Where The River Goes

Submitted into Contest #98 in response to: Set your story on (or in) a winding river.... view prompt

48 comments

Fiction Happy

It's as if great, lumbering creatures have settled down to sleep. Moss on their backs, heads underwater. It’s as if they’ve deemed this their gathering ground. Rapids, shall we? Water flows faster around them; water turns white and licks at their sides.

The slow bump and bleed of the canoe are rhythmic in the shallow parts. It stirs the dirt underneath, causing it to swell in plumes like peacock feathers. Mushroom clouds. Mud-green, like tea that’s been steeped for too long.

If you dip your hand over the side of the boat and skim it over the surface, algae will follow it. It’ll catch on your fingers and drag them a short way under. Frog fishing. I did that once with a friend; bent over the side of a creek with a pole made of tree-branch, hung various mosses and algae from the end of it. Stuck it into the water. Neither of us ever caught anything, but it excited us all the same to imagine little frogs swimming with their mouths open, whale sharks, eyes focused on a string of green.

We wear water shoes, webs on our feet. They don’t belong to us, but we like to pretend that they do. When we get out of the boat, we know we can walk anywhere we like. Smile when the crawdads pinch the edge of their rocks and thrust pincers forward like a knight on the offense, a lance hurdling. Never worry, never waver. Nonchalance on our faces and shields on our feet.

When we get back in the canoe we head to deeper waters. We stick to the east shore, dipping our paddles in and out, up and over our shoulders like windmills. I let mine lag, draw it along the water like I’m painting the most perfect straight line. The water curves around it like the ripple-waves a rock makes when it's skipped and dies. I think of water birds and beetles with two left feet.

When the trees get too dense we push them out of the way. I stick my arm out, gather them behind me like Lewis and Clark probably did more than once. I think of how, if we went deeper into the forest, we’d see their footprints. Centuries old. This twig snapped here; this branch severed as a sacrifice to their trail. Trees remember things. They would tell us where they went, what they said. We would apologize on their behalf for all the wood burned and promise not to repeat history.

There are tiny islands here and there. Tiny rafts made of moss and pebble, the grayish-black rock that chips easily called shale. There are tiny crabs on the island, blue. Every ecosystem has its blue. They are the robin’s eggs of the river. Our webbed feet carry us over the rocks to a clearing where we eat our lunch. The tiny crabs gather around us to cautiously inspect crumbs and squint in confusion when we place rocks in their path. Every picnic has its ants.

When we stand and brush more crumbs off our shorts, I wonder what it would be like to stay. Could we fish our own food out of the water? Bring ourselves to de-armor tiny blue picnic crabs? I look off towards the middle of the island and see the trees glaring at me. They know we would have to burn them to survive.

Our canoe is sturdy, but there’s cold water to greet my feet when I step back inside. I take off my water shoes and hang them over the thwart in front of me to dry. It's redundant, but I do it anyway. I make myself a starfish, limbs flung over the sides of the boat, and watch the sky instead of the island as we drift away, away. The clouds get a little bigger, the sky a little darker as the morning melts into a high breeze. Flinging my hair over the sides of the canoe. I’m a starfish with eight arms.

Westward and I am reprimanded for resting so long. We have a long way to go, pick up your paddle. We have a long way to go, make use of your eight arms. I gather my strength like I gathered the trees, and heave all of my starfish-self into a sitting position where I contemplate maybe turning into some other animal. Perhaps some sort of ox, born to bear this brunt. I might be appreciated if I was an oarfish.

The clouds get even bigger and suddenly there is rain. It is silver, it doesn’t match the water at all. The sand on the shore becomes dark as the sky and suddenly we are on the Amazon River; rainforest surrounding us, closing us in. I lift my face to the rain that's like silver bullets and smell all the smells that weren’t there before. The scales of a python, winding its ropy length around some unsuspecting tree; the breath of a jaguar as it pants into its chase. I laugh and we laugh and suddenly the rain isn’t bullets, it's hail. We beach our canoe in an inlet and hide our faces under the leaves of a great banana tree.

When the hail stops, we come out of hiding. There are tiny silver-bullet casings all around us, some congregating on the floor of our canoe. We inspect it for damage but find that there is none. The water shoes are wet again. They squeak and make squelching noises when we turn our feet webbed again. We wear them so we can walk over all the silver bullet casings without wincing. The towels are wet, too, but they were before the rain, so we aren’t too upset.

We dump the extra water out of the bottom of the boat and continue. I lag my paddle again, feeling it dip and weave with the small current. Water bugs skate alongside us, long ones that look like water-born mayflies. I used to be terrified of mayflies when I was small. Their long, thin legs reminded me of the red mountain-bumps my skin got after I’d seen a spider in my bed. The unpredictability of their staticky movements forced me into many a corner. I use my hand like a rudder as I run it next to the water-flies, following them with my eyes when they get too far away for me to reach. They skate off towards the forest, the Lewis-and-Clark trees, and continue.


June 11, 2021 20:21

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

48 comments

16:40 Jun 20, 2021

Wow! This was an amazing piece! The detail was amazing and I could picture everything that was happening very clearly. The way you described the movements is SO GOOD!! You used amazing sensory details. My favorite part was when you described how the algae follows your hands if you skimmed it over the surface of the water. I just really loved this piece! Great job!

Reply

Amelia Bowen
18:23 Jun 20, 2021

Thank you so much for your comment!! This made my day:)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
K. Antonio
19:35 Jun 12, 2021

I just enjoyed how this was a light read, where I really didn't have to pay attention too much aside from the actions and movement of the water. I guess the piece seems real, but at the same time free. I wonder how this would sound heard over read. Some edits I picked up: "The slow bump and bleed of the canoe is rhythmic in the shallow parts. " - This is a plural compound subject, probably should be using "are" over "is". "This twig snapped here; this branch severed as sacrifice to their trail." - as sacrifice read a bit awkwardly, is i...

Reply

Amelia Bowen
01:20 Jun 13, 2021

Thank you so much!! I will incorporate the edits. something i realized recently was how gloomy most of my stories tend to be. I wanted to write something with a bit of a lighter mood, and a river sounded like the place to start. (i have lots of calm memories centered around rivers). I am glad to hear you think i accomplished that! Thanks again:)

Reply

K. Antonio
01:32 Jun 13, 2021

Sad writing is a definite mood... I can say that because I just write sad stuff all the time. Funny enough, even my light-hearted stuff gets a bit sad, but I don't think that's a problem. I think there's a mutual worldly connection that is easily established through sad writing (when it's done well of course). Anyway, this piece is nice, sometimes doing something outside our comfort zone can be just as rewarding!

Reply

Amelia Bowen
01:43 Jun 13, 2021

I agree with your mutual connections statement. There is definitely a sort of resonance in primarily sad writing that isn't as often found in pieces with a lighter mood. Recently I've been reading a lot more, exploring more genres, and it's sparked motivation for more experimentation. I can say that it is a very good feeling when something goes right XD. Question about the sacrifice sentence edit: do you think it would flow better as "this branch was severed as a sacrifice to their trail," or something else? I've been having a bit of troubl...

Reply

K. Antonio
01:55 Jun 13, 2021

Not many synonyms I can think of for sacrifice aside from tribute. But I just think the addition of the article "a" is enough of an edit. If you want to change it go with something like: "A snapped twig severed like a limb laid waste along the trail." (Literally just made this up, I have no clue if it's decent)

Reply

Amelia Bowen
01:59 Jun 13, 2021

Alrighty, well thank you!! I think I'll just insert the "a" like you suggested:) Its always so helpful to have people that notice things like this (I was never very good at grammar lol).

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Shirley Medhurst
07:27 Jun 30, 2021

I love the way you draw the reader into your story with you. Your great imagery of the natural world around you paints such a vivid picture. A wonderful sensory trip down a winding river! Just a tiny point: not sure about the use of the adjective 'staticky' with a mayfly's movements - sounded a little odd to me (just my personal opinion though, feel free to ignore...)

Reply

Amelia Bowen
13:08 Jun 30, 2021

Thank you for your feedback:)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Ogechukwu Anyaso
23:17 Jun 29, 2021

As I was reading the first thing that came to my head was Princess and the frog, the part where Tiana, Naveen and Ray were singing "when we're human" in the bayou. And I like the part where you added something about environment, that is burning trees and all that. But all in all I really liked the story it was a good read, I smiled as I read it just so you know ;)

Reply

Amelia Bowen
23:34 Jun 29, 2021

Thank you so much! I just got back from Colorado, where I learned a lot about forest fires and what causes them. I was inspired by the landscapes there, as well. I am glad to hear you liked it!

Reply

Ogechukwu Anyaso
23:37 Jun 29, 2021

Your welcome and thank you for liking my story the supper, I hope you can get people to read it too.

Reply

Amelia Bowen
23:37 Jun 29, 2021

Of course!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Collin Morris
21:41 Jun 24, 2021

I love how relaxing this is to read! I enjoyed the personification of the trees in the passage about Lewis and Clark. It felt very natural and really neatly contrasted the light nature of the piece. On a similar note, the speaker's voice sort of fluctuates between carefree and passionate/respectful. I thought that was a really effective way to define the speaker's obvious love and respect for nature.

Reply

Amelia Bowen
22:27 Jun 24, 2021

Thank you for your comment! My aim with this piece was to try and capture the relaxation I've felt on multiple occasions in similar environments. I'm glad to hear you thought I achieved that!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
23:51 Jun 23, 2021

I enjoyed the river ride and the sights. Beautifully descriptive. Thank you for the peaceful adventure. Wonderful job!

Reply

Amelia Bowen
00:01 Jun 24, 2021

Thank you:)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
June King
18:54 Jun 22, 2021

This was just gorgeous. One of the pieces that I love so much, I wish I wrote it, even though I know I never could. Keep writing, your sensory details are top-notch!

Reply

Amelia Bowen
22:13 Jun 22, 2021

Thank you!!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Jamie Harvey
17:37 Jun 22, 2021

So great!! It was like I was in the story myself. Love it.

Reply

Amelia Bowen
22:12 Jun 22, 2021

Thank you!:))

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
J B
15:45 Jun 22, 2021

This is a relaxing piece, as relaxing as the picture of the narrator lounging in the boat. The starfish part made me smile. The sensory images are so well written they come alive and you just feel you're with the characters.

Reply

Amelia Bowen
22:11 Jun 22, 2021

Ty:))

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Rayhan Hidayat
13:12 Jun 22, 2021

Exquisite. There is nothing happening in terms of story and deeper meaning, but this piece is great because of other aspects. It is immersive, ethereal and just flat-out fun to read. I get the feeling this was very fun to write as well. Kudos 😙

Reply

Amelia Bowen
22:11 Jun 22, 2021

Thanks for the comment!!! It was very fun to write:)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Akshita Arora
14:07 Jun 21, 2021

Good depiction of scene, as you were narrating the story, crystal clear scenes were popping in my mind.

Reply

Amelia Bowen
14:46 Jun 21, 2021

Thank you:)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply

Wow! This story is one of the best that I've read in a very long time! The detail is impeccable and the description is amazing! I love the part when...all of it! This story is pure awesome!

Reply

Amelia Bowen
21:13 Jun 20, 2021

Thanks sm!!!:)))

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Melissa Condon
20:03 Jun 19, 2021

This was beautiful! Very evocative and dreamlike.

Reply

Amelia Bowen
20:16 Jun 19, 2021

Why thank you:)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Michael Hayes
15:53 Jun 17, 2021

I love your descriptions.

Reply

Amelia Bowen
16:31 Jun 17, 2021

Thank you very much!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Michael Woods
04:14 Jun 16, 2021

I call this a "pandemic stress relief" tale after all we've experienced in the year 2020...very relaxing. I enjoyed it very much.

Reply

Amelia Bowen
17:25 Jun 16, 2021

thanks!!:)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Hans B
02:29 Jun 16, 2021

I enjoyed going with you on your canoe trip. Love the details.

Reply

Amelia Bowen
17:25 Jun 16, 2021

Thank you so much!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Ruth Porritt
04:41 Jun 14, 2021

WOW! :) This story should win the weekly contest. This piece is perfect, and you have captured a beautiful moment in time. I very much admire your ability to describe nature using many different kinds of sensory detail. Thanks so much, and have a great weekend, Ruth

Reply

Amelia Bowen
11:06 Jun 14, 2021

Thank you:)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Writers Block
01:55 Jun 13, 2021

Great imagery!

Reply

Amelia Bowen
02:00 Jun 13, 2021

Thank you:)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Claire Lewis
14:41 Jun 12, 2021

Just beautiful, Amelia! I loved how your characters weren’t really characters, they were just present. You give so much more action and emotion to the scene around them, which has a stunning effect. Two spots to edit: Your “Its” at the beginning should have an apostrophe, and same thing here: “Its redundant, but I do it anyway.” And an aside: I was (and still kind of am) terrified of mayflies too! Such strange bugs. I’m glad I’m not the only one hahaha Anyways, it’s a truly lovely piece. Nicely done!

Reply

Amelia Bowen
16:23 Jun 12, 2021

Thank you so much for the comment and the edits!! I will change that one:)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
00:29 Jun 12, 2021

I loved this story!!! Your imagery and detail is outstanding. So much nature crammed into one story, I felt like I was on safari or something. The only thing critique I have is that in the last paragraph and I think in one other section, it sounds like you're on a boat, not a canoe. "I lag one of my paddles again," each person in a canoe would only have one oar, not two. I'm nit-picking big time though, but that's just because the story is so good already. Keep writing! :)

Reply

Amelia Bowen
00:42 Jun 12, 2021

Thank you so much for your comment and pointing that out!! I will change that:)

Reply

23:53 Jun 12, 2021

No problem. I just checked and I think you're right about it being a paddle though. Oars are for rowboats. Paddles are for canoes. (Only having one still stands.) I can still picture your images in my head. Magnificent.

Reply

Amelia Bowen
01:25 Jun 13, 2021

thank you:)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply