The Los Angeles River (Flash Fiction)

Our car came to a stop with the sound of my father cursing, but I barely noticed. He was cursing more and more these days, and the words had lost all meaning. Everything was F this and F that and F it all to hell and back. To hell and back seemed to be the most accurate. I can’t imagine him and his cursing ever coming to an end. It’s funny how my friends in school were cursing now to act grown up and my father’s cursing only seemed more childish. I couldn’t tell who was trying to emulate who anymore. I suppose it didn’t matter. Everything in life is some sort of cycle.

It was hot and the traffic was bad and we were stopped on a bridge somewhere in Los Angeles. I stared out the window while a heavy silence fell over my father. He was trying to figure out how to tell me something he knew I wouldn’t like. I heard the same silence on the phone quite often.

Below the bridge was a long cement basin that stretched out through the city. It was dead and dry and looked entirely pointless. In the distance, more bridges crossed this cement thing, and those bridges carried metal things with small biological things inside. How reversed from how everything started. Even further were large storage tanks that held who knows what, oil or industrial waste or all the tears shed by the children in the city. It didn’t matter. Nothing would damage this cement trench that split the middle.

My father said something, but I wasn’t listening. With patience, he repeated himself without getting angry. That’s when I knew it was serious. He only repeated himself without getting angry when he was telling me something serious. That earlier silence was once again confirmed and my Pavlovian response was now set.

Did you hear me he asked and I said no.

Your mother and I are getting divorced.

I stared out the window at that long cement thing, that waste of space, that empty artery and finally answered before he lost his patience. Even bad news only grants so much leeway. I know I said.

There was another silence from him, a long one, and it was one I was still dialing in. I think it was him trying to decide how to explain himself, but he never got around to it. I had my ideas. I had seen the other woman. Twice, and only once had she seen me. There was something in her eyes that I didn’t like and that certainly didn’t like me. I can only assume my father only saw what was under her skirt which means they must fuck only with the lights off.

What is that I asked while still looking out the window. Why is that there?

That’s the river he said. The Los Angeles river.

That was when my heart broke. Divorce and adultery and patience that only existed between the use of pointless F-bombs were only the beginning. Man had no limits to the destruction he could bring. My childhood was nothing but a patch of soil that needed to be covered to serve greater needs. Nature nor nurture had a place it seems.

The Los Angeles river stretched before me, dead and dry and surrounded by power lines and industry, while I sat in a car that was struck in traffic with my lying father who was to the point of fuming. I would have told my mother, but I hadn’t seen her in weeks. I wondered if she went somewhere green. If so, I wondered how long until that too was covered over.


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