the river (1)

The story attracts one’s attention because after all who would travel with a living cabbage? Then perhaps it continues to attract when one realizes that the storyline is not entirely straightforward. It’s clear that the sheep must go first. What then? The traveler returns. Maybe there are hidden storage compartments on the boat? Maybe a large storm blows up and carries them across magically?

Maybe it’s not a puzzle at all. For Baeth, it’s crossing the river that attracts her attention. She doesn’t swim. The river is no gentle paddle. It’s mid-May and the water is running fast with melt. It’s also cold and the rocks look hard. Does Tranzi really know what she’s doing? The canoe looks sturdy enough. It is small. Just two at a time and a pack. There’s only one paddle. Tranzi is the only one with any experience doing serious canoe work. We didn’t pack life jackets. This is stupid.

The way that Tranzi deals with her misgivings is pretty simple. With arms around her, she says, “Ba, I’m here with you.” Before she realizes that this is utterly obvious anyway, she feels something complex inside her say this simple thing, “Yes”. Tranzi leans back to look at her friend, whom she is so grateful to be here with, and laughs a bit like Cruella DeVille. She turns and is ready to go.

Baeth tightly grips the gunwales of the boat and finds the rhythm of her hips against the swell and draft of the river. Tranzi gets out into the main channel and works hard. There are big rocks just upstream. The piece they’re traveling has some swale but no standing rocks in the main channel. She rides the shallow crest of a crosscut current that gets them most of the way there. They beach and unload.

Tranzi says to Baeth, “That was so beautiful. You moved really well with the boat, Ba. Awesome hips girl.”

Tranzi pushes off quickly after studying the river. She see Wolf upstream on the other side and motions with the paddle for him to make his way downstream. She points out the spot.

Wolf hears himself complain inwardly and starts up the bank to find a path downstream. He sees Cabbagio wandering like a drunken man trying to find cell reception. “The deal fell through. You’re ruined,” he says as he glides past. John waits, then replies.

“I didn’t hear you complaining about the profit you turned when I sold your last place.” Wolf becomes a sorcerer unfolding from behind a large purple cape. He emits some kind of psychic fog into the air. He’s very good at this role.

“Something is coming down the river.” He pauses to spin on his heel. “Something dark.” Looking deeply into the distance. “Something whose midwife is death itself,” he says with a medieval flourish. For John, Wolf had a way of moving him into a real horror movie place. Most agreed that Wolf wants to be the tortured artist in conflict with himself and the world. When John gets the psychic fog, he wants out quick.

After a moment when Wolf is into the bush, John calls out in his patented “He shoots, He scores!” voice, “He shoots, he KISSES his own ass!” Wolf chuckles moving hard forward.

Baeth is on the other side in quiet bewilderment, listening to the river and gathering wood for the night. Her terror of crossing the river has become a stillness in the air. A single bird in a tree sings a many-voiced song. The sound bounces off of her ears into her own footsteps in the brush. The open place where her pack is. The open place.

Tranzi has decided that the Wolfman should go next. She has a choice, either John or Stefan, but Stefan needs the work. He doesn’t see how snide he is, with himself, with others. This trip so far is all some kind of existential conundrum with spiritual overtones. He’s brooding and snaps out at Baeth. He’s immediately in front of himself and too caught up to notice.

He is waiting downstream to catch Tranzi coming in on the current. He grabs the rope and begins to walk her back along the shore, which is difficult at times because the footing disappears on the bank and he has to stumble through the river boulders. Occasionally the boat is caught in the current. Stefan’s hands are getting bitten by the rope. He finds some gum from a pine tree and this helps.

It’s getting on to about 3 o’clock. This is longer than he thought it would take. He looks up. The sky is turning, getting an operatic hue. Clouds are starting to mount up, but they should have another 4 or 5 hours of decent light. Cabbagio followed him down and comes out of the bush to help out.

They secure the boat and help Tranzi off. She’s tired and needs to rest before they go again. She finds a place on the bank where she can sit and collect herself. She sits quietly for about 20 minutes. Stefan sees her there and is jealous. Physically she’s so small and yet she gives off this big vibe. Really beautiful and strong. He’s jealous and afraid that she can see all of him.

She moves out of perfect stillness into motion. It’s as if time has started ticking again. Stefan and John are playing Frisbee golf in the woods. They’re arguing. Stefan keeps adding new rules and John is barking. He’s just out to play a simple game, but for Stefan there’s always something at stake, some part of his heart that he cannot bear to let show.

“Stefan. It’s time to go,” she calls out. He puts in a final jibe to John and turns to meet her.

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