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Chapter 15: Scene 54: Rafting


ThinkLink: Write about a time when you were a good team member. Was it hard work?

       We grab hold of the ropes and carry the raft down the path to the river. We wade out into shallow water, stepping on the little rocks and around the big ones. The icy water curls up my toes. Corrie fastens a line from the raft around a big rock and raises her hand. "Listen up. Dan will be in the right front corner where he'll be 'stroke.' You'll sit on the thwarts . They're the dividers that go across the raft. John, you're front left."

       "Neil, get in behind Dan. Sam, sit in the middle, next to Neil. Randy, you're behind John. I'm on the back, and Terry and Cal, you'll sit in front of me. Got it?" Not without a road map, I think, but I can find the front of the boat. Let the other guys figure out where they go.

       We scramble over the fat sides of the raft and sit where she tells us. The raft bounces around in the water a little, and Randy grabs the back of my shirt. I jerk around and glare at him, and he lets go. Then I see Sam squeeze up his face. "Geez, this water's cold," he says. "My feet are frozen."

       Corrie ignores him. "Listen again," she orders. "I'm going to show you how to use your paddle."

       Sam complains, "I don't have a paddle. What'm I gonna do?"

       "You'll get your turn. Right now, go through the motions with us, and when you're on the outside, you'll know how to do it."

       We practice the stroke, turning left and turning right. Corrie wades along the side of the raft, checking on each one of us. When she gets to me, she puts her arm across my back, pulling my paddle back at an angle. Damn. I feel my face get red. Corrie's old. Ten years older than me, at least. And, anyway, she's staff. Still, her arm feels hot across my back. I try to concentrate on the paddle.

       She climbs into the raft again. "If we get hung up on a rock, I'll say rock side. Everybody slide over toward the rock and the far side will tip up and we'll slide off the rock. Then you have to come right back into place so the raft won't tip over." Even I'm getting nervous now. I never counted on ending up in the water.

       "If you do fall out of the boat - and you'd better not! - lead with your feet going downstream and lean back. Let your life jacket carry you. Remember, keep your toes pointed downstream and paddle with your hands toward shore where we can pick you up."

       That does it for Neil. He tries to stand up, but the raft sloshes in the water and tips him back onto the thwart. "Maybe I'd better not go. I'll ride down in the van with Jerry."

       "That's OK, if you're sure you don't want to go," Corrie says. "I'm not telling you all this to scare you, though. These are things you need to know before we can take you out on the river. We'll take good care of you. How about it? Think you can make it? It'll be a lot of fun. I promise you."

       Neil looks around and every eye is on him. "Yeah, I guess I'll go," he says. I twist around and give him a thumb's up. He smiles, a little, and holds tight to the rope laced along the top of the raft.

       "Trade places with me," Sam says. "You sit in the middle and I'll paddle."

       Neil doesn't argue. He slides over to the center, next to Randy, and Sam takes his place on the outside. Corrie grins. "Great. We're all set. If I say 'stop', then quit whatever it is that you're doing right then. I'm the boss of this raft and you'll do exactly as I say, instantly ! Can you handle that?"

       I nod, and then I look around at the other guys. For once, no smart cracks. If she'd only get on with it.

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 Updated on 5/13/04

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