Trip of a Lifetime
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Tamia Nelson and
A Note to the Reader
time out, Ed, Brenna, and the Nearys stopped for a break after days
of fighting a stubborn headwind. Now their layover is at an end, but it's
becoming clear that the two couples aren't seeing eye-to-eye. Will their
differences leave them "Between a Rock and a Hard Place"?
A REMINDER This is a work of fiction. All the characters are
figments of the authors' imaginations. It's NOT a paddling guide. If
you're planning a trip on the Albany River, consult the most recent
edition of a good guide-book and be sure you're thoroughly familiar with
all applicable regulations. While maps of Ontario show some of the
waterways mentioned here, the places depicted in our story exist only in
the authors' mindsand in yours.
A new chapter in Trip of a
Lifetime, our paddlesport novel-in-progress, will appear on the
first Tuesday of each month. If you've missed a chapter, or if you're
joining us for the first time and you want to catch up, just use the
hot-linked title to go to the In the Same Boat Archives. It's all
Our story continues
December 4, 2001
Pete Neary couldn't shake the notion that
something was wrong. He couldn't put a name to the problem, but his
anxiety grew hourly. It was like watching a thunderhead building over a
lake. There was nothing he could do about it, but it was always
there, a darkening presence in an otherwise blue sky.
His wife Karin, on the other hand, knew exactly why she felt
miserable. She was dirtier than she'd ever been before in her life. Grime
packed the space under each of her nails. Her shoulder-length hair was a
smelly, undisciplined tangle. Going to the bathroom was a horror beyond
description, and it was made still worse by clouds of biting flies. She
itched everywhere, yet she was afraid to scratch. She was constipated.
Her lower back ached constantly. And her cold had left her with a dry,
To add to her misery, they'd had to abandon their picture-perfect camp
on the sand beach on Lower Wabakimi Lake.
Black flies, little black flies,
Oh way up in Ontario
Ed has started humming that wretched ditty just as soon as he'd
ventured out of his tent on their first morning there. It hadn't taken
Karin long to realize why. Eighteen hours had been all they could take.
Right after breakfast, they'd packed up and paddled on to Wabakimi Lake,
choosing a campsite perched on a windswept spur of granite, not far from
the mouth of River Bay. It wasn't a very picturesque camp. It wasn't even
very comfortable, in fact, but the wind blew the flies away, and that was
what really mattered.
Things looked up a bit later in the day, after Ed found a faded red
rock-painting of a spirit-man on a nearby cliff. Then and there, he
christened the campsite "Spirit Point," and the name stuck. Whoever the
spirit-man was, his magic seemed to invest the place, and Karin was very
glad for that.
During the five days that followed, she downed gallons of
honey-sweetened tea, while Pete grew steadily more anxiousand more
bored. At least once every day he paddled away from camp to listen in
secret to his world-band radio, hoping that Ed and Brenna wouldn't guess
what he was doing. And every day he felt a little bit angrier with
himself for caring what they thought. To make matters worse, the news
that he heard during his clandestine listening sessions was never good.
The markets were nervous, and the investment portfolio that made up the
bulk of his retirement fund didn't look any too secure.
As luck would have it, however, Ed and Brenna had no idea what Pete
was up to. Nor would it have mattered to them if they had. They were
having the time of their lives. Each morning they paddled their big canoe
to a different place along the north shore of Wabakimi Lake. Then, while
Brenna walked back into the bush in search of woodland caribou, Ed
experimented with Leviathan's sail rig. The same relentless north
wind that kept the flies at bay made for perfect sailing weather. Up and
down the lake Ed went, almost always on a beam reach. He listened
entranced to the music of the bow wave as the canoe glided forward under
the impulse of the wind. Freed for once from the tyranny of the paddle,
he watched the every-changing panorama of spruce and granite unroll
before his eyes. (He also watched for the splash that identified
barely-covered rocks, and the slicks that marked shallows.)
All in all, Ed couldn't remember when he'd had so much fun. Morning
flew by. Rain showers came and went, but every day, as noon approached,
Ed went ashore at an agreed point to meet Brenna and hear about her
search. Together they carefully removed Jack's sextant from its new
waterproof case (a surplus "rocket-box," heavy but cheap) and tried for a
meridian sight, hoping for a timely break in the clouds.
After a lunch of bannock and tea, Brenna returned to her search for
the elusive caribou, while Ed fished.
And that was the only flaw in these otherwise perfect days. Ed knew
there were fish in Wabakimi, but try as he might, he caught nothing.
Until their last afternoon on the lake, that is, when a thirty-inch-long
northern pike took his streamer. After the battle was over, Ed stared
down into the bilge of the canoe in wonderment. "Suppertime!" he blurted
out to no one in particular. The pike was the only creature within
earshot, and the pike was past caring.
Tearing his eyes away from his trophy dinner, Ed scanned the shoreline
for evidence of Brenna's trail. A faint path led off into a tangle of
spruce. The track seemed to be headed for a small hill. Ed beached the
canoe. Grunting, he hauled it out of the water. Then he walked slowly
down the trail.
Deep in the bush, Brenna lay beside a giant granitic boulder, peering
round it through a stand of birch saplings that marked the site of a
recent burn. Forty yards away, in a birch-sheltered hollow, a mother
caribou licked the flank of her newborn calf. Brenna slowly brought her
binoculars to her eyes, trying to commit every detail of the scene to
memory. The calf wobbled uncertainly on its outsized, stilt-like legs,
making occasional stumbling attempts to walk. Brenna continued to watch,
entranced. She was grateful for the northerly breeze that carried her
scent away from mother and child.
A hand touched her shoulder. She tried to jerk upright, but she found
that a second hand prevented her from rising. Then Ed whispered, "Easy
girl," and she slumped down. A low whistle forced its way between her
lips. Her heart was hammering. But she still clung to her binoculars.
Ed's eyes followed her gaze, probing the shadowed hollow. Taking in
the scene before him, he patted Brenna's shoulder once more, and then
crept back along the way he had come. When he'd retreated fifty yards or
so he stopped and waited for Brenna to join him. Ten minutes later, she
did. Together, they made their way back toward shore.
As soon as she came out into the light, Brenna fished her sketch-pad
out of her pocket and started to draw what she had seen. Ed, who knew
better than to interrupt her at such moments, stood silently beside her,
watching the pictures take shape on the page. Brenna talked as she
worked, describing her morning's search and her surprise at coming upon
the just-born calf and its mother. Ed listened without comment.
When Brenna had finished, she slipped the sketch-pad back into her
pocket, and the couple walked toward their canoe. "So," she said. "How
come you decided to follow me? Get bored with catching nothing?" She
smiled to take the sting out of her words.
Ed made no reply. He just pointed at the pike in the bottom of the
canoe. Brenna look down, then up again. Ed was grinning from ear to ear.
"Ye of little faith," he said. An earnest discussion of culinary matters
followed, as they paddled back toward Spirit Point. By the time they had
the campsite in view, Brenna found that her mouth was watering.
Ed, however, had revenge on his mind. "You really think we ought to
offer any of this noble fish to that economist and her husband?
After all, Karin made quite a point of saying that fishing wasn't
cost-effective. I wouldn't want to embarrass her by asking her to eat her
own words. As it were." Ed chuckled at his own joke, then added, "Anyway,
keeping food to yourself is in the best laissez-faire tradition.
I'm sure Karin would approve."
"You couldn't be that unkind," Brenna said, wondering if Ed was
serious. "Besides, it might cheer them up."
"Maybe so," Ed replied, not joking now. "Pete's been kinda antsy
lately, sure 'nuff. And Karin's been flat-out miserable."
"Pete's always antsy," Brenna blurted out, regretting her words almost
as soon as she'd said them.
"Well," said Ed, "I don't know that I'd go quite that far. But he's
sure not enjoying himself now. That's for sure." He shook his head.
"I sometimes wonder why they wanted to come along on this trip, you
know?" Brenna mused. She pried gently to bring the bow on line. It was
obvious that Ed's mind wasn't entirely on his paddling. "It could just be
Karin's cold, I suppose
." Her voice trailed off. There was no
answer from Ed. Brenna guessed he didn't think Karin's cold was the only
As they pivoted around Spirit Point and headed toward the rocky crease
that served as their landing, Brenna spoke once more: "You know, this
really is a lovely place. I could spent the whole summer here."
"I know what you mean." Ed paused. "But I doubt that Pete and Karin
would agree." And that was all he said.
Their reception confirmed Ed's misgivings. The Nearys greeted Brenna's
story of her successful caribou stalk with polite interest, and they gave
Ed's tale of his heroic struggle with the pike the skeptical hearing it
demanded, but for all that, both Pete and Karin seemed oddly listless.
They were eager enough to share a fish dinner, though.
So, while Brenna chopped up their last onion, a shriveled carrot, and
two of their six remaining potatoes to make a thick soup, Ed filleted the
pike and cut out the Y-bones. Then he put the fillets in the reflector
oven, and watched them as they baked before the fire, while Brenna buried
the remaining potatoes in the coals.
The result was a memorable feast, eaten to the accompaniment of a
glorious sunset. An endless palette of reflected color played across the
southern horizon an extravagant, ever-changing display of rich
golds and magentas, deep cobalt blues and dark oranges, splashed across
the canvas of the sky like the fever-dream of some mad impressionist
painter. At the same time, the northern breeze, their constant companion
for more than a week, now became unsettled and shifty.
When the wrack of supper was cleared, the tea brewed, and the fire
urged back to life, the four friends sat quietly, allowing their
digestion to work. Karin and Ed each held books on their laps. Brenna
wrote in her journal. And Pete stared at the southern sky. "We're gonna
get some real rain," he announced suddenly.
"Think so?" Ed closed his book, leaving a finger between the pages to
keep his place.
Pete nodded. "Yep."
"So long as we've got you with us, we don't need The Weather Channel."
Pete winced at this gentle gibe, thinking of his hidden Yacht-Boy
radio. Ed didn't notice. He was probing clumsily for a bit of bone stuck
between his teeth. Seeing this, Brenna slid a big Navy diver's knife from
the plastic sheath hanging on her belt and started whittling a birch twig
Ed took his finger out of his mouth. Karin saw the book in his left
hand. "What's that you're reading?" she asked.
"This." Ed held the book up so Karin could read the gilt lettering on
the spine. She strained to see the words in the flickering firelight.
"Charting the Sea of Darkness." Something like that, anyway
"Sounds a little gloomy," she said. "What's it about?"
"Hudson's voyages," Ed replied. "Remember my little 'seminar' in the
back room of the shop this spring? I'm hoping we might come across some
trace of him up here. No one else has, but
"Think I'll stick to American Hero," Karin said, shaking her
head. "It's hilarious. It's a novel, but this guy Beinhartthe
author, you knowalmost has me convinced the Gulf War was set-up. A
political fix to save George Senior's bacon. You oughta read it." Karin
sneezed, and then continued: "You really think there's a chance we'll
find some trace of Hudson? The Bay's a big place! And, like you said, no
one else has."
"Don't know," Ed shrugged. "Doesn't hurt to dream, though, does it?
I've been looking at the maps and thinking what might have happened after
he was set adrift. He could have come ashore somewhere between
Fort Albany and Moosonee. It's not impossible."
"Talk about needles in haystacks!" Karin laughed. Her laugh ended in a
spluttering cough. "I mean, like, wood rots and so do people
they die, I mean. And after all these hundreds of years, I can't imagine
there'd be anything left."
"Maybe not," Ed said. His voice sounded far away. "Still, you never
know, do you? Gold doesn't rot. Maybe we'll find a coin, or a button,
Pete wasn't following the conversation. He was watching as Brenna
deftly sliced toothpick-sized slivers from the birch. She was working
fast. Quite a pile of slivers lay at her feet. Pete shivered
involuntarily. "That's a bit big for a whittlin' blade, isn't it?" he
"Guess so," Brenna said. She continued to send slivers flying. There
wasn't much left of the birch. "Got it at the Army-Navy. Real cheap." She
tossed the last bit of birch down. It wasn't much bigger than the
slivers. "Blade's real sharp, too," Brenna added. "Makes a good
"Looks like overkill to me," Pete scoffed.
"Take a closer look," Brenna said, holding up the knife. "It's a great
utility knife. Heavy enough to split wood or gouge out kindling, sharp
enough to carve toothpicks." She spun the blade so that the firelight
caught the carefully-honed edge.
"I wouldn't want anything that big," said Pete. "That's some kind of
combat knife, most likely."
"I wouldn't be surprised," Brenna replied. "I did get it at the
Army-Navy, after all. But so what? A blade's a blade, and a knife's just
a tool. If I use it for whittling, cutting rope, and gouging kindling,
it's a whittling, rope-cutting, kindling-gouging knife, not a combat
knife. I'm not planning on going into battle." She glanced at Ed, his
head bent over his book, straining to read by the light of the fire. "No
way, José," she said softly. "This is just a cheap knife with a good
blade. That's all. So you tell me, what sort of knife do you
Pete smirked. He leaned back, thrust his hand into his pocket, and
pulled out a bulky Swiss Army knife. He offered it to Brenna with a
flourish. She took it and looked at it in amazement.
"My God, it's a pocket-sized hardware store! Let's see
we got here? Scissors, nail-file, at least two kinds of screwdrivers,
can-opener, corkscrew, bottle-opener, evenyes, it's a
. Just one thing missing, I think. No,
there it is! For a minute, I didn't think it had a blade. You know what I
mean, Pete, a blade like in knife-blade." She spoke with the sort
of exaggerated care that people use in talking to foreigners. "But it
does. Have a blade, I mean. So I guess it is a knife, after all."
Then she pulled the blade open, and ran her finger lightly across the
edge. She pressed harder. She examined her finger in the firelight.
"Jeeze, Pete!" she exclaimed. "This knife wouldn't slice butter unless
you warmed it first. Have you ever sharpened it? I mean, a dull
knife's useless. A dull knife's not a proper knife at all. And going on a
wilderness canoe trip without a good knife is like
bringing a medical kit. It's just not smart." She stopped to catch her
breath, then closed the blade and handed the knife back to Pete.
"Medical kit?" Pete's voice was little higher than a whisper. "You
mean like a first-aid kit?"
"Right," Brenna replied. "Sort of." She took a sip of her now-cold
tea. A sudden chill of premonition gripped her. She turned toward Pete.
His face looked yellow in the firelight.
"Let me see if I've guessed right. We're hours, maybe days, away from
any outside help. And your only knife has a blade that I couldn't cut
paper with. And nowplease tell me I'm wrong,
please!I figure you haven't brought a medical kit
either?" Brenna was surprised to hear that her voice was quavering.
Pete didn't answer at first. Then he grunted. It could have meant
anything. He tossed his Swiss Army knife nervously from one hand to the
other. The silence stretched out from one second to the next. Karin
looked up from her novel. Ed's cup stopped halfway to his mouth.
Karin was the first to break the silence. "Pete, honey?" she asked.
There was a hint of concern in her voice. Karin had heard Brenna's last
question. She'd left most of the packing to Pete. And she didn't remember
seeing a medical kit anywhere in their gear.
"Well, no," Pete stammered. "I
I didn't bring a medical
aid kit. As such."
"WHAT!" Brenna couldn't believe her ears. "What does that mean, 'as
such'? You're not planning to dial 911 if you slip and rip an artery open
while you're trying to
cut butter with that worthless knife of
yours, are you?" Her voice sounded like a dull saw cutting through a hard
log. She was angry. And getting angrier.
Pete bristled. "I mean that I brought some bandaids and some Tylenol
and an Ace bandage. As if it's any of your business." He stood up,
dropping his knife as he did so. He stooped to retrieve it.
Ed entered the conversation. "You can't be serious," was all that he
said, but when Pete made no answer, he added, "It is our business,
you know. We're a long way from home. Are you telling us that you've left
it up to us to bail your out in an emergency?"
Pete's face now looked red, not yellow. His words rushed out, a
cascade of sound and fury. "You know what I think? I think you're both
paranoid. And you're being assholes about something that doesn't matter a
bit. Bringing a medical kit's almost like asking for trouble. Not
everyone wants to play doctor. We brought what we thought we'd need.
That's all. Now butt out of our business!"
Ed put his book down and got to his feet. He turned toward the other
man. Pete stood nearly a head taller. He was still tossing the Swiss Army
knife from one hand to another. Ed's face was a shadowed mask. He spoke
slowly, choosing his words with studied care. "I'm afraid you're wrong,
Pete. I'll say it once more: your business is our business. It
stays that way until we're all back in our trucks and heading south. And
you've made our business a lot harder than it needed to be. But there's
nothing we can do about that now. Except to divide our medical supplies
between the two boats. Tomorrow."
The Swiss Army knife slipped from Pete's grasp again. Ed snatched it
as it fell. He balanced the knife in his right hand for a second, then
handed it back to Pete, who grabbed at it.
Ed kept his grip on the knife even after Pete's hand had closed over
his own. "I think this belongs in your pocket, Pete. It is a
pocket-knife, after all. Don't you agree?"
Pete said nothing at first. His fingers clawed at Ed's hand.
Ed looked up at Pete. The firelight flashed on Ed's glasses. "In your
pocket, Pete. Yes?"
"Yeah, right," Pete replied at last. His fingers stopped their frantic
clawing. Ed opened his fist and deposited the knife in Pete's hand. Pete
hesitated a moment, then put it in his pocket.
"Thank you, Pete," Ed said quietly. "We'll divide the medical supplies
tomorrow, before we start off." To Brenna he said only, "I think it's
time we got some sleep." She nodded, and the two of them walked off in
silence, leaving Pete and Karin by the fire.
The next morning proved Pete a good weather prophet. A steady,
relentless drumbeat of rain beat down on tent and tarp alike. Four
figures move almost silently from one chore to the next. Conversations,
when they occurred, were excessively polite and conducted in hushed
tones. It felt, thought Brenna, a lot like a wake. Still, when she handed
Pete a bulky waterproof bag of medical supplies and thrust a scribbled
inventory sheet into his hand, he thanked her profusely.
Packing up took longer than anyone had anticipated, but by noon the
camp's only occupant was once again its resident spirit, who watched
without comment as the two canoes made their way up River Bay and entered
the Ogoki River. The warm rain continued throughout the afternoon, as one
short, stony rapid after another passed beneath the two boats' keels.
The flies were back, too, and the sodden landscape vibrated with the
buzz of thousands of enterprising mosquitoes. The portages, when they
came, were an ordeal. Sweat-soaked and streaming, tormented by insects,
the paddlers struggled like coolies to ferry a seemingly endless mound of
food and gear from one end to the other. Looking at nearly a quarter of a
ton of supplies, Ed remembered happy days when double-tripping a portage
had seemed like hard labor. Then he started back for his fourth load.
As darkness fell that evening, they'd made only ten miles. They
pitched a hasty camp on a boulder-strewn shore fronting an infinity of
bog. No one had the energy to do more than to boil a pot of something
quick and hot and then retreat to the shelter of the tents.
Morning, when it came, offered no better prospect. The rain had become
a swirling drizzle, and the flies had bred more generations in the night.
Not wishing to linger in such unpromising surroundings, the two couples
lost no time in getting back on the river. Therehappy
surprise!they made good time, reaching the height of land well
before nightfall, and camping near the head of the portage trail. That
was the end of the good news, however. The rain continued. More flies
gathered. Pete and Karin were portraits in misery, their communication
limited mostly to grunts and gestures. Even Ed and Brenna could only
summon the energy to exchange monosyllables.
Ahead lay the Misehkow River and then the Albany. But first they had
to traverse a series of very long, boggy portages, broken only by short
irritating paddles across small, muddy lakes. Mud was everywhere. Days of
rain had turned the already wet trails into something that resembled a
mixture of oatmeal and shoe-polish. Even the sky now seemed impregnated
Ed wrestled the big canoe onto his shoulders and led the way down the
first portage. The others followed, slipping and sliding, squelching
through puddles and sinking into bogs. At one place, after his toe caught
a spruce root, Ed nearly pitched headfirst under the canoe. From that
point on, he and Brenna double-carried the boat, sometimes just sliding
it along on the muck. Their wellies quickly filled with water.
Pete's boat was lighter and his legs longer, and for a time he was
inclined to gloat. Then he lost one of his Teva sandals in a
slurry-filled pothole. No amount of probing disclosed its whereabouts, so
he tried bailing. No luck. Water rushed in just as fast as he scooped it
out. He couldn't face the job of locating his pacs in the mountain of
gear, so in the end he lurched along the trail with only a neoprene sock
over on his sandal-less right foot.
The trip had become a siege. Ed resented the death of a dream. "Trip
of a lifetime!" he snorted to himself. "Better just hope it isn't!"
Brenna resented having to slog past so many places that she'd have liked
to explore. Karin thought longingly of summer-school classes in dusty,
stuffy rooms. Pete seethed. Everything irritated him now. Even the bulge
of the Swiss Army knife in his pocket was a reproach. He wanted to throw
it away. He wanted to go home.
At long last, though, the siege ended. The headwaters of the Misehkow
opened before them. Even if it looked like nothing more than a stream, it
was a time for celebration and rejoicing. The best that anyone could do,
however, do was to sag to the groundthe very, very wet
groundand make a lunch of whatever they could find at the top of
the nearest food-pack. Ed discovered that it was possible to make
a meal of steak-cut TVP right out of the bag. He chewed very carefully,
and ignored a taste that reminded him unpleasantly of high-school gym
lockers at the end of a long, hot, humid year.
Soon they were back in their boats. But not for long. The Misehkow
rushed north over steep drops that were too shallow to run and just too
deep to wade. The labors of the portage trail gave way to the tricky
business of lining. Pete was in a fury of impatience. He hadn't been able
to hear a single news broadcast since their final day on Spirit Point.
The last straw came when he was caught short by a surge of dysentery. He
slammed the Explorer onto the shore, ordered a startled Karin to hang on,
and crashed headlong through a tangle of alder. He was still struggling
with his nylon cinch belt when his protesting bowels let loose. And if
that wasn't bad enough, no sooner had he shed his now-reeking pants than
he discovered a very large, blood-engorged leech in the one place where
such a leech would be least welcome. By the time he'd cut and scraped
what remained of the leech off himself, he had good reason to be glad
that his Swiss Army knife was dull.
Pete lumbered back to the river, his pants in his hands. Silencing
Karin with one baleful glance, he swilled them clean in the water at the
river's edge, then pulled the sodden tubes over his now-shaking legs. He
was happy to see that they weren't far from Rockcliffe Lake. They'd
planned to spend the night there, and now he couldn't wait to get to
First, though, they had to negotiate at least one more dropa
steep, bony rapids at a place where dense spruce stands came right down
to the water. As soon as he looked at it, Pete knew that they'd have to
line their canoes through. "Great!" he thought. "Fan-tastic!" Just then
the rain resumed in earnest, and a brisk northerly breeze set the tree
tops swaying. Pete looked at the sky. The light was starting to go. He
was damned if he'd dangle about any longer.
On the left bank of the river, Ed and Brenna stood ankle-deep in the
cold water, their heavily loaded canoe bobbing alongside them. Ed held
the gunwale firmly against the surge of the current, watching Brenna
check the criss-cross lashings that secured their packs. Just downstream,
Pete was squatting on a rock, wrapping the long bow line around his left
hand. Glancing up, Ed noticed that the Nearys' packs were no longer
tied-in. "Must have loosened 'em to get at something," he thought. "Hope
At that moment, Pete kicked the Explorer's bowit was now the
upstream endout into the current. The swift water slammed the boat,
pulling it out much faster than Pete had expected. The bow line went taut
in his hand, jerking him off balance. The canoe moved farther away from
the riverbank, heading straight for the main chute. From her position
downriver, Karin could only let out line as fast as she was able, and
hope that this would keep the boat from being swept round before Pete
could get the bow back under control.
Pete steadied himself and hauled. The boat stopped drifting toward
mid-channel. He and Karin followed it downriver, scrambling over cobbles
and boulders, now in the water and now out. Karin led the way, stumbling
Brenna watched with a growing sense of unease. Ed left her to hold
their canoe and ran along the shore toward Pete. The Neary's canoe slid
into a chute. As the stern dropped from sight, Karin vaulted over a huge
boulder in a desperate race to keep up with it. Pete sprinted after her,
hauling at the bow line. Too late. Karin stumbled again. The line she was
holding went taut, and the canoe began to swing broadside to the current.
In seconds, its upstream gunwale had rolled under, and water filled the
boat. Seconds later it slammed broadside into a rock. Pete watched in
silent agony as the boat embraced the rock more tightly. The hull
buckled. The gunwalesthe same gunwales he'd spent hours
varnishingpopped and splintered.
It was seeing the gunwales splinter that did it. Pete hauled on the
bow line, his face a rictus of impotent rage. Suddenly, he was in the
water. His feet rolled out from under him. In an instant the world turned
upside down, but his life-vest brought him back up almost as quickly.
When his flailing feet found the bottom, he lurched ashore, losing no
time in tying the bow line to the nearest spruce with a clumsy hitch.
Then he plunged back into the river, clinging to the drum-taut line with
all his strength, as he worked his way downstream toward his pinned
Too late. The pounding river swept through the boat, plucking out one
pack after another. Just as Pete's hands touched the splintered gunwales,
the boat shifted, pivoting away. Pete clung to the canoe, while the line
started to cut into his back. He was pinned between it and the gunwale.
The boat continued to pivot round. Water surged over Pete's head, then
subsided. He choked and spluttered. "Gotta cut that rope!" he thought,
and his hand groped in his pocket for the Swiss Army knife.
He had it! And then it was gone, slipping out of his hand and
immediately lost to the swirling, surging water. The canoe pivoted
further. Another wave buried Pete's head, and this time it did not
subside. The taut rope continued to hold him fast. Pete's lungs began to
burn for air.
"Damn that knife!" he screamed. His open mouth filled with
water. A large bubble joined the rushing stream.
To be continued
Copyright © 2001 by Verloren Hoop Productions. All rights