Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: River (08/31/06)
- TITLE: If All Else Fails, Lick The Spark Plugs
By Lynda Schultz
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Some of us should have known better. That “some” is me. Clare wouldn’t go upriver with Ken. She’s lived with him long enough to avoid traveling with him anyplace there might exist even the remotest possibility of something going wrong. His kids refused to come. But oh no, I had to accept his invitation to take this boat upriver. I have never liked small boats and big water. So why am I here, standing chest deep in water, with “things” chewing on my feet while I hold this boat to prevent it from being dragged down river and out to the ocean! I didn’t think to ask Ken before we cast off if this craft had oars. It doesn’t. It had a working motor when we left. Now it doesn’t. We should have gone to see this Indian village upstream when it was high tide and the current was going the other way. Mind you, then I would be standing underwater by now still hanging on to this boat. There is some consolation in comparing the options.
I can see the shore on both sides of the river. I could imagine myself safely ashore if my imagination wasn’t so busy thinking about whatever it is down there in the briny deep that is now brushing up against my legs. Do fish sniff before they chomp on you?
Ken could swim to either shore. However, then I would be in even bigger trouble than I am already in. I can’t swim, nor am I strong enough to hold the boat without Ken’s help. This river has a ridge in the middle of it. That’s what we’re standing on. Move to either side and it’s sink or swim — and I know which one I’m likely to do!
Ken smiles and reassures me that everything is going to be fine. Looking at him, I am consoled once more. If I were as short as he is, I’d just about be under water now.
A cyclist pedals down the dirt road that runs along one shoreline. I wave. Ken waves. We yell. The biker must be deaf. Hope dies once more.
I can see the headlines now: Local Girl Drowns Reaching Pagan Tribesmen. Romantic thought, isn’t it? Actually, we’re on vacation from language school. I’m struck by another pseudo-consolation. There won’t be a body to bury. I wiggle my toes again. The clean-up crew is already beginning to feast on my soon-to-be-whitened bones.
The current seems stronger. Perhaps it’s just because I’m getting weaker. The midday sun doesn’t smile; it snarls as it beats on my uncovered head.
Just when I am sure that my missionary career is about to end before it has really begun, around the bend in the river, just ahead of us, appears a fishing boat. It’s not much of a craft, but it looks like the Queen Mary to me. She most certainly has a better track record than the Titanic I am presently clinging to.
The two men on board see us — it would be difficult not to. How often do a couple of Indians see two very rapidly reddening white people holding a boat in the middle of a river? As they draw closer, I can see them smile. Hey, go ahead and laugh, just pick me up on your way past and I’ll laugh with you!
Pulling alongside, one of the men jumps into our dingy. We haven’t got a clue what he is saying. It doesn’t sound like Spanish, but then again, I don’t know enough of the language myself yet to be sure of anything. He pulls the cover off our motor. Next, he tugs on the spark plugs until they are all nestled in his hand. To my horror, he smiles at me and pops the end of the spark plug in his mouth. After each plug has been “treated,” he puts them back, replaces the cover, and pulls the starter cord.
Our motor chugs vigorously back to life. Two “angels-masquerading-as-fishing-mechanics” putt-putt off in a flurry of waving hands and smiles. We climb into our boat and head for the hotel dock. I inspect my legs looking for evidence of fine dining. Tonight there should be some interesting stories around the cooking fires in that village upriver.
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