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  • [This is a short story with multiple episodes. The seed of this one is That Panicky Sound.]

    Trevor and Iris had given us the slip. We had assumed they had headed into the woods south of the village, but then I noticed our canoe was no longer tied up where we had left it. Did it just undo itself and float downstream or had the kids taken it?

    In case the kids had gone back up to the village and were looking for us we decided to go back there. Nobody we hailed along the way could recall seeing our children. They weren't around the common house or at the T's residence. Ted went around the side of the house to the woodpile, where he had stashed the fateful gym bag. He came back cursing. The bag was no longer there.

    Tammy remembered Iris saying on our way to breakfast that she and Trevor hadn't done a good job of burying the bag. I had thought they had dug it up to give to the leaders to dispose of properly, but that plan seemed to have changed for some reason.

    We had to assume that the kids had run back to the house, grabbed the bag, made their way back to the brook and set off downstream in our canoe. Either they were going to hide the bag downstream or dump it in the big river to be rid of it once and for all.

    None of us liked the idea of the kids going off in the canoe by themselves, with or without contraband. We agreed we should pursue them. Ted suggested taking kayaks stored at the landing. They would travel faster than the canoe and would let us split up if we needed to.

    We went back down to the bridge. Ted has a bum shoulder and Tammy had never used a kayak before, so that left Annie and I to serve as the rescue party. We gathered paddles and life vests, lifted out two Kevlar kayaks and lowered them down from the quay. I grabbed a coil or rope that might come in handy and stuffed it in my boat. Annie seated herself first and pushed off.

    "If we're not back in an hour," I shouted at Ted, "send reinforcements – whoever you feel can best deal with the situation." Ted gave the high sign and I set off after Annie, who was already well ahead of me.

    I glanced at my watch. It was 1:40 PM. The kids would be 30 or 40 minutes ahead of us. Annie, fueled by a quantity of adrenaline that only a mother in distress can summon, paddled furiously and was slipping out of sight. I leaned into my strokes and picked up speed, but didn't catch up to her until the beaver pond where the brook spilled into the big river.

    Annie was circling around the marshy pond, yelling the children's names. I could see no canoe anywhere. Then she yelled at me, "I think they must have dragged the canoe to the river! We have to go there!"

    I was afraid of that. In my mind I saw the river. The place where we were was only a few hundred yards upstream of a 20-foot waterfall. Would the kids, consumed by a mission to deep-six the drugs, have the sense, strength and skill to keep from being swept over it?

    So we portaged the kayaks to the river, hugged, and set out again to find our voyageurs.

    Continued in That Mournful Sound

    [The original seed of this series is On Sustainable Power, May 31, 2012.
    To identify all the stories in the series, click the tag That Sound beneath the map.]

    @image: Kayaking on Abrams Creek
    @audio: slow-canoe-paddle.mp3
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