Green River

-CCR

...

Startled awake, Lincoln catches himself from falling off his chair.

He checks his surroundings, then the time on his watch. He yawns, looking back down the hall. He spots the elderly man sweeping the floor, sneak a quick yet fulfilling swig from his flask— some droplets running down his withered, grey beard. He reminds Lincoln of the crazy janitor from the Village of the Damned. The one who knew those kids were batshit evil and hit that one kid with the broom handle, then got mind controlled. That one.

Thinking of that movie only reminds him of why he watched it in the first place. In elementary school, amongst the other many things he was called for his hair, child of the damned was one of them. It didn't stick though. It was too long of an insult to be so common. Simpler ones like Elsa, Jack Frost, and Mr. Vice President— those stuck around a few years. Kids can be cruel sons of bitches.

He bends over in his seat to re-tie his boots— an expensive pair of workman's he was given by someone special on his last birthday.

As he ties, he thinks about Ronnie Anne, then Christina, then Stella, then, most prominently, Jordan. The prettiest girls from his grade back then, in his opinion, while some of them still currently are. He remembers how he and Clyde, would always goad Rusty into asking one of them or the other girls in their class on a date, while Liam and Zach would always tease him and tell him he couldn't do it, which, in turn, would just make him want to do it more. Rusty was always getting in trouble. Still is. Not too dissimilar to Lincoln. Just yesterday, when Jordan was at the house, she reminded him of-

"Mr. Loud?"

Lincoln's attention is drawn to the policeman who called his name. He stands up, and slips the US Military flier he'd been reading in the back pocket of his 501's.

He walks up to the officer.

"Visiting hours are over, sir." The officer gestures his open hand to the connecting room, so Lincoln nods and heads in.

Upon entering, he smiles largely. He looks at his daughter smiling back at him. He takes her small hand in his, and they head for the exit.

Outside they wait for Lori sitting on a the brim of a brick fountain— the trickling water calms from behind. The thin, dusk overcast isn't enough to relieve them of having to squint.

"Hey, Daddy?"

"Yeah?"

"Why is mommy in jail?"

Lincoln purses his lips and fills his lungs with air. He runs his hand through his hair. This is a heavy question, albeit, one he knew he would be asked eventually. This is Grace's third visit, and she's getting older. He scrapes at a chipped piece of the red stone to his right as he thinks.

"Grace, do you remember watching Scooby-Doo this morning?"

"Yeah."

"Do you remember what happened at the end?"

"M-hm." She nodded. "Shaggy and Scooby were running away from the monster and then they ruined the plan, but then it worked, because then the monster was caught. Then Fred took off the monsters head thingy, and showed them that it was the mean, old man who owned it all and then the- then he got arrested."

"The old man who owned the factory, yeah. That's right, Grace. Well, that mean old man got arrested because he did some bad things, right? He broke the rules."

"Yeah."

"Well, your mother was like that old man. She did some bad, bad things. She broke the rules, and she really hurt me, your aunts, and a lot of other people."

They sit quietly a moment. They listen to the apathetic fountain, impressing upon it a desire to ease their qualms.

"So... then Mommy's a bad guy?"

Lincoln gulped the lump in his throat and cracks the stiffness from his neck. "Yeah, baby. Mommy's a bad guy."

He brushes her eye with his thumb and looks at her affectionately, "But, baby, you're proof that she's capable of good things."

A honk is heard in front of them, so they look forward to see Lori waiting for them in her car. She decided it best to get rid of vanzilla. Some of the blood stains didn't come out after their parents bodies were removed and things were cleaned, and the memories were just too hard to deal with.

Lincoln helps Grace get into her car seat in the back, then ducks into the front seat himself. He listens to the radio— sounds like something from the Spotify playlist Luna made them last year.

Well, take me back down where cool water flow, yeh

Let me remember things I love

Stoppin' at the log where catfish bite,

He looks to Lori and she silently mouths a question: How did it go? Lincoln does the same, replying: Later.

Walkin' along the river road at night,

Barefoot girls dancin' in the moonlight

I can hear the bull frog callin' me

Saying Lori disagreed with Lincoln's decision to let Grace visit Carol every few months, would be a major understatement. They argued about it for weeks, creating a tension wafting over the whole house, until Lincoln eventually put his fist down, so to speak. Lori does a fantastic job acting as a surrogate mother— better than most girls her age and in their particular position could do, in Lincoln's opinion, but she's not actually Grace's mom. He gets final say.

Wonder if my rope's still hangin' to the tree

Love to kick my feet way down the shallow water,

Shoe fly, dragon fly, get back t' your mother

Lori and many of their sisters are angry with him for that decision as well, but it was hard enough for him to make as it was, all things considered. He knows it's not healthy to harbor hate, or even ill will for that matter, which is something he's understood since he was a small boy. Carol was given two life sentences— the youngest person ever to get such treatment. That means she'll never get to be a part of her daughter's life. Maybe some day, when their daughter's grown she'll decide to let her make up lost time and visit her, but then again, maybe not. At that point she'll know and understand what her mother actually did. It'll be up to her.

But either way, that's a sad notion for anyone, whether or not they deserve it; never getting to be a part of your child's life. That's what Lincoln thinks of it, anyway.

Pick up a flat rock, skip it across Green River

Up at Cody's camp I spent my days, oh,

With flat car riders and cross-tie walkers

Lincoln also often speaks to Carol's therapist Dr. Crane, a famous psychiatrist from Seattle, also an associate of Lincoln's own therapist, Dr. Lopez, who frequently says Carol has made some great strides forward and is actively trying to improve. He believes him, but he's wary, and he hasn't made the step forward to speak with her himself yet, as per Dr. Lopez's recommendation. It's the next step in his own healing, but it's a big one. Maybe, though, he will one of these days. He's been making great strides of his own. He's getting good grades, he has great friends and a great family, a supportive girlfriend whom he loves, and a healthy daughter for whom he'd gladly give his life, if he had to. Things are looking up.

Old Cody, Junior took me over,

Said, you're gonna find the world is smouldrin'

An' if you get lost come on home to Green River

Well, come home.

"Hey Grace, you know, I'm gunna go pick up your aunt Lily from her friends house in a little while. Do you wanna come with us so you can help us pick up the pizza?" Lori asked, leadingly.

"Yeah!" Grace yelled, excitedly from behind.

Lincoln looked to Lori again, and mouthed Thank you. He loves his daughter more than anything, but it's hard being a young parent. Lori, of all people, knows how he feels.

A/N: I figured I may as well finish the story off on the anniversary of its beginning, so there you have it. Let me know what you think. By the way, I have a couple more ideas in the works. No idea when they'll be posted, but they'll come.