Pulled from the River: an excerpt

There is no talking for some time. We sit, the sound of John moving around, the buzzing of a space heater in the background.

The television is turned to R News, which is a station that covers news in Rochester twenty-four hours a day. The reports are filled with statistics and there are charts and diagrams and pictures of plows and cars stuck in the snow and of kids building snowmen or skating on the canal.

Jon Chopan ’03, a professor at The Ohio State University, recently earned the Creative Writing Alumni Award from Oswego’s Creative Writing Arts program. His first novel, Pulled from the River, was published in March.

Dave has a lot to say this year and we listen closely.

Still, none of us leave with a fortune. Or it is not the kind one would expect.

We sit there for hours, Dave moving from us to the men at the other end of the bar sitting with the beautiful Ukrainian woman.

This is our fortune, all of it. The people who are there when you walk in and the charts and graphs on the television. The Christmas lights, some of which have burned out, and the three of us: father and sons, sitting here together for another year. That it is snowing and that we each have one pitcher of beer and that my brother and I will watch our father walk slowly, with a slight limp, back into his apartment complex where he will steadily climb those twenty-two flights.

I will stay in Ohio for five years, am still there, and when I drive home I feel like I am headed in the direction I was meant to move: east. It will always be my bearing. Not west to the new cities and prairies, not north or south to the poles. But east, home.

I think about my father and wonder what the world will do with him. The markers pile up, each one drawing me in and propelling me forward: Cleveland, Erie, the rest stop at Angola, Buffalo.

Then the tollbooths and that last stretch of land, where the sky is gray, a kind of gloom that those who are not from here never grow accustomed to. And finally, the skyline: the smoke stacks of Kodak, the three giant tanks of beer in front of the Genesee Brewery, the smell of trash plates, the smell of river water, the High Falls, the Low Falls, the Eastman house, Lake Ave., Park Ave., and lastly my father’s building towering toward the sky, and him in it, taking those stairs one at a time. l

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