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  • mom had pulled ahead around the marsh curve while i pushed into half boat pose, dangled my toes in the water, meditated. too bad i pulled back up to stand and paddle just before i scraped up onto that oyster bed, slid off to the left, scrambled back the second i hit. without hesitation i pulled the razor out of my foot and for a second, for an age, considered the tiny crustacean life that had just been cut short by my calloused sole. back into real time, i flung him far away and began to notice the blood filling the lines of my skin, the lines of the board, the handle hole in the center, and the artistically smooth ankle laceration that a flashed every ligament before turning red.

    i began to roar obscenities and prayers. cradling the wounded paw in half lotus i paddled with fury, ignoring the blood, the distance from the dock, the failing energy. after about six years of this, i spied a family puttering off to the left, enjoying their boat-holiday and i waved my paddle overhead. “heeeeyyyy!” said the shrill little girls on the prow. “heeeyyy! look at that girl!” my croak “i need some help, please.” must have come forth more strongly than i expected, because the craft turned toward me as the excitement of the children turned to concern, “she’s bleeding, daddy! that girl is bleeding a lot!”

    injury brought out my best manners. “hi, how are you today? i really need some help. if you could just tow me over to the dock there, that would be really helpful. oh get in the boat? are you certain? i’d hate to get my blood everywhere. my, you all are so kind. thank you, i’d love a bottle of water. did you have a good fourth? i’m sorry your towel will be quite ruined. well, you really all do get the good samaritan award for the morning. yes, my mother is just over there, and she’ll be able to take me to help.” until i began to shake and couldn’t speak very much. the hurt foot was stretched and elevated, but the rest of my body curdled and curled to find relief. i attempted an optimistic grin to the little girls, but it came out a grimace all but reassuring.

    we came up past my mother, who had harnessed the baby-hurt adrenaline rush to paddle forward and i raised my plastic bottle in a toast. “i’ve been rescued! aren’t they kind?” i realized the paddle board instructor had appeared, and i felt so grateful and more than a little embarrassed. “you know the silly thing?” i told him. “i had been planning to ask you out for a beer after you got off work. i suppose this puts a damper on things.” he removed the life jacket, the leash, the watch. i seized and squeezed his hand while he wrapped my foot, arranged for the car, and covered me in towels.

    “she’s going into shock,” i heard him say, but could only think “don’t be silly, i’m not in shock. i just want to get warm. no, i just want to cool off. no, i just need to stop shaking. stop bleeding. stop hurting.” none of those sentiments could make it to my lips, only a catatonic, “i’m just, i just, i just need, i just need” interrupted by exclamations of concern for the frightened girls, and finally “i might just need to cry. i’m terribly sorry if i do. i’m trying very hard to be brave.”
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