DEEP INSIDE THE ROAR

by JOHN B. RILEY

Deep inside the well there is a roar. Standing at the well’s concrete rim, beneath the overhang of the rotting well-house, the black hole roars like angry lions. It was a noise designed by nature to take his measure, to size him up. He didn’t flinch in the face of it, was determined to set off and quell the lions, to snap the whip he wrapped around his arm and circle the roaring beasts with a steady loop, quiet them and extract them and walk them back to their ancestral home. After circling his hands around the fraying but strong bucket rope, he lowered himself into the well until the sky above became a flicker, until there was nothing but stillness, warm, magnificent stillness. When his booted feet touched the water that was so cold his toes chilled through the thick leather, he slipped off the bucket and was free to discover the well water was deeper than he had expected through the years drawing bucket after bucket and pouring it into the wide, aluminum pail with the wide, light handles at four locations, and carrying the sloshing water into the house where the silence was sometimes suddenly split by a sound like a heavy steel wedge driving through the tin roof while he was in bed, followed by the rumble of destroyed wood thrown into piles, though in the morning when he rose there was never any destruction or a pile of damaged wood and no machine or even a small hammer to be seen anywhere, and now, here at the bottom of the well, there was only the light lap of moving water and the cold feel of it raising slowly over his face as he sank slowly deeper, deeper slowly, and realized water would have always been sufficient and he had been foolish to think that lions could sound the depths of a well’s roar.

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JOHN B. RILEY is a former teacher. He has published poetry and fiction in Smokelong Quarterly, Banyan Review, Revolution John, Bindweed, Litro, and many other journals and anthologies online and in print. EXOT Books will publish a volume of 100 of his 100-word prose poems in the fall of 2022. He has published over forty books of nonfiction for young readers.

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