the spot was popular with river rafters during the summer. A stack of dry kindling and driftwood was already laid in the fire ring, and using Alex’s lighter they quickly had a warm crackling fire going.

“This place is absolutely magical,” said Alex in awe.

They were perched upon a bluff overlooking the river below as it entered a deep horseshoe bend. The current was wide and slow, the water here was very deep and dark.

“This is one of my favorite fishing spots,” said Jake. “You know a girl must be pretty special if a man takes her to his secret fishing hole. I’ve caught a ton of smallmouth bass here.” Jake had peeled off his cumbersome and cold waders and was sitting on them, keeping his wool-stockinged feet close to the fire. “You know, I’ve melted the soles of so many pairs of shoes this way,” he laughed.

Alex was exploring the grotto, intently looking for fossils or artifacts.

“Have you ever found arrowheads here?” she asked.

“Yeah, I have. In fact, I found some potsherds here last summer, and some brontosaurus bones.”

“You’re not serious?”

“Yes, I did find potsherds, but no dinosaur bones, unfortunately.”

He opened the wine with the corkscrew on her pink Swiss Army knife, and used the blade to slice the cheese and bread and mushrooms.

“Come over here and join me for a toast,” he said, pouring white wine into a pair of metal camping cups.

“What are we toasting?” she asked?

Adopting an Irish accent, Jake said, “Here’s to the mighty Potato River! And to the first snow of the year. May the fish find my traps, may your finals be swift and painless, and may the holiday season bring good will to all and peace on earth!”

“Wow! That’s a helluva toast! I’ll drink to that,” she said, clinking cups with him. “Nice Irish brogue, Mr. O’Neill.”

“Haha, thanks. Did I never tell you that I’m half Irish?”

“Hmm, no, I don’t recall you mentioning it. In fact, I don’t know much about you at all. Are you sure you’re not an axe-murderer who has lured me out here to kill me and dump my body in the potato river?”

“I am not a murderer, I promise you that. I don’t even own an axe. But I have lured you out here to tempt you with melted Gouda and mushroom sandwiches toasted over a cozy fire and a tin cup of cheap but tasty wine. All part of my plan to lure you into my trap.”

They were sitting side by side facing the fire, shoulders together. She rested her head on his shoulder.

“Interesting plan,” she said, looking into his green eyes. “Well, I admit that you make one hell of a tasty campfire sandwich. And I admit that your work is very fascinating. And this place is very romantic. I have never been wined and dined in a cave overlooking a river before. I may just be falling into your trap, indeed.”

They kissed for the first time. Slowly, tentatively. His arm was around her shoulders, pulling her tightly against him, soaking in her warmth.

“That was really nice,” she said.

“Cheers, have another drink,” he laughed, pouring her cup full with more ice cold wine.

“So tell me more about your Irish family.”

“Well, my father’s parents came here in 1935 from County Cork. That’s where my O’Neill surname comes from.”

“What’s your middle name?”

“Middle initial is F, let’s see if you can guess.”

“Hmm. Let’s see, Finnegan? Fitzgerald? Fergus? Am I getting warmer?”

“No, not even close. My mother’s family is French. Her grandparents came here in the late 1800’s from Normandy. So my middle name is Francis, after my great-grandfather, Francois la Fleur.”

“Wow,” Alex said. “Your family is so much more interesting than mine. I don’t know anything at all about our heritage. My last name is Williams, which I guess is English, but I don’t know anything about where our family comes from.”

“What about the name Alex? Is it short for Alexis?”

“Alexandra, actually. Alexandra Maria Williams, at your service.”

“It’s a beautiful name, befitting of a beautiful woman.”

“Awe, shucks. You know how to flatter a girl.” She kissed him again, passionately. There was no hesitation this time.

Jake stood and broke off a long icicle that was hanging from the limestone bluff. He crunched on the ice, sucking on it like a popsicle.

“Aren’t you worried about getting sick? That water could have giardia or something,” said Alex in a concerned tone. “You better not try to kiss me with that mouth if you’re full of cooties!” she laughed.

“Nah, I’m okay. I’ve had just about every parasite you can think of and nothing has killed me yet. Besides, that’s what antibiotics are for.”

“How’d you get so many parasites? Do you make a habit out of drinking pond scum?”

“Pond scum, swamp muck, bilge water, whatever I could find. Beggars can’t be choosers. When you’re in the desert you drink whatever you can find.”

“When where you in the desert, man? See? I know so little about you. Tell me your story, Jacob Francis O’Neill.”

Jake put another driftwood log on the fire and refilled their cups with wine, emptying the bottle. The wine and the fire and the presence of a beautiful woman gave him a warm glow.

“Where should I begin?”

“At the beginning.”

“Okay, I was born in Joplin, which is about 90 miles or so west of here. Grew up on a farm in a little town called Seneca on the Oklahoma border. I went to college at Missouri State, did my undergrad in Biology. Then, two weeks after graduation I left for the Peace Corps. I was sent to Kenya for two and a half years to do agroforestry work. Teaching people how to plant trees. I was posted on the coast, in a fishing village on one of the most pristine and beautiful white sandy beaches on the entire Indian Ocean. A sleepy little place, nothing exciting ever happened there. I had a good time, though. I was very much into the culture, the language, the food, everything. I pretty much immersed myself into the experience. Went native, so to speak. I had a serious relationship with a Kenyan woman, but it ended badly. My heart was broken. I just wanted to get out of there.

As soon as I finished my Peace Corps service I took off, determined to see more of the world. I drove an overland safari truck down to Cape Town. From there, I used my savings to travel around the world. I flew to Morocco and then went by fishing boat across to Spain, bumming around for a while. Then I went up to Normandy and looked up my distant cousins, the remnants of my mother’s family. I worked in their vineyard for a season, picking grapes. Went all over Europe on the Eurorail. Then I hopped over to Ireland to look up my family there. It’s such a beautiful country, great people. They took me in like their long lost son. I really didn’t want to leave. But I still wanted to see Asia before I came home. So I did the whole Trans-Siberia thing. Went from Moscow to Vladivostok by rail. Then I got work on a freighter headed to Singapore. I bounced around Southeast Asia for a few months: Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Hanoi, Jakarta. Ended up heading to India for a while, but I didn’t like it much. I was never into the whole mystical spiritualism thing that most people get into in India. Mostly I just found it incredibly dirty and overcrowded, but the food was good. So I left and went trekking in the Himalayas in Nepal, looking for more solitude. Just bumming around, seeing things, experiencing life, I guess. Trying to fix my broken heart.

Eventually, and inevitably, I ran out of money. I had no plan for how to get home. I made it down to Mumbai and got another job on a freighter headed to L.A., and from there I hitchhiked the rest of the way back to Missouri, penniless. I came back to the university to say hello to some old friends and ran into Dr. Adams. She offered me a graduate assistantship if I would start my Ph.D., so that’s how I came back here. Full circle back to where I started. Five years older, broker and not much wiser, I guess.”

“That is the most interesting story I’ve ever heard,” said Alex. She was sitting close to him, listening intently. “I have never met anyone who traveled all the way around the world before.”

“Well it sounds more interesting than it is, really. A lot of places are just the same, regardless of the continent. Crappy cheap hostels, dirty restaurants, living out of a backpack, wearing the same dirty clothes for days on end. It gets old fast.”

“But wait, don’t you have to have a master’s before you can do a Ph.D.?”

“That’s the normal route most people take, but it’s not a requirement. It’s riskier this way, because if this project falls apart or I lose the funding or something, I’m screwed, stuck with just a bachelor’s. But if it all works out I get doctorate at least two years quicker than I would have otherwise.”

“Then what? Academia? Research?”

“Geez, I wish I knew. I have no idea what I want to do when I grow up. I just like the idea of someday being Dr. Jake. I have no idea what I’ll do with it once I have it. I do like teaching, but I can’t see myself doing it forever. I don’t want to become one of those stodgy old professor types, you know? The ones who bore you with the same old stories about how things used to be. What about you? What’s your plan? A double major in French and Biology is not a common track.”

“Yeah, well the French is sort of just a happy side-effect of having spent a year in Switzerland. I received so many transfer credits that it was easy to just declare it as a second major. But Biology is my true passion. I’m trying to specialize in environmental health. You know, looking at how the environment impacts human health? My older brother works for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Colorado studying how radiation impacts people’s health, and I guess I want to follow him down that path.”

“So where are you from? Where did you grow up?” Jake asked.

“I was born in Maine. My father is a university professor, Sociology. We moved to St. Louis when I was five. He teaches at St. Louis University.”

“The Jesuit school? Are you Catholic?”

“I guess. I’m not much of anything, really, but yeah, my parents are Catholic. I’m assuming you must be too, with your Irish and French heritage?”

“Same, my family is, but I don’t have much use for religion. I never went to church growing up.”

Jake and Alex talked for another hour while cuddling near the fire and sipping wine. When the shadows began to grow long they reluctantly agreed it was time to get going, so Jake dowsed the fire by packing snow on the smoldering embers. Alex gathered up some driftwood to replace what they had burned, in consideration of the next person to come along. They hugged tightly and kissed again before packing up the remains of their picnic and beginning the trek along the river bank back to Jake’s truck. The going was slow for Jake in his cumbersome waders. By the time they reached the bridge he was red faced and panting for breath.

“What’s wrong, are you okay?” asked Alex.

“Oh, I’m fine. I guess I’m just a little out of shape and still hung over,” replied Jake.

But he knew he wasn’t out of shape. He had been slogging through this river every day for the past two years and he was in the best shape of his life. But he had noticed that his jeans had been getting looser lately and he seemed to be getting tired more easily.

“Maybe you’re coming down with the flu,” said Alex. “You’ll probably feel better in a day or two.”

“Yeah, maybe. Or maybe it’s a WTD.”

“Sorry, what’s a WTD?”

“Weird Tropical Disease. I have this recurring fear that I picked up some obscure thing that is going to come back to pay me a visit someday. Like Dengue Fever or Blackwater Fever or something, lying dormant in my liver and just waiting to pop up and say howdy.”

“Hmm, I think that’s pretty unlikely,” said Alex, laughing.

Their drive in the country was scenic and serene. A clean white blanket of snow covered the landscape of rolling hills and farms. They stopped several times to observe wildlife, watching a pair of Northern Harriers drift low over a barren field, hunting for rodents. Then they came across a pair of coyotes hunting together along the edge of a wheat field.

“They mate for life, you know,” said Jake in a professorial tone. “They are really intelligent and amazing creatures. It’s a shame they are persecuted so badly. There used to be a government bounty on them, they would pay people to kill them, for no real reason.”

“You sound like you are in love with them,” teased Alex.

“I guess I am, in a way. I’ve always had this fascination with coyotes. Their fidelity for their mates is really amazing. If one of the pair is hurt the other will hunt for it and bring it food. The male hunts for the female while she nurses their pups. They have a really tight family unit.”

His tone was so sincere that Alex felt moved. She wanted to make a joke to lighten the mood, but she was afraid he would think she was making fun of him. So instead she remained silent. The coyotes disappeared into a hedgerow and Jake drove on. They remained silent for a mile or two until a couple of white-tailed deer jumped over the fence and ran across the road in front of them.

“You going to get all mushy on me again talking about deer mating strategies?” teased Alex.

“No,” said Jake, laughing. “Deer don’t get me sentimental at all, except when thinking about venison tenderloin sautéed in garlic and butter. They breed like rats and have about as much intelligence as my boots.”

She laughed. As the sun dipped below the distant hills, Jake turned and began heading south, back toward town.

“Jake, we need to talk,” said Alex soberly.

“Uh-oh, I never like the sound of those words. Every time a conversation starts with ‘we need to talk’ it is usually followed by bad news.”

“No, it doesn’t have to be bad news. I think we just need to talk about us. The future. What’s going on? Are we dating? Are we friends? I mean I really like hanging out with you. You make me laugh. You are the smartest person I know, you have had such an amazing life, traveling all over the world. I had a really great time with you today.”

“Well, I feel the same about you. I really love being with you, you make me happier than anyone has in a very long time. You are smart and funny and gorgeous, which is a pretty amazing combination.”

“So what next? I feel like once we take things to the next level there is no going back. And I’m just not sure I can be in a relationship right now. I will be graduating in five months, and I’m planning to move to Colorado to live with my brother and go to grad school. I guess I just have this fear of getting really involved and falling for you and then having to break things off. In a way I think I’d rather keep you as a dear friend than have to break up with you as a boyfriend.”

“Yes, that is a problem. And I don’t have any good answers. I guess I have also been reluctant to commit to a serious relationship ever since I left Kenya. I mentioned that I had a bad experience, right? It really hurt. I was in love with someone who really hurt me and I guess since then I’ve been scared of being hurt again.”

Alex had been staring out her window, watching fence posts pass by in a blur. She looked at Jake. “So we agree that we should just stay friends, then?”

“Reluctantly, yes. I think it’s probably for the best. I don’t want either of us to get hurt. I mean this is a really hard decision, because I really do have strong feelings for you and I’m very attracted to you. My god, kissing you today was fantastic! I would love to have a romantic relationship with you. Even if it’s only for five months. But if that means losing you as a friend I’m not willing to sacrifice that.”

He was lying. He wanted her badly, he was aching to be with her. But he knew that she had already made up her mind, so he went along with it.

“Phew, I’m glad we had this talk. I feel like the tension is off. We can now just relax and be friends without worrying about the future,” said Alex.

“Yeah, me too.”

The rest of the trip was quiet. Jake was in pain, thinking about what might have been. He regretted kissing her, having to live with the memory of the softness of her lips and the heat of her skin under his hands, the smell of her hair. Alex, on the other hand, was relieved. She was glad they had been able to clear the air and still remain friends. She hadn’t wanted to tell Jake that she just didn’t feel attracted to him. He was such a sweetheart, she could never hurt his feelings, but she just didn’t feel the spark.

Jake pulled into Alex’s driveway and shut off the ignition.

“So, I guess I’ll be seeing you on campus?”

“Sure,” she said. “I’ll call you. Let’s go to a movie or something. We should still hang out. I don’t want this to be goodbye.”

“Okay. But let’s give it a few days. I think we need some time to sort it all out in our heads,” Jake said, despite his own desires. He wanted to spend every moment with her, but he knew that putting some distance between them was the only way to temper his emotions.

“Okay, whatever you think. You’re probably right. Besides, finals are next week and I need to study. Then I’m going to Colorado immediately afterward to spend the winter break with my brother. So maybe I won’t see you until January?”

“Alright, have a good trip and good luck with finals. Happy New Year in advance, since I won’t see you before then.” He felt like crying and was hoping his voice wouldn’t break.

“Thanks, you too. And thanks for everything today. I really did have fun. I’ll call you. Bye.” She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and stepped out of the truck and shut the door.

Jake gave her a little wave and a smile as he pulled out of her driveway and drove back to his apartment. He felt like crying but couldn’t. He felt numb, in a trance. He felt like breaking something in anger, or crawling into bed and sleeping for days. In his younger days he might have crawled inside a bottle and stayed drunk for a few days. But he was too old for that now. When he got home he flipped through his CD collection, selecting five of the saddest albums he could find, and went to lie down on his bed and wallow in his agony.

He had been lying in a half-awake half-asleep state for a couple of hours when the phone rang. He picked it up immediately, hoping it was Alex calling to say that she had been wrong, that he should come over right away and they would make love all night long. But it wasn’t Alex.

4 Replies to “Chapter 4: The Potato River”

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