So I was driving to the store late yesterday afternoon, and the heat had come back. I crossed the bridge over the river and saw the water cascading over the dam and there was a fisherman down in the shallows, he looked content, fish or no fish. I rounded the corner and saw it was near quittin' time at the Water Works, the men were standing by their pickup trucks talking about the things Water Works men talk about. They are all big men with bellies that hang over their Carharts, but their arms are strong you know. I imagine they all live cross town, maybe in Efland and up near Hurdle Mills, where they keep black angus steers in the fields they inherited from their granddaddies, for just a little somethin' on the side. So maybe they talk about beef prices and how many Mexicans are down in Siler City now . . . Little Mexico now, that's what they call it.
But I drive past them and I see two girls. I've seen them before, walking on this road, they are all of twelve or thirteen maybe, lately in their bathing suits, usually a t-shirt but no shorts and bare feet, and sometimes I have seen them with these two boys, with pale chests and young tattoos, the kinda tattoos that are just-the-beginning you know. One of the boys usually has a towel around his neck and a big inner tube looped over his shoulder and that tells me they are all going to the river, which is an enviable thing to do on these hot days, better than getting in that electric blue low-rider with the muffler that must have cost Daddy a month's wages and going to the mall way over in Durham.
Yesterday though, the girls were alone and they were lying in the grass under the no-shade of a telephone pole near the side entrance of the Water plant. They were wearing nothin' but their bikinis and some deep purple nail polish and their bellies were soft and biscuit white. They almost looked like they had been hit by a truck, but they were flailing about some, right as I passed, the one with the long auburn hair, picked up her head and rolled over onto her stomach and put her chin in her hands, and she bent her knees so that her feet were up and she flexed her ankles up and down and up and down, which was the kind of move you see most teenage girls make on the beach, but these two were lying in the kinda dirty grass on the little slope on the side of the road. They were barely a few feet from the six foot chain link fence that surrounds the Water Plant and within viewing distance of that trailer that they raided for some damn reason last year, there were some real bad characters living there, it wasn't the long hair and the beards that made them seem so bad, it was their wives sitting in the dirt yard on old wet upholstered recliners watchin' their babies run near the road in their diapers, that sorta made you wonder about their ways of living.
Anyway, the girls looked kinda wrong, lying there in the grass in my rear view mirror. And when I drove back from the store with a paper sack full of tomatoes and a new jar of mustard and one of those already roasted chickens cause its too hot to roast a chicken in my kitchen theses days, the girls were still sitting there in the grass. Their boyfriends were nowhere -- or maybe the boys had lost interest, school is starting soon so maybe they were working on their car instead of messing with these two birds. Now they were sitting up Indian-Style, and they were smoking cigarettes and I got the feeling that they thought they were pretty damn tough sitting there on the side of the road, in their faded bikinis with the worn out straps. I wondered if the Water Men had told them to go home, and then I thought probably not, cause men like those don't really get involved with girls like these, they got their own wives and girls at home that they got to have Talks with you know?
I got to the bridge and the fisherman was gone and the water of the river was running fast and bottle green.