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

    Having whisked the kids from the evil waterfall's maw, Annie and I were pretty spent. I sat in the front of the canoe holding a rope fastened to Annie's kayak. Trevor is curled up in the bilge of our crippled canoe with Iris trying to comfort him. We aren't sure what's wrong with him, but he keeps saying his leg hurts.

    We are creeping along the jutting rocks toward the shore when we hear someone shout "HOLD ON! WE'RE COMING!" The voice issues from the cove where we portaged to the river. Two people are launching a canoe there. It's young Nathan and Trish, the first Wellconomy residents we met yesterday afternoon. It seems impossible that only a day has passed since then.

    They paddle toward us, picking up speed. "WE HEARD THE KIDS WERE MISSING AND CAME TO HELP FIND THEM," yells Trish. "WE GOT THEM," I holler back. "THEY'RE SAFE BUT THE BOY IS HURT. WE ARE SO GLAD TO SEE YOU!"

    They come alongside. "Wow," says Nathan. "That canoe took a beating. What happened?"

    "See that rock?" I say, pointing to the one with the branches sticking up. "If they hadn't crashed into it they would have been sucked into the waterfall."

    "Yeah," Iris agrees. "We lost a paddle when Trevor stood up to toss the bag overboard. It was pretty heavy 'cause we had filled it up with rocks, and Trevor sort of lost his balance. Then we couldn't steer the boat."

    Trish and Nathan look at each other and then at Iris. "Huh?" says Nathan. "What bag? I don't understand."

    "Never mind, now," I interject. "Help us get ashore so we can check out Trevor's injury." In my mind I can see how the whole caper transpired. The kids did just what we had assumed they were up to.

    Trish and Nathan paddle slowly, with Annie hanging on to their mooring line and me hanging on to the rope from her kayak. Soon we are in the cove and are helped out of our boats. Annie and I bend over Trevor and ask him if he can stand up.

    "I d-d-don-t know," he says. "It still hurts a lot." We examine his right leg, which is badly bruised around the shin and has a small gash that has stopped bleeding. Iris comes over and tells us that it happened when the canoe flipped after hitting the rock. She thinks Trevor's leg got caught between the two and was sort of crushed.

    Annie and I each take an arm and lift Trevor up. Nathan comes over and holds his torso and we lift him clear of the canoe. We trundle him ten feet and lay him down on pine needle duff. It looks like his shinbone got a bad bruise and possibly a fracture, but it's probably not broken. His clothes are wet, as are Iris's, and they are cold. Annie lies next to Trevor and hugs him, and I hug Iris, all shivering.

    Nathan and Trish roll our canoe over to poke around its hull and drain out the water. Finding only some dents and several popped rivets, they declare it suitable to bear Nathan upstream to the village. He says the community has medical supplies and a nurse-midwife. If his injury is serious, Nathan tells us, Trevor can be driven to the clinic in town. I've got a throbbing goose egg on the back of my head, but that's the least of my concerns.

    They share a jug of water with us. We sit there and strategize our return. We have six people, two canoes and two paddles, and a kayak with a paddle. My kayak isn't in sight, so I assume it went over the falls. We decide to put Iris in the lead canoe with Nathan and Trish. They'll tow our canoe with Trevor and Annie. I'll bring up the rear in Annie's kayak.

    We get up and proceed up to the beaver pond with our vessels. Nathan and I portage Trevor and gently lay him in our canoe on float cushions taken from the other one. We tie the boats end-to-end and shove off. We hear a bird call and look up to see the blue heron we spied yesterday, roosting in a dead tree. Maybe he's saying "Don't scare the fish," but for me the bird is a good omen.

    Our flotilla heads upstream. Half an hour of paddling brings us to the landing by the stone bridge. There are people there – I see Ted and Tammy and three others. I look at my watch, which is still running. It's three-thirty. Our entire adventure has lasted less than two hours.

    Iris didn't say anything during the entire voyage upstream. When we clamber up on the quay, she asks Annie "Are we in trouble?" Annie tells her, "No. You are safe. That's all that matters."

    Continued in That Driving 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: Heron on Tree at dusk by Nerja Rob
    @audio: Little Blue Heron Fishing, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service MP3
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