The Prayer
Stephen R. Swiss

On that hot July afternoon she lay there in quiet stillness like a reptile on a warm rock. Her only movement was her hand wiping away the continuous stream of tears that flowed across her face as she anguished over the chaos and despair Linda Ray Crawford had sown into her life.
She was lying there at the same spot beneath the bridge where she and Thomas Edward used to sit and dream about their future: a traditional wedding, children, and a business of their own to free them from the generational slavery to the lumber company.
Lying there on the cool concrete, staring up at the graceful curved arch of the bridge and the clouds passing beyond, anything seemed possible. It was during these steamy Maryland summers that this special place had always provided a respite from the heat and a fragile sanctuary from the angry drone of the colossal machines downriver at the mill.
It was in the midst of this humid milieu, lying there alone, that she heard the sharp ping of metal hitting rock. In the dry part of the river bed she saw the small shiny object bounce off a nearby boulder and went over to pick it up. It was an engagement ring, As she read the inscription "to L.R.C. with love" she heard the splash and saw a body floating motionless downriver.
Suddenly from her heart and soul she heard the frantic prayer.
"Oh dear Jesus, please tell me she didn't give it back to him."

First published: February 1997