Seeing the name written down was the worst. When Ian first pointed to their new town on his creased and battered paper map, Violet shivered. And when they arrived, as they drove past the “Welcome To Bad Kettle” sign, dread was the circling word, drifting through the open car window on a perfect summer day.
They both hoped for the best, a new beginning.
By October, Violet won’t walk by the river anymore. She sees faces in the rocks, skulls in the stones. Ian tries to talk her out of it. Perpetually late for work, over the weeks he has gotten attached to the shortcut of the river path. But Violet shakes her head, insists. They both skip the path in favor of the main road to downtown, with its traffic lights and lumbering beasts and hot scent of fuel, though it adds ten minutes to the route, each way.
Ian suggests new strategies, worried he’ll be fired for tardiness. Ignore them, he says. Or give them names. Or walk with your eyes closed, letting me guide your steps over the worn concrete.
Violet, usually so agreeable, refuses. Don’t name them, she warns. Ian relents, changes jobs. Violet is so convinced, and so convincing, that all their friends start avoiding the river path too. Now everyone they know is ten minutes late, all the time, for everything from work to dinner dates.
Eventually, the rumors spread beyond their circle of friends and nobody uses the river path anymore except tourists and the seven crazy homeless men. The city of Bad Kettle adjusts, shifting time by ten minutes. Now between Central Time and Mountain Time, there is a new time zone. Bad Kettle Time.
The path crumbles, is covered by grass. The slope to the water grows slippery with moss. Left to themselves, the rocks begin to open their eyes in the quiet hour at dusk.