The cornflower blue sky and warm spring sunshine contrasted sharply with the muddy torrent of the river. The water, icy cold from the melting snow upland was as brown as a ribbon of churning chocolate milk.
The small wooden vessel tossed about, valiantly staying afloat despite the water that poured over the bow with nearly every breaking wave, on her deck stood a man scarcely keeping his feet under him. His skin was weathered as fall leaves from many days standing on the deck in the sun, wind and rain. The right sleeve of his coat hung limply just past his elbow. He’d lost the lower arm last spring in the same muddy flow. There had been jagged chunks of ice in the current last year.
From the shoreline, the little blonde girl kept her eyes on the boat as it floated down the winding course. She watched it successfully navigate several large rocks that lurked nearly completely submerged in the water. Then, a timber snag caught the boat, causing it to list dangerously starboard. The girl drew in a sharp breath and held it until the boat finally righted itself and continued its rocking journey.
She stayed even with the wooden boat, hurrying along, muddying her shiny black shoes. The river began to descend into a narrow, steep, gorge. The current swirled angrily, creating frothy foam that clung to rocky walls. Tossing and lurching in the wild tide, the bow of the boat dipped dangerously out of site. The man fell over, sliding perilously close to the edge, his red coat slipping off him.
Just as the boat succumbed to the raging flood, the little blonde girl stepped into the murky water. She bent over, getting her pink pinafore wet.
“There you are Ken,” she said, picking up the boat and its passenger.
“See? You didn’t even lose your other arm this time.”
She smiled at him, turned the boat over, let the water dribble out of it, and walked back up the dirt road to begin the voyage again.
This piece was published in a local anthology in 1998 called “The Holler Tree”.
This is based on childhood memories of springtime, playing in the overflowing gutters and melting snow. In my easter dress and new black patent leather mary janes…………..