"The river gives me peace," said this man whose name is not known. He is husky, maybe 60 years old. He locks the camper door, straightens the hem of his T-shirt, takes up his cane in a wide strong hand and starts. His halting steps, the cane matching and supporting each staggering stride across the lot, carry him on a slanting path across the parking lot, eastward toward Antioch Lumber.
A pretty girl, her hair curled and made to look like she's fresh from the shower, walks toward a bench where the river runs. She wears sandals, a white top and tight jeans. The denim stretched across her butt is paler than the rest and reflects the light whitely.
The river runs with clumps of vegetation in a line at mid-river, in a steady upriver bob, against the current, carried by the tide. The water here cannot decide if it belongs to the bay or to the river. Brackish, it's called.
Testosteronic and estrogenic teenagers, looking like they want to be up to something, gather on the side away from Antioch Lumber, where workers build a deck on the back of the building that will give a view of the river.
A powered Razor scooter curves into the lot, driven by a young man with a young boy standing between his arms laughing the laugh of childhood. Both sport the same au courant haircut: tight on the sides, the shine of their heads showing, and flat on top. Holding hands - the man carrying a smaller scooter by the gooseneck - they cross the railroad tracks to where the river runs.
The man whose name is not known has reached the sidewalk that runs in front of Antioch Lumber. His unsteady gait heads him steadily east.
A projectile of a ship - its white superstructure concentrated astern - powers upriver, smooth and unstoppable, its prow parting the waters, sending a rippling vee shoreward. Four stout uprights with booms at right angles are marine red and ready to swing cargo.
The young man and the boy look at the ship, but soon the boy walks back across the tracks, gets a rock, returns and throws it into the river. The man pulls out a cell phone.
The pretty girl sits on the bench, looking at the river and jiggling one foot. The man whose name is not known has gone out of sight behind the front of Antioch Lumber. The ship continues its slide past.
The south half of the river is blue and patterned in the sun by the clash of wind, tide and current. The north side of the line is smoother and yellowish in the sun. No vegetation floats there. Some floats south of the mid-line but most of it is on the line.
A couple in a Toyota Corolla enter the lot, turn around and leave. She's licking a double Foster's Freeze dipped cone and her warm mouth melts the chocolate dip so it mixes with the vanilla.
A toke's sweet smell drifts through on the upriver breeze.
The man whose name is not known makes a jagged outline against the white railings along the sidewalk.
A freight train comes through without much fuss. BNSF on the sides. Burlington Northern and Santa Fe. A couple from a Saturn watch. Maybe he hears Johnny Mercer singing "on the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe." They wear catalog clothes from being on the AARP mailing list.
The Antioch Lumber man locks ups a business that no longer sells lumber, walks to his station wagon that each day is parked in the same spot, and leaves. A young woman pushing a shopping cart laden with cans crosses the lot to a bench, sits a spell then lies on the bench and sleeps as the river runs. A woman stands at the open back door of a sedan, head held high, maybe enjoying the slight arch of the bridge as the long ship approaches, or taking in the negative ions of the river. She's smoking.
A man and a woman in a vintage heavy cruiser Chrysler the color of oxidized wine parks nose to the river, its taillights secured with duct tape. A bulging antiseptically white laundry bag, the cord cinched to a circle on top, sits on the back seat.
The ship slips under the bridge and the man whose name is not known is on the way back. Slowly, slowly the walkway fence pickets pass his legs. The pretty girl fits an iPod to her ear, pulls out a Blackberry. The man and boy leave, each on his own scooter. The young man dips and swerves in graceful curves. So does the boy. The Saturn couple in AARP clothes departs.
The pretty girl is a TV commercial, walking across the lot and exiting in her Lexus.
A bow-high tugboat, neither tugging nor towing, hurries downriver for its next load.
A row of old tires line its sides. "Sagittarius" is written in white block letters across its curved stern, which is low in the water. This red, white, black beauty cuts through the blue water that holds green hints from the trees on the island behind Sagittarius where spin the wind turbines of Sacramento County.
The man whose name is not known finishing strong, breathing hard, crosses the parking lot and sits on the bench blessed recently by the pretty girl. They both have much to offer. The big ship, he said, "was showing a lot of white at the water line. Empty. Probably going to Stockton to load ag." Crops out of the Central Valley, onto the ship and down the river as it runs.
"Water hyacinth," he said, his cane pointing to the floating line of vegetation. "A woman brought them from Fl… thought they would look good in her pond. They took over and she had them hauled to the river. They clog the boaters' propellers. Fishermen hate them." His version is as good any.
His cane indicates a matted island headed upriver. "Other junk gets caught up in them."
The man whose name is not known used to walk eight to 10 miles a day. He was in the hospital for over a year and couldn't walk at all until recently. Now he walks about eight tenths of a mile here nearly every day, the good leg planting, the bad leg dragging, the cane conducting the opera.
"I would have left this town 20 years ago, except for this river," he said.
The sun curves to earth, the temperature drops, the blue river deepens, the wind kicks up the water, and the water hyacinth marches enfilade upriver. The trees on the island hold on to the light green in the fading sun.
A nice chill - a crisp white wine from the fridge - fills the air, the parking lot empties and the river runs.