Crossing the Mississippi on the Algiers Ferry

by | Aug 8, 2023 | Fiction, Issue Thirty-Four

They board from Canal Street, the sky still a wash of pre-noon humidity. Already her feet hurt in their flimsy sandals. There’s no charge for walk-ons, her new girlfriend shrugs.

Soot-belching, the boat hurtles its rust-lashed hulk through the milky brown water. Its surface sprinkled with sticks, tugs and log barges, the river reeks of history and grime.

From top deck, a breeze tickles. The girlfriend, much younger than she, offers her arm, how dashing she murmurs, and flesh, touching, tingles. The New Orleans cityscape stretches before them like a lover on a bed, sheets of diaphanous water rippling.

Approaching the dock, the ferry overshoots and veers diagonally upriver. The current swipes like giant cat claws, the engine strains, riders gasp. She and the girlfriend yank apart, their maybe-this-one thoughts flung through the air in a startling yet familiar arc. Even as the boat flounders and the latte water churns, she thinks how odd it is that she recognizes the moment of ending even so near the beginning—how old must you be to anticipate the trajectory of hope? She leans over the side, listening for a tin, finite splash.

But in a moment of weightless elegance, the stern swings ’round. Eddies scurrying along its flank, the ferry docks, first kiss-light, on the other side.

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