Parker and he went out to the lock.
He drove fast down dark roads. Roads that remember us still. He parked. Next to the historical marker—
We stumbled through a starless night, right down to the water. Right down to the water’s edge and we sat on the grass—cool, damp.
Took his pipe out of his pocket. A lighter too. Inhaled.
Kissed her, blew the smoke into her mouth. She didn’t cough.
Didn’t cough lying on the grass there. Down by the water. Out at the lock. And we laid back, sightless, the night warm, and passed the pipe back and forth.
Tongues and spit and his hand beneath her shirt. My nipples hard and his fingers harder.
His pants slid down easy, even if her fingers were unsure, and there he was—and we both high—and in her mouth as he murmured all those words sixteen-year-old girls need to hear.
Honey, baby, oh yeah, so good.
And his hand in my hair.
Not the Erie canal, not the one in the song, but a different one along the Shenango—near the dam. Lock No. 10. That’s where we went. It was dead then—the railroad came and killed it. And then the steel mills died and killed the railroads too.
Miles of track they ripped up.
She sucked him hard, moved her head up and down, her hand too, hair wild and messy and falling into her eyes.
The railroads killed the canal and the steel mills they killed everything. Killed my friend’s uncle, cut him right in half.
Beneath my tongue and in and out of space and a time and place we want to forget but which remembers us still and will come for us when we’re old.
The mill jobs are gone, but only a few escape. They go and live in the city, by the three rivers, and pretend they got away but as long as the water is near they remain sightless in the night and it’s all the same as if no one left.
We never left.
Parker and he went out to the lock and we’re there still. He eager in my mouth, pressing toward the future, dying to escape, and her believing if she sucks hard enough he just might—
He just might like me.
Oh honey, baby, maybe next time.
The grass is cool and damp and we can’t see anything. The trains killed everything and I hear the whistles. The trains killed everything except the mills and the mills killed them.
Miles of track ripped up. Came across some railroad ties abandoned in the countryside once. Out there fishing with my dad and the dog he shot. A Sunday afternoon and I stood precarious on the ties they had forgotten.
He put a bullet in her and claimed it was ’cause she was too stupid. Too stupid to live, that’s what he said.
Actually, he said, he said that he took the dog to a farm.
Just forgot to mention that he shot her when he got there.
For being dumb.
When we were eight the union went on strike. A mill job was a good job, the kind you could keep, retire on and live a respectable life.
Even if the smoke made you cough and the asbestos scarred your lungs, like my neighbor. They gave his widow a settlement and she put in a swimming pool and started rescuing dogs, some of them vicious; you’d be too if you had been kicked around like that.
He made good money, the kind your widow can dig a cement hole with, a respectable death.
The union lost and the mills died off, mostly, and the town went on. Mostly too. A service economy now and the jobs pay less—but our hands are clean and no one gets cut in half anymore.
My mom called me up the other day, said so‑and‑so’s nephew shot himself at the big hotel, the big hotel where Mom used to work.
A service economy and a bullet in your brain, just like the dog. The best you can do when there’s nothing more to be done and the Steelers are on TV.
You know the water’s down there. And you hear the whistles in the distance as he pulls his pants up and the shift ends at the mill and the train goes by and your throat is sticky and maybe your hair a little bit too.
The men stagger from the mill to their cars and from their cars to the bars and drink Yuengling. And you stumble blind and high and stupid back to the car.
And he turns to you, turns on you. Turns as he puts the car into drive and says—
He says, if you tell Maggie about tonight, I’ll lie. And she’ll believe me.
You won’t tell. Won’t say a word about any of it—the trains, the town, the guy who got cut in half, the dead dog. And you’re going to leave here someday soon and you won’t come back.
My friend’s brother died on prom night, died driving an expensive car fast down dark roads. He was gonna leave, be a big basketball star.
The whole town came to see him in his coffin and his sisters, they cried.
Car wasn’t even his, but at least he wasn’t cut in half. And at least no one shot him for being dumb, even though he was. To drive like that. Blind into the night.
The dark roads remember us still and he drives fast. Through the town’s only stoplight. Past the bars where the men drink Yuengling and PBR. Past the boarded‑up mills. Down dimly lit streets, stopping in front of her parents’ perfect lawn.
A dog barks and he doesn’t kiss her goodnight, don’t know why you expected him to. He just drives away.
I hear the water still and the ties are somewhere. Somewhere we ripped them up.
Somewhere. And there’s a dog.
And the men drink beer. And talk about the good old days. And watch the Steelers’ game and don’t talk about the guy who got cut in half or the stupid kid who drove too fast and blind into the night.
And he’s one of them.
We’re out there, somewhere, down by the water. And you—you got away, got cut in half a few times anyway, but you opened your eyes and you got away.
Sticky hair and all.
“Lock No. 10”
Megan Lewis // Parker Marlo
Previously published in The Prague Revue.
No reprints without written permission.