Around the River Bend
“Come on, Helen, don’t stop paddling!”
“There’s no point paddling until the wind drops, Steve, it’ll just blow us right back in here,” I said, trying to sound reasonable, in control and like I was still full of the spirit of adventure. It would
have been easier if I’d been able to unclench my teeth. But after two hours of being blown about the river by the spiteful wind and having to listen to the windbag in the back of the canoe, my jaw would no longer listen to me. Whoever had hit on outdoor pursuits as a workplace team building exercise ought to be firmly re-introduced to the comparative paradise of ice-breakers and complimentary biscuits in a warm meeting-room.
I shifted my head uncomfortably. As it went, sitting half rammed into a tree with a paddle wedged so firmly between the river bank and my kidneys that my eyes were nearly watering wasn’t the worst way I could think of to spend a Saturday. Broiling in oil or watching the same episode of My Little Pony for 3 hours straight with my niece were probably worse. But I wasn’t in the mood for counting my blessings.
Especially as Steve was still talking.
“-need to make some headway. Got to get to the rendezvous by 6, you know.”
“-Or they’ll send out someone to look for us.”
I gave up. I wasn’t sure he could hear me over the whistling of the wind. Or the echo of his own falsely jocular whining in his ears.
Water splashed up and over the side and the canoe rocked as Steve tried to wriggle away from the wet bit. It was just as well my paddle was trapped or I might have been tempted to give him a real splash. He’d been at this ever since we’d started. Even when I’d just stopped for a moment to wipe my brow or to work out how to navigate the next lot of rocks, the ‘gotta keep moving, gotta keep pushing on’ would start up from just behind my right shoulder. It was like being stuck in the car with only one, very bad CD and someone who refused to sit in silence.
Steve dug in his paddle and the canoe shifted jerkily.
“C’mon, Helen, chin up. Don’t want to be out here all night, do we?” Only the slight quake in his voice stopped me from turning around and using my paddle for something less innocent than splashing. It struck me for the first time that he really was afraid. Not just of getting wet but that we would be somehow stuck here indefinitely. I sighed, wishing with all my heart that I wasn’t such a soft touch.
“Alright,” I said, turning up the brightness in my tone by a few kilowatts, “Let’s try to shift her. Once we get around the next bend we’ll be out of the wind. We’ll make the rendezvous in no time."