Barely Runnable

One week after record rainfall burst the riverbanks of Southern West Virginia, destroying homes and roads and ending twenty-six lives, I gawked at the destruction I passed on the two-lane highway. Downed trees, culverts washed away, sheds knocked cockeyed. Hundreds were still displaced, many more still without electricity. It was mid-summer. Hot, cloudless, and bright. I was headed to Fayette County, near the heart of the damage, to spend the weekend at an “adventure resort.” There, I would be paid 400 dollars to write a short narrative promoting their main attraction—whitewater rafting on the Gauley River.

I wasn’t to be rafting, though. The Gauley was too flooded to raft. But there were deadlines to make, promos to release. Therefore, as the marketing company explained to me, “the story will require research and some imagination.”

What they meant was that they wanted a fake narrative they would publish as travelogue, as truth. They wanted “vivid and colorful” language. Something picturesque, majestic, fulfilling, resplendent, etc. They’d hired me, in part, because my CV showed I was “also a fiction writer.” But name a writer who doesn’t tell a little fiction.

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Jake Maynard is a thirty-year-old recent graduate of the MFA program at West Virginia University. A former social worker, his writing appears in recent or forthcoming issues of River Teeth, Carolina Quarterly, and Fugue.

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