This Holy Dear John

Feet were the first I saw of her, the index wrapped over king toe and bobbing up to catch sun. I couldn’t have seen that from the bridge, but I remember it. Then her long, stony legs rose from the water, the red panties everyone talked about for days after, her stomach and bare tits. She hadn’t worn a bra, wouldn’t, not even for Jesus. She looked like she was hand-standing into breath again, though her face never broke. I watched her body pivot from the river and roll under again, and when I returned to my car, drove away, everyone was rushing in their suits and Sunday bests to the other side, down to the bank, desperate to fish her out. I think some of the men had a chain, and I laughed.

That morning Brie had sat with me in our old apartment, and while I tied the belt around my arm she smiled and talked and smiled and thanked me for making leaving easy. She thanked me for saying I’d come watch her baptismal glory. She was country, so it had to be in the creek and everyone had to see. Brie was happy, the genuine kind. I’ll give her that.

“Christ,” she said, “lifts me up.”

And I asked her, I asked what she expected to see, the other side of it. She asked for a cigarette, her last vice.

“I have no clue, Vic. Face of God maybe, but I’ve seen that. This is only a sign, I guess.”

“We’ve all seen signs,” I said.

“But we don’t perform them. I’m sorry.” Brie stood, started taking dirty dishes from the kitchen table and dropping them in the sink. Some cracked; the rattling, the faucet running.

She said again, “Sorry.”

Marvin Shackelford holds an MFA from the University of Montana. His stories and poems appear in such journals as Confrontation, Cimarron Review, burntdistrict, Beloit Fiction Journal, Southern Poetry Review, and Armchair/ Shotgun. He lives in the Texas Panhandle, earning a living in agriculture. Aimless tweets @WorderFarmer.