The river was an amalgam of liquids, at least some of which was probably water. It stank of garbage and rot. We didn’t care. It was home.
My brother and I grew up in the river. Like tadpoles or insect larvae, we spent our youth maturing in the fetid water. We collected things that floated and things that sank. We collected bottle caps, rubber tires, shiny glass, and rusty old cans. We collected scabs and rashes more than once, and we cleaned each other’s wounds.
The neighbors told us we were two fish, Sam and I. Behind our scaly backs they called us “those two pests: Sam and Ava.” They criticized our parents. We didn’t care.
We spent our summers wiggling our toes in the soft silt of the riverbed. We built a pool: the diving board from a plank of discarded wood, the ladder with a storm grate. We spent our after-schools, weekends, and even Christmas vacations there. It froze over in the winters; we skated on the surface in our sneakers.
The neighbors yelled at us when it got late. Maybe they were worried. Maybe we were too loud.
“Go home,” they insisted.
We didn’t care. We wouldn’t.
This is a submission to Sunday Photo Fiction, a weekly challenge where writers post a story in 200 words or fewer in response to a photo prompt (shown above).