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

    As Annie and I shoved off in our kayaks in pursuit of our waterborne runaway kids, we heard the call of a loon, echoed by one in the distance. Loons captivate me, but hearing them now seemed ominous and fueled my anxiety.

    The Quartic was running high for this time of year and the current was swift, thanks to a recent week of rain. I hollered to Annie to tell her to pilot her boat upstream to avoid getting sucked toward the waterfall. We were sure the kids were out here. I scanned the opposite shore to locate their canoe but saw no hint of it.

    Here, near the falls, the river narrowed to less than 100 yards wide. As far as we could see upstream, there was no canoe. Toward midstream, the current picked up. We paddled harder, heading upstream. Now we could see the waterfall – and lo, there was the canoe, pinned to a big rock, tipped over and bent back by the water's might, snagged on tree limbs that the rock had also captured, just twenty feet from the falls. We didn't see any kids there.

    I died a little. Annie screamed "NOOOOO!" I waved to her to approach me. As she neared, a high-pitched "HELLLP! HELLLP" rang out.

    "IRIS! TREVOR! WHERE ARE YOU?" belted Annie.

    And then we saw a small head peek up behind the battered canoe. Iris!

    "WE'RE HERE!" Iris yelled. "AND TREVOR IS HURT!" Good news and bad news.

    "WE'RE COMING!" Annie shouted. "HOLD ON!"

    Annie started paddling toward the canoe wreck. I motioned frantically to her. "STOP ANNIE!" I yelled, "YOU'LL BE SWEPT DOWN! COME HERE NOW!"

    It was one of those rare occasions that she heeded my words. Annie paddled back to me and said, "Well, what are we going to do?"

    I examined the coil of rope lying on my legs, the one one I had grabbed at the landing. It looked to be about 50 feet long, enough to reach from the rock to the jumble of rocks along the escarpment that jutted out from the shore toward the waterfall.

    "OK, Here's what we can do," I told Annie, pointing. "We head for that rock outcrop. The current is slower over there. We secure one end of this rope to those rocks somehow. You stay there holding the rope while I tie the other end of the rope to my kayak and paddle over to the kids. When I get there, I'll tie the rope to that tree limb they're clinging to and then come along it to ferry the kids one by one back to you."

    "I don't know," Annie protested. Will your kayak take the extra weight without swamping?"
    "It has to. Holding onto the rope will help," I replied, not as sure of myself as I sounded.

    "I'M SCARED!" Iris shouted at us, tired, cold, and now impatient.


    "OH ALL RIGHT!" She yelled. "PLEASE HURRY!"

    Side by side, we paddled an arc to the rock outcrop. I back-stroked to inch my boat forward, until I could grab hold of a big tree limb that was lodged between two rocks. Tugging on the limb convinced me that it was fairly secure there, so I unwound some rope and looped one end several times around the limb and tied it. Then I flipped the coiled rope onto the skirt of my boat, found the loose end and tied it around my waist, almost losing my paddle.

    "Hold onto the rope while I make a run for the rock!" I told Annie. "If I slip toward the falls or can't secure the other end, you'll have to haul me in!"

    Biting my lip, I started paddling upstream and then arced to the left, but the rope interfered with my strokes. Too late, I realized that I should have piled it behind me instead of in front of me, so I shoved the whole coil into the water and pulled harder. I had to reach the other side of the kids' rock before the current pulled me past it. Annie held fast to the rope, watching helplessly as I struggled.

    The weight of the rope slowed me down. The kayak was now about ten feet away from the stranded expedition but slipping downstream. Paddling harder cancelled the drift but didn't move me forward.

    Just then, both kids stood up to see me, leaning against the canoe that shielded them from the onrushing water. The canoe groaned as it started to slide away, and the children lurched forward.

    Continued in That Contrapuntal 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: Waterfall Wrap Rescue from
    @audio: Recording of loon call from US Fish and Wildlife Service mp3
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