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Chapter 15: Scene 55: Let's do it!


ThinkLink: Did you ever do something that you were scared of at first, but then found out you actually enjoyed it?

       "Let's do it," she says finally. She and Dan rock the raft out into the current and climb in. Corrie sits on the back of the raft, steering with her paddle, first on one side, then on the other. We drift backward into the current. Then Corrie yells, "Paddle left."

       I watch Dan and push the blade of the paddle every time he does. It works. The raft turns and heads down the river, sliding past the rocks and bobbing over the white caps. I can feel the bump of the rocks on the bottom of the raft as we leave the shallow water. Then we're heaving up and down as we go over a little waterfall Corrie calls rapids. This is -- this is great! I dig my blade in the water right in time with Dan.

       We bounce up and down over some rocks and take a few good dips down rapids that really are white where the water foams up around them. The swoop down is like the roller coaster at the county fair. Hot damn! I scream right along with the rest of them.

       After a while, we pull in for a pit stop. When we climb back into the raft, the guys in back change places, but Neil says he'll stick to the middle. Randy's right behind me and Sam takes the other side.

       We slide back into the river. The water smoothes out now, we coast along, and I have time to look around. A few white clouds feather up over the trees downstream, but up overhead the sky's bright blue. Spring's finally here. Tall fir trees line both banks of the river. Some of them have strings of gray moss hanging down from the branches. Under them, small trees and bushes have new yellow-green leaves coming out. I take a deep breath and try to sort out the smells, but they're all mixed up -- the water, the musty forest and my wet wool pants. The water is so bright from sun sparkles I have to squint my eyes.

       I look back at Neil. Even though we're through swooping, he's hanging onto a rope along the thwart and he looks like he'll squeeze it in two. He's grinning, though. We bob along without paddling, just watching the water, looking for fish, seeing the sun on the bottom rocks. They picked a good name for this part of the river. This really is paradise.

       "Rocks!" Corrie yells. We slide over to one side and the raft lifts up on the high side. Neil slides over into Randy and Randy shoves back. The whole raft flops up to the other side. Dan and Corrie lean over hard and it comes back up straight on the water. Geez!

       "Don't panic when we hit a rough spot," she yells. "We're almost to our takeout place."

       I look around at Neil. He's real quiet. "You OK?" I ask him.

       "Sure," he says, trying to look real cool. "Just lost my balance. This ain't as bad as hanging from that rope, yesterday." Randy whips around and glares at him. "While Dan was pulling me up," Neil says a little shaky.

       "You did that on purpose, yesterday, I know it. I just gotta figure out how. You never did mean to go with me, did ya?" Randy half stands up and grabs for him.

       I look around quick for Corrie. She's steering for a sandy place at the edge of the river. Dan is paddling and trying to see what's going on at the same time. I pull my paddle into the raft just in time to see Randy stand up and pull Neil up with him. Then we swoop over a dip in the water and Randy starts to fall. I grab his arm and he lets go of Neil. Randy goes over backwards into the water. I feel myself going in, too. Cold water covers me and I come up spluttering . By this time we're out of the main current and when I stand up, the water's just knee deep.

       I look around. Everybody else is out of the raft by now and Dan pulls it up on the bank. I grab Randy by the shirtfront and heave him up out of the water. I growl at him, real soft, but mean, like I think Tony'd do. "Back off of Neil. He's my guy. Don't mess with him."

       Randy flails around, trying to get his balance on the slippery rocks. "Sure. Sure," he says, "Just get me out. I'm gonna freeze to death."

       Corrie wades over to Randy and me. Randy sputters and snorts, but he doesn't snitch . Corrie stands between us and stares him down. "Looked to me like John was trying to save you from going over. How come you stood up in the raft? What's going on?"

       Randy looks like he'll explode at the part about me saving him, but he just wades out onto the bank and takes off his wet shirt. Corrie looks at him and at me and she wades out too. By now, my feet are freezing and my legs feel like dead tree stumps. I climb up out of the water and wait for the ax to fall.

       Dan corrals us all up on the beach. "Get out of your wet clothes. Jerry put your dry clothes over behind those bushes." Dan gives me a look. "You're always on the spot, right?"

       I shrug, like I don't know what to say. I really don't. I'm fresh out of excuses. Dan turns away and walks back of the bushes with the other guys. I stand there wondering whether this'll mess up my chances of leaving Eagle Crest. Randy's putting on dry clothes, Corrie's gone off behind the van to change, and I'm shaking all over in these sopping wool pants and tennis shoes, so I hurry to change too.

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 Updated on 5/13/04

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