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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bad water

November 14, 1980

Most people who pass here notice few changes in the river, except for the change of color in the trees – growing green in spring, red or yellow in fall, and brown in the heart of winter.
But every moment of every day, this is a different river, and one distinctly different from the one George Washington knew when he crossed it in humiliation and retreat, and a different one I see each day during my jog long its banks.
A thin sliver of silver water runs down the center, wearing through the gold and brown of dying reeds and river grasses. The heart y middle of other years had shrunken on the starvation diet the drought provided over the long dry summer.
A few down pours keep this world’s citizens alive. Armor-sided carps are still able to scavenge a living among the pipes and wires at the river bottom, making a questionable feast off the tiny life trapped in the less broad flow.
But at a cost, consuming green water along with brown so that the carp are forever poisoned and no one can feed off them in the natural cycle of things without also becoming poisoned, too, and though the city or state has yet to mark the sides of this water way with signs that say, “do not eat the fish,” we all know that truth that to ingest these means we become poisoned, too.
Some people elsewhere in the county have never seen brown water flowing from their taps. But we see it all too often and can’t always wash the taste of fish away with coffee or booze, or fear that even a sip of what comes out of the faucet might prove as deadly as devouring the fish – spoiled water cannot be made clean no matter how much we boil it, there is always something suspect in its flavor.
The city, of course, tells us that our water does not come out of the river at all, despite the foul taste we get each time the river gets this low and exposed.
A flock of pigeons coo near the water’s edge, heads ever bobbing in their constant pecking. While overhead, blue edged barn swallows weave in search of insects the season has long made extinct.
The cold has settled in even though winter is technically more than a month away, and the change of season gives little hope for better because one bad season seems to follow another, taking something more than wishful thinking to alter the depressing pattern.
The birds sense this, and those who can fly away have already gone, leaving this place populated with those who have no better place to go, or who themselves are too ruined to even hope for escape, struggling to made do with what they have, fighting over few resources left behind and bad water that can never be made clean, even if the rains come as they always must.

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