Missing Local Teenagers Found Submerged in Fredericksburg Canal
by Sarah Ebba Hansen
published in Ponder Review, Spring 2019, Volume 3, Issue 1
May 1972: The Free Lance–Star
Imagine this: The herculean strength of the crane, mud squelching
like octopus tentacles, algae draped over the side view mirrors
like Spanish moss. Two bodies bloated in the front seat.
A gingham jumpsuit. Sunday shoes.
They were missing for weeks, presumed runaways
to some far-off place like New York or Haight-Ashbury,
where things were happening, where two teenagers could disappear.
Imagine our surprise when they were here the whole time,
beside the bike path where kids skip rocks and cut class,
three blocks from the high school, the water littered
with cups and straws from Dairy Queen.
The submerged teenagers are an anomaly, a local legend.
It took weeks for the news cameras to clear.
The police wanted to wring out the corpses
to determine the cause of death, dry them under heat lamps
like starfish or sand dollars, but the parents refused.
The car didn’t crash. The gear shift was in park.
Nothing makes sense.
We buried them in Oak Hill in family plots,
beside grandparents and cousins they’d never met.
We tried to forget them, to leave them where we placed them.
Come Labor Day, we stepped out of our grief, wore white
to the neighborhood picnic, built a new wall by the canal,
stopped looking for things we didn’t want to find.