The Muddy Flint
…running silently between walls of pine
and water oak covered with tangled vines…
Gone With the Wind —Margaret Mitchell
Laughter seems trivial, ephemeral, pointless.
But it is never neutral—there’s always a meaning to it.
—Sophie Scott, Neuroscientist
Humor me for a moment
as I recreate a place, a boy,
a group, and a time: May 9, 1977.
We sit in eighth-grade
algebra, Mr. Jones’ high-banked,
in the old hall, where my Dad too
sat under the same man.
We are twenty or so, minus
one—Mitchell Melton—who doesn’t
show this Monday for variables
beyond his control.
Enter the messenger, stage left
and up, at the door.
No face or name now, just
the message: Our friend’s body
has been found caught
in limbs down-river from the blue-
karst-hole where he swam
on Sunday—till he waded past
the clear, constant
spring into the muddy swirl
of current and drowned.
No one breathes or makes a sound.
Then the quip—Mitchell Melton
and the shock of communal
laughter, flooding the room
finally to a blank space, an X
or Y to be solved.