“I don’t understand. Why did you come back?,” John asks waiting to hear something implausible.
Tranzi and Baeth are out of the canoe now. It’s getting on. It must be after 6 o’clock. Moving down to the west, the sun has fallen below the large cloud sheet. Clear light streams across the sky in long horizontal pinions. Tranzi has moved off upstream back to the loading site. Baeth stands looking at John with her hand, visor-like, above her eyes angled in the sunlight.
“Stefan needed some time alone I think …” She pauses to collect herself. “That too, but I was coming back for the adventure.” She smiles. “The adventure was different than I imagined though … I saw something about myself that I needed to, but it wasn’t pleasant.”
John shifts his weight and looks in closer. “Saw something?”
With something like courage, Baeth simply says, “John, I saw that I have been carrying something for you … for many years now.” John looks away. She pauses to gauge the impact of this and continues. “I saw how much this gets in the way of our friendship. I want to let that go. I want to ask if we can find some new ground with each other?”
“New ground?,” John replies shifting his weight.
“I know that may sound kinda weird, but let’s just play it by ear and see,” Baeth says finding a way to let John maneuver.
There is a long pause between them.
“I’m going to get this canoe down to Tranzi,” John says finally.
“Ya sure. No worries.” Lots of things spin around in Baeth’s head and heart. She sees them. See hears them. That’s enough for now.
Across the river, Stefan sits by the fire working in subtlety on his innards. Like Inca stonework, there is deep shadow cut right up against the light driving like engines of the moment through the trees from the west. Earlier, a deep sweat broke upon his skin. He worked to let it flow down and out the bottom of his tailbone. The intensity was just at the edge of sanity. Now, the air is the immediate presence of something ancient; his body a deep cave.
He sees that more wood is needed. He will gather more. He chooses his direction and gets up softly. His legs resonate, and he allows the sensation to swirl around.
Tranzi is again sitting on her rock gathering herself. She is a slender reed rocking gently. Baeth walks back through the bush just ahead of John. He’s portaging the canoe on his shoulders. He’s spent some time in the bush. The footing is uneasy in places and Baeth walks slowly in case he needs help.
Concentrating on keeping his footing and sensing the weight of the canoe relaxes him. His mind is just full enough with the task to leave some open space. His daughter, Enza, is a warm image inside him. What Baeth said … I’ve wanted to tell her to back off for some time now. I couldn’t find the words.
Baeth approaches Tranzi from behind and slips her arms around her and holds her gently. There is quiet.
John walks by with the canoe and sure-footedly makes his way down the rocky bank. When he’s gone by, Tranzi says to Baeth, “I need to talk with John.” Tranzi and Baeth stand up together.
“John?” John turns to face Tranzi who is now standing beside him on a rock. The sound of the river is the sound of countless molecules rubbing up against each other. “I need you to paddle across this time. I know that you’re a good enough paddler to do it.” John looks right into Tranzi’s eyes and nods. He knows that his paddling is pretty basic, but looking at Tranzi gives him confidence. Tranzi turns and climbs up the rocks. At the top she hears a splash and a loud groan. John has fallen into the river.
She scrambles down to where John is flashing about trying to get his footing. He’s alright. He gets his footing and rises up out of the cold water like a giant from the deep. He stands with his hands on his hips shaking his head. Tranzi starts to laugh at the sight. John climbs out onto a rock and instinctively starts to dance around. It’s kind of a mix between Walk Like an Egyptian and the Philly Shuffle. From above, Baeth starts to laugh too.
John’s pack is loaded into the canoe and they are ready to go. It is just Tranzi’s pack that remains for the final trip. Baeth and Tranzi both pleaded with John to change into something dry before crossing. He wouldn’t hear of it. He had made up his mind.
He deeply senses the cool upon his skin. In a strange way it gives him the proof he needs to see that he is really here. There is wind. There is water. There is the far shore. There is the canoe.
Sitting in the canoe Tranzi explains to John how she has seen best to cross. She sits in the bow pointing out this and that place in the river. To Baeth it all looks like steady flow, but to Tranzi, it is a complex system of force.
Just before Baeth pushes them off, John turns to her and says, “Baeth, I heard what you said earlier. I agree with you. Let’s try and see.”