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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: River (08/31/06)

TITLE: Immersion
By Ann Grover
09/07/06


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They say all rivers run to the sea, and on that day, the river ran to a sea of sorrow.

Aunt Connie and I had enjoyed a leisurely afternoon, talking and having lunch. Even with an age difference of almost twenty years, we were like sisters, comfortable together, often sitting in easy silence.

“You want to take a walk?”

“Sure.”

“We could check the horses.”

It was spring. Faraway hills were blushed with green, tender blades pushed up through moist soil, and the warm air was fragrant with growing things. Heading for the lower pasture, we strolled along the fence, checking for broken strands. I kicked at a heap of dry horse manure, knocking one into Connie’s path.

“You rascal!” With a grin, she punted one back at me.

Suddenly, Connie touched my arm. Following her gaze down the gently sloping field, I saw one of the mares, and by her side, a newborn, spindly-legged foal. The foal took off at a rollicking gambol, then its dam cantered in a wide circle around her cavorting offspring.

“Will she let us get close?” I asked.

“Doubt it, but we should be able to see if it’s a colt or filly.”

The foal hid by the mare’s flank, almost as if knowing our intent. Dust-coloured and wary-eyed, it finally bolted from its hiding place; it was a filly.

“Well, that’s Dove accounted for,” said Connie. “I think the foal is a couple of days old.”

“Look, there’s Dancer! On the riverbank.” The bay mare was staring into the steel-hued river, where it oxbowed around the lower edge of the field.

“What’s she looking at?”

Dancer galloped along the bank, pawed the ground, and neighed nervously. Connie shook her head. “I don’t like this.” We broke into a run.

I leaned over the embankment, peering into the muddy eddies, silt spilling from the soft edge. Connie lay down so she could see better.

“Oh, no.”

I lay down next to her. The earth was eroded from beneath us; we were actually suspended over the silently surging river. I gasped. In the murky water below, I could see tiny hooves bobbing, then receding under the waves again.

“I’m going to the barn for rope and a lead. Stay here.”

I couldn’t have moved if I tried. I was mesmerized by the sight of those hooves disappearing and resurfacing. Then, slowly the foal’s body turned, glistening and shining, rocking in its liquid cradle, then sliding beneath the soundless waves again. I jumped when Connie put her hand on my back.

“I’m taking Dancer to the corral.”

Dancer was easily persuaded by the oats in Connie’s hand, but still eyed the river guardedly, sidestepping nervously when Connie snapped the lead to the halter. She paced the rails when we left her in the corral.

“What are we going to do?”

For an answer, Connie took off her boots and rolled up her jeans. I did the same. Further up the shore, where the bank was less steep, Connie waded through the muddy water to the undercut.

“Coming?”

She was already squatting in the dirty surf, knotting the rope around the foal’s neck when I got there, my feet numb from the icy water.

“You pull. I’m going to push.”

We were no match for the weight of the foal and the spring current of the river . Time and again, we had nearly pulled the glistening ebony body free of the cove, only to have the river tide defeat us.

“I’ve an idea.” Connie splashed across the narrow channel to a slice of land that had slipped away when the undercut was formed. With all her strength, Connie pulled on the rope, and the foal drifted free of the watery crevice.

Together we dragged the foal upstream to where the bank was not so steep and pulled her ashore. We rested, lying on the grassy verge of the river, stroking the satiny coat of the dead foal with tender fingers.

“She was probably playing too close to the edge,” I guessed.

“Probably,” agreed Connie.

“And the bank gave way.”

When we had caught our breath, we released Dancer. With tears streaming down our cheeks, we watched as she gently pawed her baby and nudged her with a velvety muzzle.

For a full day, Dancer stood over her. Every so often, she cast her steady, sorrowful gaze over the slowly undulating grey river.


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This article has been read 1032 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Kevin Kindrick09/07/06
This was a good story - if rather saddening. Your passion, skill, and knowledge come through clearly.

Thanks for sharing, and God bless,

Kevin
Beth Muehlhausen09/07/06
Both sad and well-told. You caught me at the beginning and pulled me through to the end. I "felt" the emotion all the way.
Jan Ackerson 09/10/06
Oh my. So sad, and so tenderly written. Excellent work.
Marilyn Schnepp 09/10/06
I wanted so desperately for the little colt to make it! If only this were fiction! But due to the conclusion, I assume it isn't. Nice job and an endearing, but sad story. Good job on topic, and nicely written.
Joanne Sher 09/10/06
So gripping and sad. The action seemed to flow just right - wonderful job!
Joanne Malley09/10/06
Sad indeed, but well written in a manner that draws the reader to feel the emotion you meant to express. Good job! Blessings.
Tabiatha Tallent09/10/06
This is a sad, but beautiful story. As an avid reader, if this was book length, I don't think I could put it down.
william price09/10/06
I've done my share of whitewater rafting. I only say that because, reading this story was like commiting oneself to the rapids. Once you get in, your in. Your story pulled me along skillfully, and the ride/read was enjoyable. Great job, as always, Ann. God bless.
Donna Emery09/11/06
I loved the contrast of the sadness of the foal's death with the relationship between the two women. Such a sad story, yet your ending clearly says "life goes on." Very well written.
Venice Kichura09/11/06
Masterful writing & dialogue! Yes, I agree---If this were a chapter book I wouldn't want to put it down.
Brenda Craig09/13/06
And not one sparrow falls without Him knowing. This is how your story made me feel. Thank you, it is beautiful. Brenda
Rita Garcia09/13/06
I felt like I was right there with you. I wanted so much for the colt to survive. You captured each emotion inviting the reader to live the experience right along with you.
Suzanne R09/14/06
So sad.......

Your first line was everything a first line should be.

The way you used words to describe freeing the foal's body like giving birth was very clever ... but of course, the result wasn't life. That was extremely effective.

Great writing - well done.
Teri Wilson09/14/06
Ann, I was a judge this week and really enjoyed your story. Heart-wrenching and wonderful. Congrats!