In downtown Algonquin, Illinois there’s a bridge over the Fox River. Underneath it there’s a small dam. The water crests and spills over the edge, surfacing four or five feet lower in a torrent of foam. The water is loud. Muffled from beneath the surface crashes sound at varied intervals. The water is powerful. Cars speed by overhead, on RT 62, but their sound is muted by the white noise, which imposes its own odd silence over the place.

You can walk down the steep hill by the bridge and stand over the water, staring at the foam. You can admire what an awesome display of might this relatively small artifact plays with nature. Where the rail ends, you can walk down over the place where the dirt terminates into a collection of stones, and thrusts out onto the river in a small peninsula. Trees loom over you, both on the shore and the small, mud island a few feet away.

A few years ago, a couple children fell into the water and the current, created by thousands of pounds of falling water, sucked them into the foam at the base of the dam. A few policemen tried to save them and ended up drowning with them.

The place has an elusive stillness.

I go there at night, when the streetlamps make the water glow with electric copper highlights. The juxtaposition of neon illumination from the beer signs on a nearby bar with infrequent headlights is irresistibly haunting.

Objects fall into the water and they don’t escape. Somewhere upriver a tree shed a couple huge branches, bigger than a full-sized human. A child lost an inflated rubber ball. They dance perpetually, in the foam. I first noticed them a month ago, and they’re still there tonight.

Sometimes my eyes play tricks on me. Sometimes, the way the ball is silhouetted against the distant lamps on backyard docks makes it look like a head, struggling to stay above the surface. The way the branches twist and submerge, resurface and bob, the way their limbs, about the same size as human arms, turn in the spray, makes me feel like I’m watching a supernatural re-enactment of what happened there, a few years ago.

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