CHAPTER 1

Jim River Boy

The James River, South Dakota – July 2005



      Thub-dub…. Her heartbeat throbbed inside her ears, resonating beneath the water… Thub-dub… How much can a heart slow down before it’s too slow to support a life? Thub-dub… So this is what death is like? Your heart just slows down so much it stops completely? Thub-dub… It doesn’t hurt as much as I imagined. 

      She’d once read that a person could go five minutes without air, five days without water and five weeks without food. Or was that three minutes, three days and three weeks? Her anxiety rose as quickly as the water and through her muddled thoughts she couldn’t remember exactly what the stats were. She did know she couldn’t hold her breath for three minutes, let alone five.      

      The murky James River water had quickly poured into the car from the shattered driver’s side window, as the frame sunk into the just-enough-to-cover-a-vehicle depth. Its shallows allowed the sun to heat its water to a lukewarm temperature and in the heat of mid-July the river was balmy and thick. Claire’s first instinct was to unfasten her seat belt and escape. That’s what a normal, sane person would do. They would save themselves if possible. She unclicked, but instead of swimming free from this would-be grave, she sat there while water swirled around her, floating her to the roof of the car and inching up her torso until it loomed just below her chin like a vat of witch’s brew. The seconds quickly ticked by. 

      Of what use was it anyhow? This life of hers. She had failed her family, her child, herself and most miserably she had failed God to the point that atonement, she felt, was impossible. Suicide had been planned out in her mind multiple times these past few years so she was prepared to simply float in the dingy water until death found her. If it wasn’t going to be this slow moving river it would be her shed-turned-garage with a tightly closed door and exhaust fumes to usher her on. 

      She felt calm, relieved even, because what she worried about most was about to happen and she wouldn’t have to live with the guilt anymore. She made the decision to stay put and let this car accident be her final act. Drop the curtain. 

      Kill the guilt. Kill the pain. Kill the memories