Shafts of afternoon light rained through oak and willow and eucalyptus, the boys’ small faces stippled with fine golden sunspots as though behind lacework mourning veils knitted from shadow. They stood side-by-side at the edge of a broad yawn of creekbed, eyes bound to what they had discovered there amongst sedge and blackberry and wild rye. Neither spoke. But for birdsong and the muted hum of cars along the nearby avenue it was quiet, the creek gurgling softly in its summer-thinned course. A mizzle of sunbeams shone across the water in fingernail crescents, quick lustrous flashes where an overturned shopping cart formed a mounded swell. The boys remained in fainter light, motionless beside the small still pool of an inlet shaded by the steep bank’s tangle of tree roots. Water skimmers skated over the pond’s glassy surface, the insects’ needle- thin legs dimpling the youngsters’ reflections and the reflection of the infant at their feet, its image little more than a wavering smudge.
“Jesus,” one of them whispered.
The other boy, the one who had seen it first, said nothing, turning away to face the creek.
Strands of algae undulated from the corroded lattice of the shopping cart, caster wheels cocked and rust-frozen above the riffling water like the hooves of some drowned mechanical bovine through whose bones the stream sluiced. He lifted his gaze to the opposite bank, its network of intertwined roots and gangling blackberry canes counterpart to those of the bank on which he stood, the creek between running in a sun-sparked murmur over loamy silt and smooth-worn stones; a constant thing, ceaseless and certain.