A WILD RIDE
Illustration by Carlos Uribe
“So,” Abby asked Sonny, “Just one more thing before I sleep. What did you mean when you said, ‘Isn’t that a coincidence’?
“We’re too tired to go into it. You and Sharon are in for a wild ride down the river tomorrow. Listen to that rain!”
“But I’m so curious!”
“All right, but what I say will only make you more curious, and it makes me curious too. When I mentioned that you are the custodian of the Young Warriors’ story, I recalled that traditionally, the person who holds the mapstick is called the Keeper of the Mapstick, or just the Keeper for short. That hard to define word, ‘keeper’, can also mean custodian or protector. You are now the Keeper. That’s all for tonight. Get some sleep!”
Sharon was already having breakfast with Sonny when Abby woke and dressed for the boat ride. She heard that Sara, Junior, Isaiah, Ishmael, and Cali would all be traveling with them. Sharon said, “It’s perfect weather. But wait ‘till you see the river. Very high water, almost flood level again. I wouldn’t even chance it, but we’ll have the Caletas with us. Abby’s mind caught an elusive memory. “River Girl and Explorer Boy!” she said. “They were in the Young Warriors Club when I was no more than 9 years old! Luvia and Diego Caleta.”
“You do remember,” said Sharon. “I’m so glad. You’re still the same girl even though you’re grown up, with responsibilities.”
“And I’ve got to pack in a few minutes!” said Abby in a panic. “Sonny, can I borrow a few garden tools, just some old rakes or spades you have around. And maybe a thin blanket.” He smiled at her in approval. “I’ve collected a few things already," he said, "just outside the door.” Abby and Sharon brought two rakes, a hoe, and an old spade and some clothesline into the seed room. Sonny threw them a flannel blanket. They spread it out on the floor and put the mapstick on one side. They rolled it up good and tight and then surrounded it with the tools, and tied them all together in a tight bundle. Sharon made a loop in the middle to carry it, and presented it to Abby.
It was truly a beautiful day. From where they stood at the edge of the path they saw the sun sparkle on the endlessly moving water. Abby was trying to get used to carrying the mapstick. She felt so conspicuous, as if she were carrying a spear, something people would stare at. And her fears turned out to be well founded. As Cali, Sara, Isaiah, Ishmael, and Junior greeted her, their eyes kept shifting to her bundle.
“Here, let me help you with that,” said Sharon. “I’ll find a good place for it on the River Queen. It’s high priority cargo.” Sharon raised her voice for the group to hear. Abby breathed a sigh of relief.
They all stepped into the boat, shouting hellos and finding places to sit. Lluvia and Diego each held the end seat on the two benches, and showed off the gleaming oars in their hands. Isaiah joined Sharon back in the cabin, and helped her tie the mapstick bundle along the floor flush with the side of the boat.
“Okay, cast off that line, Ishmael,” said Sharon. In a moment she backed out into the fast water, and turned downstream. The boat picked up speed, and in less than a minute moved past the island into the faster, clearer water of the Half Moon. Abby felt excitement surge through her body as they picked up speed. The boat raced through the pillars at the Highway 71 Bridge, and they tore past the marshland toward the cliffs on their right. “We’ll run the bar at Cedar Point,” yelled Sharon, obviously speaking to Lluvia and Diego, who were poised on either side, oars ready just above the water. “Then we’ll cross right and slow way down. Just below the big boulder there’s a tree down across the river from the left that I cut through on the right hand side yesterday. We had to unload, but today we just might go through. When you see it coming hug the right side and prepare to stop if necessary.”
“Canoe dead center!” screamed Cali.
“I got it!” returned Sharon. “Stay well to the right, slow down a little.” Diego pushed his oar slowly underwater and the boat turned a bit. Lluvia pressed her oar into the rushing water a couple of feet deep like her brother’s. The boat seemed to rock as if a wave were passing under them from behind. “Okay, let up,” Sharon said. In seconds they passed a canoe with riders drifting down the river in the center. “Cindy!” yelled Cali and Lluvia, and waved. “Take the down tree on the right,” called Sharon. “It’s coming right up!”
“There’s the pourover on the down tree,” shouted Cali. “The water rises two feet!”
“More to the right!” ordered Sharon. “Slow, slow!” The engine was barely idling. The River Queen was drifting, held back by the oars plunged into the water. The Caletas struggled to hold them. The fast current threatened to bring the boat broadside. The fallen tree was just ahead. “Look at that water!” came Cali’s frantic voice. “Way over the bank among the trees! No landing room at all!”