(first chapter from original novella, “LENA’S RIVER”):

A one-way street leads you into this one-way town.

It’s a town smaller than its people, full of fearless promises and broken dreams.  Weathered, tired men sit on the porch of the post office endlessly discussing the flood of ’72. That was the Big One that washed out and flooded in most everyone who can recall.  Down the street,  hope-hungry young boys sit on the sagging porch of the movie set building facade, retelling worn-thin tales of the time the movie crew came to town.  They all remember the 1957 T-Bird used in the film –candy apple red and not a gravel ding on it.  They remember the noise and excitement those Hollywood folks brought with them. They replay  the sound of the tires as that car peeled around this very building for the 30-second scene in the forgettable movie.  The town has never again been so loud.  Bustling.  Important.

The houses off main street are sagging and gray.  Dirty children play in the spray of leaky green water hoses and run in the empty streets.  Dull-eyed dogs bark fiercely at strange cars passing by on the way to somewhere.  Once in awhile, a lone hen will cluck and scream.

It’s a lonely town filled only with beginnings and endings.  Those who are born here rarely ever stay very long.  They go far away in search of what they’ve dreamed about on these cluttered porches and shabby front yards….but sometimes all they find is their way back home.  And in the end, they squint into the sunset and  remember.

The town lies flat across a winding river.  The river is what draws most people together.  But in reality, it’s serves as a border.  A great dividing line celebrating those who are getting out, and welcoming those who are coming home.

And on the bank of the river, with her faded jeans rolled up above her ankles and her bare feet dangling in the water, sits a girl who doesn’t know which side she’s on.

– Jenni Finlay