FICTION: Whatever Hereafter by Bronwyn Jones

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Yeah, we heard it, too. A raccoon or a skunk or a groundhog or some shit. Nothing to get excited about. We know what everything is. We know how everything sounds. We hear better now. Or maybe we listen better now. Anyway, there ain’t no big predators in the woods no more. Unless you count us that one time, up in that hunter’s blind.

Hahaha. The looks on their faces.

Hahaha. What a bunch of jagoffs.

We was just saying, wasn’t we, how different the river looks from down here. Tons of times we seen it from the bypass: red-brown water, all lumpy with clay and runoff from Yoder’s farm. We wouldna pissed in it for fear of what we’d get off the splashback. But really, it’s kinda peaceful. Like somewhere you’d wanna spend time. Like somewhere you’d wanna spend forever. Almost.

Almost. Yeah, we remember now, how “almost” the three of us was. We was almost 17. We was almost to Josh’s house. We was almost doing a hundred. We was almost flying when the car spun out and crashed through the guardrail. We was almost the Dukes of fucking Hazzard. We almost hollered “yeeehaw!” Shit, maybe we did. We hollered something, that’s for sure. We hollered the Whole. Way. Down.

After that, after the drop, the first thing we remember is the ER nurse. We watched her cut off our JV letter jackets and our football jerseys and our too-big jeans and clean us up. You’d think that’d be embarrassing as shit, but it wasn’t. She was real respectful. And it took a long time, ’cause all the blood got mixed in with that goddamn sticky-ass clay.

She never told no one about doing that, not even her husband. She never told him how she went with the sheriff to our houses to tell our moms, or how they freaked and cried (Josh’s mom), or ran out into the yard in a nightgown (Mike’s mom), or howled like some kinda animal (Steve’s mom). Some kinda fucked-up animal we ain’t never seen down here, anyway. That nurse didn’t say squat. She went home and got into bed and turned her face to the wall and never said nothing to nobody.

We know ’cause we was watching. We wasn’t sure what to do them first few days. Didn’t know where to go. Just followed her around. Until we got pulled back. Pulled back here. Every morning, we got pulled back. To the river. And her house was so far, way up on top of Popper’s Hill. Got to be a pain in the ass, is all.

We’re remembering something now. Something from before the drop. That nurse’s daughter. At the softball game where we found that can of beer under the bleachers. It must’ve fallen outta somebody’s cooler. We was taking turns drinking from the can and eating Jolly Ranchers and talking about how Jen Hutzy gave Shane Dunst a hand job under the bleachers, right there, right were we was standing, last fall. Not this last fall, you understand. The last fall before the drop.

Hahaha. The fall before the drop.


Then she, the nurse’s daughter we mean, she hit that home run. The crack of the bat sounded like too-close lightning and the boards above us creaked and showered us with dust when the crowd stood up to cheer. We cheered, too, and it wasn’t the first time and it wasn’t the last time we was covered in dirt.

Most days, we just cruise around town. We walk to the school and throw fake passes up and down the football field. Then we run through the halls and try knocking down books and busting open lockers. One time we made the blinds in Mr. Shipley’s class move. We think. Some of us think. Some of us think it was the wind, but what the fuck kinda wind blows inside?

We think we moved it.

We did.

Sometimes, on summer nights, when the sky’s turning purple and the air’s thick as milk, we walk up Front Street and spy on Lena Deetz’s house, ’cause she forgets to close the blinds when she’s getting ready for bed and everyone knows she’s got the best tits ever.

Sometimes we toss rocks at the window of the Pizza Den and laugh if anyone looks out to see who done it. We don’t go in, though. We ain’t never hungry.

Then we walk back up the tracks to the viaduct and take turns jumping off, all acrobatic and shit. We give each other scores out of 10, like in the Olympics.

Don’t matter where we go, though. Here’s where we always end up. The grass is cool and the river runs strong and the clay makes sucking noises like a giant mouth with all its teeth pulled out. After we been here awhile, we learnt the real names of all the animals, but we ain’t allowed to tell you those. Not yet.

We hear the cars and the coal trucks barrel over the bypass. Passing us by.

Hahaha. That’s a good one.

We saw the vigil and all them little candles. We was hiding in the woods. Well, not hiding, really, but we didn’t get too close. Something about all that grief made us want to jam our fists in our pockets and stare down at our shoes. Only we don’t got fists or pockets or eyes or shoes no more.

We ain’t too sure about them crosses on the side of the road. We mostly try and kick them over. And we got no use for stuffed toys that get all moldy in the rain. Or shitty plastic flowers. Them signed footballs was cool, though.

People who leave that junk, they’re thinking about all the things we coulda done. All the places we coulda gone. They think we didn’t know shit. They don’t know shit. Because we could go. We could leave for good. But we’ll let you in on a secret. It’s like we always knew. Everything we need is right here.

We was right all along.

We ain’t never leaving.


Bronwyn Jones

Bronwyn Jones is a copywriter and creative director. Among other things, she wrote the stuff Siri says. So if her short stories aren’t your cup of tea, try asking Siri to recite haiku instead. She grew up in Appalachia, spent half her life in California and now lives and works in London.

If you enjoyed ‘Whatever Hereafter leave a comment and let Bronwyn know.


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