A Pleasant Canoe Journey

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
A canoe trip during which many things go wrong.

Submitted: August 28, 2015

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Submitted: August 28, 2015

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"No! No!" Bonnie screamed, as she slipped off the bank and wrestled in a flurry of white foam. For a brief moment, her shining skin glistened in the sunlight and misty spray, then she disappeared beneath the surface. Ellie still stood on the shore, screaming.
 
Early that morning, I arrived at the appointed spot on the shore of the river and found an assorted group of nine waiting on the shore. They were dressed in shorts, t-shirts, jeans, and the like. Several canoes hung chained together upside down on racks.
 
I inquired for the leader,  but no one could help me. In fact, no one had seen or heard anyone who sounded or looked in any way like a leader. Therefore, I sat down on a rock to wait. The morning weather was pleasant, though the sun foreboded a scorcher, and the weather report had hinted at the possibility of a few thunder showers "in some areas, probably late in the afternoon." 
 
I became aware of a couple standing nearby, and they favored me with their pleasant conversation. The man was lean and graying, maybe fifty or fifty-fiveish; the woman several years younger and stout. He suddenly got very excited.
 
"You mean it's a canoe were going in?"
 
"Yes, I told you..."
 
"A canoe!"
 
"Yes. That's what..."
 
"But canoes are dangerous. You could tip over! I though it was a rowboat!"
 
"Don't be silly. Canoes are perfectly safe. You just have to know how to handle them."
 
"But I've never even been in one."
 
"They'll teach us how."
 
"Yeah? I wouldn't bet on it."
 
I noticed a new figure in our midst--an earnest-looking young man in shorts and a lightweight windbreaker. He carried a clipboard and a sheaf of papers and had an authoritative air. Here, I decided, must be the leader. Another man followed him--a much less decisive one. His shorts were so baggy, they looked about to fall off. In contrast, his t-shirt fitted so tightly that it exaggerated his muscular chest and shoulders. He carried nothing but a small knapsack, hung on his back. His demeanor was anything but businesslike and his eyes, like strong magnets, were picking out all the younger women of our party. 
 
The first man (with the papers) summarily called the group together. "My name's Andrew," he said, "and I'm going to teach you how to canoe. We're going to take those damned canoes out on that river and by the end of the day every last one of you is going to know how to handle a canoe!"
 
The man who had expressed such a fear of canoes spoke up. "Excuse me, but what are your qualifications?"
 
Andrew gave him a look that silenced him.
 
"I'm running this show and if anyone has any problems with that, he'd better not come. Does anyone want to cancel? Let's see your hands."
 
 The frightened man obviously did, but the woman held him back. "Don't be a chicken, Parker," she said.
 
"But canoes are dangerous--and I don't like his attitude."
 
"Come on!" said Andrew. "It's now or never. Nobody? O.K., we're all in it together, then."
 
Next he facilitated the introductions. 
 
"This is Carl. He's going to help me." Carl nodded and pushed out his chest, as if to say he'd like a higher status than "helper."
 
The nervous man introduced himself as Parker and his wife as Liz. Lulu was a pleasant young Phillipine woman, Naomi and Fritzi a mother and daughter team. Two young women, who screamed a lot, were Bonnie and Ellie; and two young men, Barry and Stu, rounded out our little party--twelve of us, altogether.
 
We were told we had to unload the canoes and put them in the water. This task fell to the strongest in the group, which meant the men, of course. 
 
Andrew and Carl took the first one and of course performed perfectly. Next, Barry and Stu attempted..Barry, without hesitation, leaped forward, grabbed the end of the canoe, and lifted it off the rack.
 
"See, it's nothing!" he shouted. It slipped from his grasp and landed on his foot. He hopped around clutching the foot. Stu had been slow to lift the other end. When Barry let go, Stu was caught off balance and fell backward (luckily away from the canoe, which crashed to the ground).
 
"Idiot!" shouted Barry. It's all your fault!"
 
A fist fight was averted by Andrew.
 
"Knock it off!" he yelled. "Save the rough stuff for the dangerous part."
 
Parker and Liz managed to get their boat into the water, but getting into the boat proved a different matter. She gingerly put one foot in.
 
"Watch out! Watch out!" yelled Parker. He was holding the painter.
 
"I'm O.K. Don't shout so!"
 
"You'll tip it!"
 
"Ok., you want to go first?"
 
But he didn't. So she brought in the other foot. He lost hold of the painter and the boat began to drift away.
 
"Help! Help!" he screamed.
 
Meanwhile, Ellie and Bonnie were in the process of boarding. Their natural continual screams at everything drowned out his cries. Bonnie slipped off the shore and received a muddy bath. Once in the water, due to shock, her vocal chords were still, but Ellie made up for that.
 
"Nobody cares!" yelled Parker. "These are no kind of leaders! They'd leave you to drown!" But Liz wasn't drowning. She had seized a paddle and maneuvered  the canoe back to shore. "Get in! Get in!" she urged Parker.
 
"I don't know. I don't know whether this is safe--especially with these leaders."
 
"Get in! Just get in!" she shouted.
 
Finally he obeyed, complaining all the while.
 
"These paddles are shaped funny. Why are they rounded like this?" he said.
 
"Oh shut up and start paddling."
 
"How do you work this thing?"
 
"Just follow me."
 
"Be careful! He shouted. “You're going to hit..!" And they did--hit the opposite bank.
 
"Hey, you guys!" yelled Andrew. "You're not supposed to go yet. we're still teaching you! Come back here!" 
 
But, though they both paddled fervently, the canoe continued to point firmly into the bank.
 
"Let's go, all!" cried Andrew, stepping into a canoe.
 
Everyone else rushed into the canoes after him, some almost spilling into the water.
 
I stood on the bank. Only one other person was left. Everyone else was paired in a canoe. So it was my fate to be partner with Stu. My first fear was that his weight would swamp the boat. We decided I'd go first, since he wanted to be in the stern, where he could have the more exciting task of steering the boat. I managed to climb in without mishap. He followed, pushing off and clambering in, lurching clumsily. The boat leaned precariously. I held my breath at each lurch. But he reached his seat safely and sat down with a plunge.
 
Finally, with the aid of shouted commands from Andrew, Liz and Parker had managed to turn their canoe about and return to our vicinity, where they hovered offshore.
 
"O.K." said Andrew. "Let's go. I'll lead the way, Carl, and you bring up the rear." ?
 
"Hell no!" rejoined Carl. "I don't want to be behind everyone else."
 
"Do what I tell you!"
 
"Say, who are you, anyway, Andrew? Some kind of brigadier general?"
 
"I'm the senior person here."
 
"Big shit!"
 
"To you I am. Listen, the boss told me I'm in charge."
 
"Yeah?"
 
"Yeah. How many times you led a group like this?"
 
"This is the first."
 
"O.K. See, what I mean."
 
Finally, grumbling, Carl stayed back and let Andrew board the first canoe. We were off! But we were not. I paddled, but our canoe was pulled back toward shore. I paddled harder. Still to no effect. Stu blamed me. I blamed him.
 
Carl called to us from behind, but we couldn't make out his words.
 
Suddenly, we began to move--not regularly, not evenly, but we were moving. 
 
"Harder! Harder!" called Stu.
 
"I'm doing it as hard as I can!" I replied, as we zig-zagged from one shore to the other. "You're in the stern. You're supposed to steer this thing!"
 
This was not too much fun, but at least we were moving. O.K.--until...
 
"Looks like rapids ahead!" I shouted.
 
"Huh?"
 
"Don't you see them?"
 
"That white stuff?"
 
"Yeah! What do we do?"
 
"Stop paddling."
 
"But we're still moving. We'll go right into them. The current will carry us!"
 
"You're not paddling right."
 
"I'm not...!"
 
And we shot right into the foam. And tipped over. And out I fell. The cold water closed over my head. My leg brushed against a rock, bruising me. I felt rage as I surfaced. "We wouldn't have tipped over...," I spluttered, "...if it weren't for..." I saw that Stu was in (or rather, out of) the same boat as I. "You..." I grabbed at a floating paddle, lifted the handle, and tried to hit him over the head with the blade. 
 
"Hey, watch out!" he called, dodging.
 
Carl arrived in his canoe.
 
"What's going on here?" he shouted. "What do you think you're doing?" 
 
Unfortunately, he slid up so quickly that he managed to snatch the paddle away from me before I could perform my desired task.
 
The upshot was that Stu and I swam to shore and stayed away from each other. Carl found a new partner for me in the passing Lulu and dumped Stu in with Barry.
 
Lulu and I did so well that we passed everyone. First, my former partner, Stu, with his new partner, Barry, who was showing off, as usual. Next, the mother and daughter team, Naomi and Fritzi; who obviously had no idea what they were doing, but seemed to be having fun. How they had gotten over the rapids, I couldn't imagine! Next, Parker and Liz. They were squabbling, as usual. Next, Ellie and Bonnie, screaming, as usual. 
 
We came up to Andrew.
 
"Time to stop for lunch," he said. "Rapids ahead." He pointed to the foam a few yards downstream.
 
We pulled over to the bank and got out. After dragging our canoe up on shore, we gladly stretched our legs. One by one, the others came in. All were in save Naomi and Fritzi. Carl also beached and got out. He greedily pulled a sandwich from his knapsack and dug in, eyeing the young women all the while. Andrew chatted with others. I happened to glance up the river. There were the mother and daughter coming around the bend. They saw us all and tried to come to shore. Obviously they didn't know how. 
 
As they came closer, the current pulled them toward midstream. Their feeble and inept strokes were not enough to buck it and turn them toward shore. The canoe gained momentum, heading straight for the foaming water. I cried out. Carl, aroused, looked to see what was happening. He jumped up. But it was too late. We watched them slide into the boiling foam. The canoe, as it rounded the bend, tipped over, and that was all we could see. 
 
At last Andrew noticed and plunged along the shore, through a dense thicket, in order to reach the spot parallel to the fallen canoe. Carl was already in a boat, negotiating the rapids.
 
We all waited with baited breaths. Even Parker had little to say.
 
After a while, the bedraggled figures of Naomi and Fritzi appeared, coming along the shore path. But Andrew and Carl were not to be seen. The two woman lay down on the grass.
 
"I don't want to talk about it," said Naomi.
 
"We could have drowned," said Fritzi.
 
"Just look at my hair!" said Naomi.
 
"And I lost my knapsack. And it had all our stuff!"
 
Andrew appeared on the path.
 
"They didn't even try to help us!" cried Naomi. "I wouldn't even speak to them now."
 
Andrew came up to the two women. "How are you doing?"
 
Naomi looked away from him. "You can tell that man," she said to her daughter, "that he hasn't heard the last of this."
 
"Oh-ho," said Andrew. "This is one of those games, is it?"
 
Naomi broke down.
 
"Games? Games! You call it a game? Look at me! Just look at me! Oh, you're going to hear about this! Boy, are you going to hear!"
 
"Tell me," said Andrew. "I'm listening."
 
"I wouldn't even speak to you! I'm going to speak to your boss!"
 
Andrew shrugged. "Speak to anyone you wish. It's a free country."
 
"You still don't take this seriously, do you?"
 
"Sorry. I gotta go. Have things to do." Andrew walked away.
 
"And we could have drowned!" said Fritzi.
 
Carl returned in the canoe.  
 
Parker came up to the two women. "You'd better complain to the company. These leaders are not doing a good job"
 
After lunch, we actually negotiated the rapids, and, surprisingly, that turned out to be the least of our problems. Naomi and Fritzi refused to get into their canoe, so we finally left them, Andrew reluctantly promising to notify a ranger and have a vehicle sent for them. (But he warned them that they might have a long wait.)
 
"Better than being with you!" rejoined Naomi. She stuck her tongue out at him.
 
Lulu and I sailed along. We soon caught up to Andrew and Carl. (Carl had finally balked at staying behind.) They were splashing each other with their respective paddles. Parker, calling from his canoe,  was trying to break up the fight.
 
"Fellows! Fellows! This is no way to behave! You're supposed to be the leaders!"
 
But they ignored him. Suddenly, Carl lashed out at Andrew with his paddle. Andrew half rose to fend it off with his paddle and lost his balance, falling from the canoe and tipping it over at the same time. Carl became so ecstatic, that he, too, lost balance and tumbled out of his canoe. They both splashed around in the water. 
 
"Rescue! Rescue!" shouted Parker, but himself made no move to jump in after the two. 
 
I soon had other things to think about.
 
 "A leak! A leak!" screamed Lulu. And sure enough, water squirted though a dime-sized hole in the bottom of our canoe. Lulu tried to plug it with her finger. 
 
"That's not very practical," I said. In lieu, I sacrificed my windbreaker, which I figured would hold the water for a while. No use asking Andrew or Carl for advice.
 
"Let's paddle hard," I advised.
 
Well, we tried. However...as we rounded a bend, a bridge suddenly loomed above us. Fishermen dangled lines from it.
 
"Watch those lines!" I shouted to Lulu. She tried, but just then some boys began throwing beer cans over the railing and we had all we could do to dodge them. Consequently, both of our paddles became entangled in the fishing lines. At first, we didn't know why people were yelling at us in complaint, when we were the ones under assault. Then we discovered that our paddles were not controllable anymore, being under the influence of strong upward pulls.
 
I surrendered, put down my paddles and closed my eyes. "Just let the current carry us home," I prayed. And it did. 
 
***
 
4:00 p.m. Two more canoes pulled up to the sandy beach. Nobody looked as he or she had when we started that morning. Most of us were drenched. Parker looked very old. Liz drooped. Of course Naomi and Fritzi were not with us and we wondered whether our inept leaders (who were also missing) had ever been able to summon alternate transportation for the two stranded women.
 
"Where are Bonnie and Ellie? Parker suddenly asked. He went to the canoe rental office to report  that some of our party were missing. The upshot was that the rental people sent a motorboat up the river, while we waited with baited breaths. They returned towing Bonnie and Ellie's canoe with the two aboard, looking disheveled and sheepish. They had lost their paddles.
 
But still no leaders.
 
We didn't see them," exclaimed Bonnie and Liz.
 
"Maybe we need to get an emergency crew," said Parker. "This could be serious."
 
"They know how to take care of themselves," reassured Liz. "They're the leaders, remember."
 
"They didn't do such a good job."
 
Finally, Andrew and Carl came swimming down the river.
 
"Our leaders!"
 
"But where is their boat?"
 
And that remained a mystery, for Andrew and Carl would speak to no one, but ran up the shore and disappeared, leaving us with our full imaginations.
 
"I told you canoes were dangerous, " said Parker.
 
"What are you complaining about?" rejoined Liz. "You're still in one piece, aren't you?"
 


© Copyright 2020 Godfrey Green. All rights reserved.

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