Emery L. Campbell is an award-winning writer of poetry and short works of fiction and nonfiction. A selection of his poems and translations from classical French poets This Gardener’s Impossible Dream: A Not So Green Thumb (or Why I Took Up Poetry Instead), Multicultural Books, was nominated for the 2006 Georgia Author of the Year Award and a poem chosen from it received a nomination for a Pushcart prize. Campbell’s second book of translations Selected Fables and Poems in Translation was published in late December 2010 by Print1 Direct of Marietta, GA.
His writings have appeared in Atlanta Review, Light, Midwest Poetry Review, Writers’ International Forum, Poets’ Forum, Parnassus Literary Journal, Spellbinder, Romantics Quarterly, and in anthologies including Reach of Song, Golden Words, Encore, Where Sunbeams Dance and others. His work has won awards from the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, the Georgia Writers Association, the Georgia Poetry Society, and numerous other state poetry organizations.
Campbell and his wife, Hettie, a native of the Netherlands, live in Lawrenceville, GA.
Ranks were forming in front of the high school for the parade at 10:30 a.m. Men and women encased in freshly starched shirts and dresses, farmers in their town suits, jackets over their arms; it was hot and humid. The columns would come down the hill, turn right at the Civil War cannon at the foot of the bridge, go up Fourth Street past the library, and on to the cemetery.
A bugle sounded: the parade had begun. Heat shimmered from the pavement in an ochre haze of dust. Drummers beat out a crisp cadence, steps were firm and quick.
Then a siren. The marchers looked at one another, then back toward the fire house. Losing form for a moment, they continued with hesitant tread as the band played briskly on. Whispering crept through the crowd, and finally one word rose above the excited hum: “drowning!” A few people broke away from the parade route and hurried toward the river. After the band, still blaring a Sousa march, had passed, those standing near the bridge moved onto it and stared down to where Thunder Creek runs into the Chattahoochee. A wooded tongue of land at the junction of the streams was a favorite swimming place for the town’s children. A group had already collected on the point watching a boy shoulder-deep in the water fifty yards off shore waving his arms and shouting.
“Here, here, Joey’s here!” sobbing, ducking under, coming up coughing. “Quick, get him, he just went down!”
“Come on out, boy. The sheriff’ll be here with the boat directly, come on out.” The balding little man advanced to the river bank, careful not to step in the mud with his spit-shined shoes. “Come on, son.”
A second man in a too-tight Legion uniform joined the other on the bank and bellowed, “Get the hell outta there, kid! You’re gonna get drowneded, too!”
More watchers gathered, solemn, questioning, their clothes bright splashes against the river’s dull placidity. Orange and black band uniforms stood out from the green trees and grass. A young woman in a yellow silk blouse pushed through the growing crowd. “Forrest, Forrest! Come up here to me!” She was slender and white. “Come here or I’ll tell your mother.”
The boy’s face contorted with sobs. He dove under again, the sun sparkling on his wet bottom. “I touched him! He’s here! I touched him!”
The young woman hovered on the bank. “Shame on you, Forrest, swimming without a suit! Wait till I tell your mother!”
The paraders had broken ranks and were streaming toward the point. The crowd on the bank stood immobile, rigid.
The sheriff, silver star emblazoned on dark blue shirt, rowed down the creek from the power house dock. Spectators started shouting directions to him, but he seemed to ignore them. As he neared the frantic boy he threw out a grappling hook with a flourish, then hauled it back in, hand over hand.
The boy screamed at him, “No, no! Over here!!” but he threw the hook again.
Then a tall man thrust through the futility of watching faces. Shedding trousers, shirt, and shoes he plunged into the water. The men standing at the river’s edge glanced at one another, shamefaced. With powerful strokes the swimmer reached the boy, dived, resurfaced, dived again. Eyes and uniforms watched. Finally he came up gasping, holding the small naked body. On the bank polished shoes scuffed the powdery sand.
The onlookers stood quietly as the rescuer tried to revive the small form, forcing air into the boy’s lungs. The man’s heavy breathing was the only sound now.
Then someone coughed, breaking the silence, and edged away from where the rescuer worked over the lifeless child. The crowd murmured and began to straggle back toward the bridge.