Everyone in town knew when the general store sank, that was the sign we were all watching for. Custer’s last stand and all that. George Wheely came out early one morning for some feed and found it halfway deep in the mud, sour candies, powdered milk, and live bait bubbling at the top. He won’t admit he took anything, but he has a couple new porch chairs that he’s been showing off to the neighbors. I know George and I know his wife; they ain’t buying no new porch chairs.

We all gathered up to watch it go. Everyone shifting, uneasy. Most of the men gave old Eller a pat on the back and some reassurances that hell, had they known about it overnight, they woulda all met up and dug her out for him. Eller didn’t much respond. Sandy was inconsolable, which made the whole deal more uncomfortable. They left after the roof submerged. I think they moved downstate.

The trouble with the sinking is the logistics of it. When the general store sinks the community center sinks, which it did promptly. So, the community center is sunk, you can’t buy anything because the general store is sunk, and suddenly you wake up and most of downtown is submerged? You can’t plan for that. FEMA won’t risk their trucks and tents here, not sure if we’d want ‘em. Not enough men and not enough ropes to pull out even the liquor store. What do you have if you don’t even have a liquor store?

Anyway.

The swamp’s back. Happened quickly. Can’t beat the ground, can’t shoot it, can’t meet up at town hall and vote on it. Town halls gone. Most folks decided to pick up and leave before it reached the neighborhood, which started this past week. Two blocks in so far, not a lot of houses, but a chunk. It got some people. Eddie Whalen and Tim Garvey were arguing in their yards about some grass clippings ‘til they were both up to their necks. Damn shame.

As for me, I’m staying. Could care less if I’m pulled in tomorrow, which I very well might be. This is my home, and it’s a swamp, but it was a town before that. And before that, a swamp, before that a forest, before that mountain, savannah, molten lava rock. I don’t care. I’d stay through all of it. It’s my lot.

[402 words]

5 Comments

  1. Benjamin Niespodziany

    Great premise and pacing here! I see the real juice forming with “We all gathered up to watch it go. Everyone shifting, uneasy.” That might be your opener right there. Brings you right in, especially with a title like “Sink.”

    As it progresses, it feels like people are getting sucked up and dragged in, almost like quicksand, and it all happens to bluntly and simply that I almost want to see a little more panic and chaos and mayhem and concern? I like the voice not being worried and essentially “going down with the ship” but maybe having some bubbling screams in the night, or a deer unable to break free, or some more startling images to enhance this swampy nightmare.

  2. Robert Vaughan

    Hi Joe, I wrote a piece called Sinkholes which I think was prompted by a National Enquirer article about ‘actual sinkholes’ that had taken place in the USA (middle of 2014?) What I love most about your piece is the flatness of the POV. It’s reportage and reminds me of that human need to watch tragedy as it unfolds. I also felt the parallel with the Twitter posts of late, people claiming “I’m going down with the ship.” I actually wrote the word Titanic yesterday, in response to WHAT IS EVERYONE GONNA DO?

    Still, I throughly enjoyed your disaster spin- quicksand? Sinkholes? We are never sure what will ‘take us’ and yet, in this little town, that swamp continues to return. (on a personal note, I was concerned about the liquor store! LOL)

    I think with minor tweaks, I’d send this one OUT into the swamp known as literary journals.

  3. Len Kuntz

    Hi Joseph.

    This was really funny and sarcastic in places, yet you underscored it with bits of pathos scattered throughout. This line really stood out to me as the theme–The trouble with the sinking is the logistics of it.
    And I loved the last paragraph. It felt like the camera was being lifted up and up and into space to get an world-view of what is and what was and what might be next.

  4. Meg Tuite

    Hi Joseph,
    The narrator has that down home nothings-going-to-surprise- me cause it’s a history as everything sucks in and will get repopulated, built-up again and sucked under again or stormed out. This is masterful in choice of narrator who isn’t going anywhere because this is where his lot is. I’ve always wondered about those people who live near ‘hurricane alley’ and on fault-lines and get stomped over year after year and yet continue to hold tight, because goddamn it, this is where they landed. I DEEPLY LOVE THIS!

  5. David O'Connor

    Joseph, absolutely love this, the names build the town, the narrator’s voice is spot on, the first and last lines are perfect, no suggestions just to send it out into this sinking world!

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