Thursday, March 06, 2014

THE RIVER, Part Seven

We rowed on as the night continued to darken and the quiet deepened.

There was only the croak of frogs and the occasional splash of a catfish, and always the river lapping against the canoe and the knowledge we could tumble over any time into the black water and be lost in the Brazos … taken away by the Arms of God.

Taken away before I’m ready, I thought and closed my eyes.

So many taken before. So many, and their cold white arms reaching up from the inky depths. Did you think you would live forever?

I took deep breaths, wishing I had brought my Xanax. But no, I had thrown away the Xanax weeks ago, and had brought only mushrooms and weed. Idiot.

I curled up into a fetal position. Every sound made me start …

On a river night you can hear so impossibly far. Voices miles away seem just around the bend echoing towards you, but not shouting but talking in conversational tones.

We heard two people talking, a man and a woman. As people often do sitting by the river at night, they were talking about Eternity …

The man said, “I don’t know what happens when we die. Maybe nothing, maybe something. Either way death scares me, I don’t mind admitting.”

The woman said, “It scares me too, but I think there’s something beyond the grave. Maybe not life as we know it, but something. Something larger than us, but something we were always a part of. Whatever that thing is, I don’t think it ever dies.”

“Maybe not,” said the man. “I just hope that—someone’s coming.”

They stopped talking and watched our canoe glide into the light of the kerosene lantern that hung outside their tent. They were sitting in folding chairs on the river bank with their drinks and fishing poles.

The man sang out, “Howdy!”

“Howdy!” Jim sang back.

“Good night for canoeing?”

“Fine night,” replied Jim.

We rowed on. The couple watched silently, then resumed their conversation. Evidently they did not know we could hear them. The woman said, “My god, Steve, they’re canoeing in the dark. You think they’ll be okay?”

“Aw yeah,” he said, hesitating. “Your eyes adjust in the dark. They’ll be just fine, I think.”

Then they went back to talking about Eternity, and slowly their voices faded away as we moved farther down the river and deeper into darkness …

(To be continued)