Bent Creek to Hominy

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Review Chain
Some flash fiction, trying to cut 300 words

Submitted: April 17, 2017

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Submitted: April 17, 2017

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Bent Creek to Hominy

Ryan couldn’t understand how the canoe stayed stuck, while he kept slipping downstream. He had to be the first paddler in history to lose a boat on class zero whitewater.

They’d flipped just before the bridge, and the boat’s hull made contact with the piling at its exact midpoint, so rather than push it onwards from either side, the river held it in place.

A miracle, he thought, or the opposite of one.

Per the guidebook, this section of the French Broach was “leisurely paced, with few obstructions, easily missed with little training.” The Diamond Brand salesman, who upsold him on the now missing carbon fiber paddles, described it as a “six-pack sipper.”

“Biggest hazard’s the sun,” he’d said, easily missed with a Kavu Fisherman’s hat, also lost downstream.

No one mentioned water levels, or the impact of a week’s worth of thick summer rain. Kaya, in her defense, noted the high waves lapping at the empty put-in parking lot. But the trip was a first date, and despite his lack of experience, Ryan managed to look the part in his neon PFD, with the space age paddles and boat covered in stickers.

From the bridge, they followed the railroad tracks back to town; she in bare feet, while another impulse gear buy protected his. He felt guilty, but she handled the walk better barefoot than he did in eighty-dollar sandals.

After, he declined her invitation to meet friends at a brewery. The crowd there, tattooed and river savvy, would laugh at his incompetence, or worse, chastise him for being so careless, nearly killing their friend. Besides, his finances were drowning already, and couldn’t survive more five-dollar pints.

The water receded some when he returned alone the next day, and while he struggled under the bridge, a group on inner tubes passed, enjoying a lazy Sunday. He remembered crossing this bridge when he moved here, spotting tubers from the window of his U-Haul.

This town looked so easy from the outside. Low risk. A river couldn’t be dangerous when drunk people cruised down on inflatable toys. A guy couldn’t overspend on rent in a rotting bungalow. He couldn’t fall behind somewhere where everyone looked like they’d gone to bed in the 1970’s, woken up late, and headed straight for the bar.

Ryan walked past the bridge, and then floated back to it, catching himself on the canoe’s bow. He wedged his feet under the boat, determined not to slip. He summoned all his strength to separate the stern away from the piling, pulling it to the side, a centimeter at a time.

He made progress, but with each pull, his torso drifted further from his feet, and head closer to the water. Growing tired, he tried extract his feet but couldn’t. He ducked under, and grabbed an ankle, trying to free a leg as the current pounded him into the boat. Stuck, he reached down until he had his foot in his hands.

Though he pulled hard, nothing budged. He raised his head to breathe, but the current pushed it back against the piling. He couldn’t believe he’d made an even dumber mistake.

Ryan opened his eyes underwater. He’d jammed his feet under the canoe’s gunnels, but now, with surprising clarity, he could make out another boat underneath it. Beyond that, he couldn’t see the bottom, just an unending row of trapped boats stacked onto one another, canoes all the way down.

He gripped his boat above his feet and strained, waiting for the feeling, for everything to come loose.

 


© Copyright 2017 ME Pesant. All rights reserved.

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