My father and I had gone into the carry-out on the west end of Portsmouth, Ohio near the bridge which crosses the Scioto River to West Portsmouth. While my father was busy looking at something, I walked over to a stand-up cooler which contained racks of alcohol. I opened the door and began looking at the bottles.
I was thinking of buying a bottle of beer to drink. But I also wanted to buy some beer for fuel for the truck which my father was driving. I began looking at the prices and saw that the beer was quite expensive. I asked the man behind the counter about buying the beer for fuel and he said I needed to buy a minimum of five dollars worth.
Most of the bottles and cans in the cooler looked very old. Some six packs even had dirt piled on them, as if they had been sitting in there for years and the dirt had accumulated. I began to be unsure that I wanted to buy anything to drink. I thought I might just buy the alcohol as fuel.
Besides beer, I saw some bottles of what appeared to be whiskey. One bottle containing a green liquid caught my eye. It was a pretty bottle and I had the notion that it had been imported from France. I picked it up, shook it and saw a layer of liquid chocolate also in the bottle. It was apparently some kind of sweet alcoholic drink. Unlike the other bottles in the cooler, it looked quite inviting. It was also expensive. I put it back on the shelf.
A man then walked up and I recognized him as my old junior high school classmates, Shramm. He looked the same as when I had last seen him in high school. I spoke to him and he also recognized me. I asked if he lived in that part of town and he said he lived on the next street. I said, "Oh you mean Front Street."
Another fellow with Shramm indicated that indeed Shramm did live on Front Street. He said it was on a corner of another street he named. I knew where that street was and asked if he lived on the west or the east corner. The fellow with Shramm said it was on the west corner and asked me if I would like to visit. I didn't want to visit him but thought I might drive by some time.
Shramm seemed almost like he was a bit retarded. His speech seemed syncopated and almost infantile. I thought he probably had some menial job to support himself.
Finally my father and I left without my having even bought anything. We walked outside, and boarded a large semi truck which he was driving and we rode through the streets of the west end of Portsmouth. Many dilapidated and poor houses were in that area. I thought it would look better if all those houses were simply torn down. But I said, "I used to think it would be better to tear down these poor houses so people wouldn't have to live in them. But then I realized those people would simply go to better parts of town and soon turn the houses there into poor ones. It is the people themselves which cause the houses to be run down."
Not all the houses were in bad shape. Some houses had been renovated and that part of town seemed to be in general experiencing rejuvenation to some degree.
I thought about the new bridge being constructed across the Ohio River near Portsmouth. I asked my father about it and he said it was almost completed. I told him I would like to see it and he said we could drive out there. We turned around and drove across the Scioto River Bridge. As we went across it I noticed the railings along the bridge had been taken away so I could now see the river below. It looked like a rugged, rocky creek with water swirling over jagged stones. I commented to my father how different it looked without the railings. He agreed.
On the other side of the bridge my father turned north and began driving along the Scioto River instead of turning south toward the Ohio River. Somehow he planned to reach the new Ohio River bridge in that direction. We drove for a while until we came to a hill. The bridge was supposed to be on the other side of the hill.
The road had become increasingly narrow. To our left was a precipitous drop off into the river. I didn't think there was even room for the truck, but my father kept driving along the steep, windy, dirt road. Finally we reached a point were we could see the bridge, but I was so concerned about the road, I told my father I wanted to go back immediately.
Since there was no room to turn around, my father began backing down the road. But he failed to turn the wheels sharply enough and we suddenly began plummeting over the edge of the cliff toward the river. We smashed into the water which quickly engulfed the truck. The truck didn't have doors on it and I thought we would be able to escape without much difficulty. I reached out and grabbed my father by the wrist as the water began to cover us. I wanted to make sure he was able to swim to the surface. He seemed to have a black billfold in his hand.
We both slid out of the truck and were completely submerged in the water. The truck had sunk rather fast and I wasn't sure how far down we were. I continued to hold my father's wrist as we rose toward the surface. I kicked my legs but didn't use my hands. I realized I hadn't taken a deep enough breath of air before the water had covered us and that I wouldn't be able to last long. I still didn't know how far it was to the surface and was beginning to become somewhat concerned as I could feel the air disappearing from my lungs. I imagined myself breaking through to the life-giving air.
I also began wondering about the truck. It had been an old truck but my father had valued it. It was a shame he had lost it. I wondered if he would try to have it recovered from the river later.
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