Raft of Summer

Don Shook

© Copyright 2019 by Don Shook

Photo of a boy with a fish.
It was a strange Texas spring, with dark May mornings and heavy rains. By summer Ten Mile Creek was filled to overflowing…and we knew that somewhere in the murky depths of Bluehole, the Monster awaited…

My feet were stuck. Instinct screamed for me to tear through the undergrowth, up the steep bank and into the adjoining pasture where nothing on two legs- and precious little on four-had a prayer of catching me. Instead, I stood paralyzed, eyes glued on the brushy far side bank of the creek, desperately trying to identify the thrashing that had sent our pulses racing. A quick glance revealed that Pete too was riveted on the opposite shore.

“What the hell?” He muttered hoarsely.

Sweat was streaming down our bare torsos, soaking cutoff jeans and running into our tennis shoes; two fifteen-year-old boys petrified with fear. Yes, what the hell? Too large for a bird or squirrel. That sudden, violent crashing in the brush. Not noisy enough for a cow. It had interrupted an argument begun a month before…a fantasy I had nurtured and continued by painting what I hoped was an irresistible picture.

“Think how great it will be floatin’ down the cool, green water, fishin’ holes we can’t get to from the bank. There’s no tellin’ what we’re liable to find.”

“ ‘Bout what we always find.”

“We could float all the way down to Bluehole.”

“We can walk there now.”

I shook my head. “Pete, the way you walk is the problem. You stomp around and scare the fish.”


“It’s true! Brim are skittish.”

“You are so full of it. Since when you a brim expert? An’ what about you singin’ ‘Little White Cloud That Cried’ at the top of your lungs?”

“My singin’ don’t bother the fish.”

“Well it bothers me; an’ that song. You ever listen to the words? Sounds like a fairy. An’ I guarantee you the fish hate it much as me.”

“Why do you always call Johnny Ray a fairy? You don’t know. Anyway, with a raft we can glide right up to the best spots.”

“Glide my ass! Rafts make noise bumpin’ into stumps ‘n things.”

“But the brim don’t hear it ‘cause they’re underwater.”

“Sound carries underwater, nitwit. An’ how we gonna’ steer the thing? Goddamn, if you don’t win the dummy prize!”

“Would you please stop takin’ the Lord’s name in vain?”

“It ain’t vain, Don, it’s on account of your idiot raft idea.”

“Pete, we need a raft, and we’re gonna’ have one!”

“What we’re gonna’ have is more trouble’n we know…”

“Trouble? What trouble could there be with a raft? Where is your imagination…your sense of…”

Without warning, the crash came. I wheeled toward the far bank, heart thumping in my chest. “Sssshh…” Pete urged with a signal for silence. Momentarily frozen, we scanned the undergrowth…

In the damp stillness there was only the buzz of insects against the current’s soft burble. We looked for the telltale shaking of a branch, a thin sapling bending unnaturally, a spastic rustling of leaves. But even our sharp, young eyes revealed only thick, green foliage and thorn bramble.

Awakened from a shaded slumber, our canine buddies stirred, heads lifted, nostrils flared to sift the vagrant air currents. Fuzzy assayed a tentative ‘Woof!’ and a subterranean rumble issued from Jeff’s massive chest. Finally, Pete snorted, “Prob’ly a coyote.”

“That was no coyote! Daddy says they only run at night and they’re silent as death unless they scare somethin’ up and all start yappin’. Anyway, those dogs would really be all riled if it was a coyote.”

“All right, a cow then.”

“Nah…wudn’t a cow. They’re clumsy. They’re…”

“Well, what then? Man with a hook?” He laughed nervously, the attempt at urban legend levity betrayed by his white-fingered grip on a hatchet handle. I knew he was scared, as scared as me. Pete was not that hard to read.

We lived on the edge of town a block apart, separated by a vacant lot. With a helping wind, I could sail a flat rock into his back yard. We became inseparable friends during the winter of seventh grade, soon after my family moved from Dallas. Pete was taller than me and a bit heavier. His dark eyes and generous mouth were accentuated by an olive complexion which made him appear older than his fifteen years. My tanned, “ruddy” skin highlighted bright blue eyes, uncommon in a family tree that bequeathed a swagger to my walk. Brown hair framed our ready smiles and we shared a flair for the dramatic. Our imaginations were rich and fertile, nurtured by an inordinate passion for reading. Jack London was my favorite, he doted on the Tarzan tales of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Every friendship is a partnership of sorts. In ours, I had the grand ideas and they always tended to involve considerable labor…which Pete went to great lengths to avoid. He would have been satisfied to fish until he was tired of it, then daydream on the bank; but once I conjured my vision of floating Ten Mile Creek on a raft, I was determined to build one and would not yield easily.

“You ever build a raft?” he asked, already knowing the answer.

“Nah, but it has to be simple. All we have to do is cut down some trees, trim off the branches, brace ‘em up, an’ tie ‘em together.”

“Simple? Brace up what with what?”

“Didn’t you ever read Huckleberry Finn?”

“I done forgot more about Huckleberry Finn than you’ll ever learn.”

“So you know we can do it,” I stated, as if I had proven something.

“I know you know as much about buildin’ a raft as I know about buildin’ an atomic bomb. An’ that was the Mississippi River, dummy, not Ten Mile Creek!”

“What’s the difference? Water’s water an’ trees are trees.”

He regarded that remarkable logic quizzically, then brightened. “What’s wrong with your dad’s little boat?”

He didn’t know it, but I’d already considered Daddy’s boat. He had built a small craft that fit on the roof of the car, and I had timorously advanced the idea that Pete and I might use it. The answer had been emphatically negative, extending to questions I should have thought of such as, “How would you get it back to where you started?” That eventuality had not dawned on me, and I elected not to pursue it because it could not be handily resolved; but there would be no admission of such an obvious oversight to Pete.

“Pete, that ol’ boat’s all rickety, an’ it leaks. An’ besides,” I posited sagely, “how would we ever get it down to the creek?”

“Put some wheels under it and tow it with our bikes?”

“Are you outta’ your mind? A raft’s the answer. We don’t need a motor n’ we can steer it with long poles. That’s how you steer rafts anyway.” He studied me with weary intent, then uttered a long sigh, which I knew signaled acquiescence.

We required tools and Daddy had every tool imaginable, but I wasn’t allowed near them unless he was supervising. Even then, he was impatient and unfailingly critical. A man of few words or associates, his tools were friends accumulated throughout his life. He was thoroughly familiar with each and treated them with great respect. After considerable agony and knowing the dangerous ground I was treading, I decided to borrow them without asking. That included the treasured blonde-handled hatchet Pete held as he continued looking over his shoulder across the creek. I deduced that he was still as nervous as I was …

“Well,” I said, finally breaking the silence, “It would take a pretty good-sized critter to get through stuff that thick.”

“You’ve heard the stories.”

“Beast of Ten Mile?”

“Comes down to water from the cedar breaks.”

“Aah… just another cock’n bull story. The only beast down here is the one in Bluehole.”

Pete beamed, “Yeah, the King, the Whopper, the Very Brim of Very Brims.”

“The Monster!” I almost shouted.

“You reckon he’s really big? I never seen a monster brim.”

“Well, Uncle Johnny said he gutted one once that’d swallowed a half-pound perch.”

“Come on, brim got these little bitty mouths.”

“Daddy says bluegills can go over three pounds.”

“I’ll believe that when I see it!”

“Or it could be a warmouth. They have big mouths, like a bass.”

“Reckon Uncle Johnny mighta’ been into the giggle water? Like I said, I’ll believe it when I see it.”

“Uncle Johnny don’t drink, he’s Baptist. An’ you’ll see it real quick ‘cause I’m gonna’ catch him soon as we finish this thing ‘n get down there.” I walked toward a stack of logs I’d set aside to be trimmed. Pete didn’t move.

“Hell, Don it’s hotter’n a eight page bible. We could be home in the shade, sippin’ iced tea.”

“Let’s just get on with it.” I said impatiently, unrolling a length of 3/8 inch rope I’d also helped myself to from Daddy’s tool-locker. As usual, I tackled tasks straightaway. Pete, on the other hand, had perfected procrastination. So I wasn’t surprised when he plopped down in the shade of a nearby pecan tree.

“Why don’t we just go catch some fish?” He grumped. “It’s way too hot for this, an’ I ain’t havin’ any fun. You always have to go an’ complicate things.”

“Come on,” I persevered, “let’s get back to work.”

Just moving was work. There was no breeze and the humidity hung heavy. With the ground still soggy from recent rains, we slopped through mud that sucked at our shoes. To make things worse, we were ravaged by mosquitoes and great clouds of gnats flew up our noses and lodged in the corners of our eyes. I remained nervous about whatever we’d heard and continued to sneak an occasional peek at the far shore. Pete seemed to have forgotten the incident.

“Jeeezus Don!” his whining litany continuing, “It’s hot as a whore’s dream down here!”

“Stop with the cussin’, damnit!” I snapped, increasingly exasperated. “Why don’t you just shut up, and help me tie these together?”

“Hot as a fresh plucked duck an’ we’s choppin’ down all these stupid trees. This whole deal is crazy anyways,” he muttered as he slapped murderously at the back of his hand, leaving a flattened mosquito and a generous blot of dark blood.

“Pete, don’t you know anything worth doin’ is worth some effort?”

“Well, that depends on what I’m doin’ n’ how much effort. An’ I dunno’ what I’m doin’, and the effort it’s took already is way too much.”

I sighed, “Such a whiner.”

Pete flicked away another blood-bloated mosquito. “Honest, whatta’ y’ reckon made that noise over there?”

You heard the same stories as me.” I answered, visually inspecting the far bank.

“I don’t believe everything I hear.”

“Yeah, but what if they’re true?” I continued, laying out several logs to tie off.

“No way. They’s just stories.”

“Well, stories or not. Let’s get to work. I don’t want to be down here too late.”

“You scared whatever it is ain’t gone, ain’t ya?”

“No.” I lied, refusing the bait. “I just don’t want to be down here at night.”

“Yeah, our folks’ll really be pissed if we get home after dark.”

“So shutup’n’ help me finish!” I grabbed the hatchet and walked briskly in the direction of some saplings. I cut down a few while Pete returned half-heartedly to tying off the ones we’d already trimmed. I was finished before he completed two rows.

“Crap!” I yelled, yanking the rope away from him. “Fuzzy ‘n Jeff are better help than you, and they’re dead to the world. Look at ‘em!” Both dogs were stretched out in the shade of the near bank. “There’s nothin’ more worthless than collies.”

“Like tits on a boar.” Pete grunted, inspired to finish another limb. Sweat dripped from his forehead like a faucet with a fast leak. “We could trade ‘em.” He teased.

“For Dalmations maybe?”

“Or a couple o’ fat little flop-eared Cockers.”

“Or chahoowahoowas, like old lady Burbridge’s.”

“That’s cha-wa-wa, idiot!” he chortled, “an’ her name is Chiquita, an’ if you point your finger at her, she’ll squat right there and piss…and that hacks old lady Burbridge off somethin’ fearful.”

“Yeah,” I laughed, “anything but collies!”

The reference to collies was an inside joke. Cindy, our little bitch that threw their litter, was a pedigreed collie, and I’d witnessed her mating with Rudi, a large neighborhood collie that we knew had papers. We assumed that when the pups arrived they’d be pureblood. The joke was on us. Five of the seven were plainly collies, but Fuzzy and Jeff were startling anomalies. Overhearing our attempts to puzzle that out, Pete’s dad patiently explained that a litter can have more than one sire, and that Cindy had obviously not held to the mating with Rudi. We considered that weighty information and came to suspect that a huge, free roaming chow was their sire. As they matured, we grew increasingly certain of it.

Pete’s pup, who he named Jeff, grew into a big rust-colored dog with a collie’s peculiar folding, or “tulip” ears and symmetrical build…only at close to eighty pounds, he was heavier than the biggest collie. It sorely vexed Pete that I refused to name my puppy Mutt.

Fuzzy was perpetually happy and called to mind Jacob’s coat of many colors. His ears flopped to either side of his huge head, and his conformation could best be described as “irregular”. He was a little heavier than Jeff; a burly mishmash of gray-black-brown-bronze-blonde buffoonery.

Where we went, they went- if they happened to be around - since leash laws were

non-existent and most dogs ran loose. If we left without them they usually tracked us down. Pete and

I came to understand that dogs intuit remarkably well; and neither of us was surprised that they considered us, our parents, and our siblings a single family unit to whom they felt equally responsible. They snoozed into late afternoon as we finished our craft.

“Looks good to me.” Pete said, tying the tools up in a bundle, glad to be finished.

“Good? It looks great! Let’s get her launched.”

The dogs briefly raised their heads. Insane!, they must have thought, before settling back down.

With knotted muscles rolling under slick, sweaty hides, and feet digging for purchase in the slippery slime, we heaved and pulled until our heavier-than-expected craft finally slid to the edge, then into the water.

“Hot dog!” I shouted, immediately jumping in, grabbing the raft and stabilizing it against the surprisingly swift current. Near the bank, the water was only waist-deep but it dropped off quickly. I tested the bottom ooze…squishing it through my toes. It was comfortable and cool, but the bubbles that rose to the top carried the stench of ancient rot. Fuzzy and Jeff grew curious about our activity and ambled over toward us.

“Hand me the gear!” I yelled.

Pete handed me two double half-hitch rigged cane poles and a small tackle box.

“Now the tools.” I instructed, placing our gear on the raft.

“Well, by your friggin’ leave, sir!” he said, handing me a bundle secured to one corner of the raft while ignoring my usual scowl at his profanity. I placed the bundle on the raft and Pete eased himself into the water.

“Ain’t this great?!” I shouted. “How’s she look?”

“Like the Queen Mary. Fine, I guess. Let’s get on board.”

I hesitated. “Where’s the bait?”


“Yeah, the salt pork. We can’t catch fish without bait, dummy.”

“Well, it was right here…with the…rest of the stuff I handed…”

Staccato barking erupted from the bank.

“Them sonofabitches!” Pete roared, “They must’a et it!”

“Ate our bait? Ate the salt pork?” I moaned. “Why didn’t you watch ‘em?”

Me? I got some sort’a patent on dog watchin’? Why didn’t you watch ‘em?”

I sighed heavily, glaring at him. “Well, don’t worry about it. We’ll just catch some crickets.”

“Never mind the crickets.” He grunted as he struggled to keep his end of the raft from sweeping away with the current. “I’m losin’ this thing!”

“Well, let’s get on then. But you shoulda’ watched the dogs.”

Pete rolled his eyes.

As we hoisted ourselves onto the raft, it immediately became obvious we had miscalculated. Instead of riding high and handsome on the gently flowing creek, we were barely afloat. In seconds, we weren’t even that…the water was up to our shoelaces; and the raft, now fully into the current, was slipping out from under us. The dogs padded up and down the bank barking excitedly.

“We’re movin’!” I yelled, as the current grabbed us.

“An’ we’re sinkin’!” Pete yelled back.

"Watch out! Don’t panic!”

“Goddammit!" he roared. “It’d help if you’d do somethin’ ‘cept holler don’t panic!”

“Hey! Watch it!” I yelled again, struggling for balance.

“Watch what, Don?” he grunted. “I be damned if you don’t screw around and drown us!”

We were both strong swimmers, so we weren’t going to drown, but we didn’t want to lose the product of all that sweat and mosquito bites. Our shouting increased along with the dogs barking as they ran along the bank paralleling our progress downstream. A word from either of us would have quieted them; but we had our hands full with the sinking raft.

Technically, we were still aboard but in water lapping at our ankles, adjuring and insulting each other; and it was all too much for the dogs. When we looked up again they were swimming determinedly toward us, deadly intent upon confronting the demons we had obviously blundered into. At the same time, I saw another reason to panic. “Save the tools!” I howled.

“Screw them tools.” Pete screamed back. I’m tryin’ to save the raft!”

“No, screw the raft! Those are Daddy’s…” but before I could finish, the dogs reached the raft and scrambled on board, clawing and scraping for a foothold.

Pete exhorted Jeff, “Stop it, Jeff! Get away!”

“Down, Fuzzy…down, boy!” I shouted, splashing water at him, trying to shove him aside.

“Down? Down on what you idiot?” Pete yelled incredulously. “They’re sinkin’ us now!”

“You gotta’ better idea? Then you do somethin’ dammit!”

“Jeff, you get away!”

“Oh, that’ll do it. That’ll do it all right!”

We quickly descended into tangled, spewing disarray. All the while, the current had carried us farther out and down the creek, and the green saplings were barely capable of supporting even their own weight, much less ours. The raft simply sunk. Now the creek-boat captains were reduced to two soggy boys attempting to look after two soggy dogs who were doing their best to protect the two soggy boys. Suddenly the task at hand was to ensure that all hands got back to the bank, now a fair distance away. The raft had vanished.

“Let’s get outta here!” I sputtered.

“No crap!” Pete agreed.

We turned and struck out for the bank in slow, rhythmic strokes, Fuzzy and Jeff dutifully paddling after us.

“You n’ your stupid raft.” Pete gurgled. “I told you somethin’ bad would happen”.

“Oh shut up!” I retorted, spitting water. “Where is it anyway?”

“Where’s what?”

“Where’s the raft?”

“Think Titanic!” Pete yelled, changing to a strong side stroke.

Reluctant to completely abandon it, I paused, treading water. Then I ducked under, determined to see if I could save our creation…at least, Daddy’s tools. Surprisingly, through the murk, I saw it a few yards away. I let the current carry me back the short distance and managed to gain a handhold. It appeared to be hung up on something, so I got a good grip, flailed my legs, and heaved as mightily as I could, trying to dislodge it…only to be rewarded with a fierce, stabbing pain in my right triceps.

The creek was habitat for a wide variety of animal life, some of it hostile, some of it dangerously venomous…and I feared I’d been stung or bitten by a critter of some kind. Panic seized me. I tried to jerk away and kicked hard for the surface, but the pain intensified so much that I thought maybe I’d been struck by a snake, or that a snapping turtle had locked onto me. A fire burned in my arm, but worse, whatever had me was trying to hold me under. I broke the surface in a fit of terror.

“Oh, my God, Pete!” I screamed. He turned and looked back. As I tried to pull toward him, something came up out of the water, followed by another jolt of pain. Blood ran down my arm and I clutched it against my chest, only to be spun around by the current. When I tried to pull away, the pain increased. I began to lose control. Pete realized I was in trouble and quickly stroked back to me.

“Don! Don’t move! Be still!” he commanded, holding me up.

“I can’t be still! It’s killin’ me!”

“It’s a goddamn hook!” Pete shouted, “Be still damnit!”

“A hook?” I groaned.

“A big fish-hook! An’ it’s tied onto …be still, I said!”

“I can’t! It hurts, dammit, it hurts! Get it out! Get this thing outta’ me!”

“Don, you’re snagged! It’s hooked deep! You gotta’ hold on a minute!”

Even as a teenager Pete had thick, strong, fingers, but his efforts at removing the hook were accomplishing nothing. It was awkward and clumsy for him since he was treading water only with his feet. Because of the barb, Pete saw that he’d have to work the big hook forward through tight skin and bunched muscle; and the remaining exposed shank gave him precious little with which to work. He pushed the hook forward tentatively and I screamed in agony. “What are you doin’?”

“Be still! I’ve gotta’ work it outta’ your arm!”

“You’re not helpin’!” I screeched.

With my free arm, I hung onto the tightly strung, heavy cotton line lying just below the surface. I couldn’t see it clearly, but it was obvious that whatever had snagged me had also snagged the raft, which surged back and forth with the current. The heavy raft was stretching the line, and the strain threatened to rip the hook through my arm or drag me under. Worse, there were other hooks every few feet, and Pete was being careful to ensure that neither he nor I were snagged by one of them. He finally grabbed the line and took the strain off the embedded hook. At the same time he was desperately treading water to stay afloat and beginning to tire. I went under again, lost contact with him, and knew I was going to drown. No, no! I thought, not today and fought upward.

Forcing my face above water, I held there briefly; but as I looked around, Pete had disappeared. I felt something bump into me underwater and had jangled thoughts of his drowned body being forced into me by the current. Strangely, fear dissipated to be replaced by comfortable despair. I thought about my family, wondered how they’d deal with losing me. I envisioned my friends and classmates, wondering if they’d even cry. And the team…Who would play quarterback this fall?

Then Pete surfaced like a breaching whale. He bellowed, “Hold on!” took three deep breaths, turned turtle and disappeared beneath the surface. Seconds later the pressure lessened. He was doing something; and, if nothing else, Pete was at his most resourceful in the face of a challenge. I clung to the faintest of hopes as the bubbles of his escaping breath appeared in front of me.

Then I was free. The hook was still in my arm, attached to a short piece of cotton line, badly frayed at the other end; but I was free of whatever had been holding me. Then a waterlogged Pete surfaced. “Sonofabitch!” he snarled, spitting bits of frayed line. “It’s a trotline!” he yelled, lifting a heavy line out of the water to reveal short, dangling lines with hooks tied every few feet, some baited, some bare.

“A trotline?” I whimpered, pain clouding my ability to think.

“It’s my trotline!” a deep voice boomed from the opposite bank. “And you little bastards done mucked it up.”

Our heads whipped toward the voice.

“You deaf? I said you done mucked up my trotline!”

Pete and I looked at each other. “Garrison.” Pete whispered. My heart sank and fear knotted the pit of my stomach.

Dee Garrison was the stuff of local legend. Rumors of him and his crazy brother had long plagued our imaginations; but in our wildest inventions we never expected to find ourselves in a confrontation with him. Yet there he stood, all one-hundred-ninety pounds, white skin stark against the dark green undergrowth, glowering like a bad dream.

“I’m sorry, we didn’t know it was there!” I heard myself say just as the heavy raft snapped the trotline with a muffled “pop”, and a long section of it ripped across the water, silver hooks flashing in the sunlight. Garrison reacted like a man possessed. “There goes my fuckin’ trotline!” he screamed, “all that work an’ money I done spent!”

We struck out for the far side of the bank.

It was him that made that noise. He was watching us the whole time.

Exhausted, we pulled up onto the near bank, thankful that Garrison was on the other side. We were catching our breath when he roared, “Who’s payin’ for my goddamn trotline?”

Pete and I looked at each other. Turning to Garrison, his eyes narrowed as he yelled, “We ain’t got time for this, Garrison! My buddy’s hurt and I gotta’ get him to the doctor!”

“Screw you and your goddamn buddy! Somebody’s payin’ for my trotline!”

“Well, we ain’t got no money and we ain’t payin’,” Pete dismissed him with, what seemed to me, a gauntlet.

What’s he doing?

“By God it’s your money or your ass!” Garrison bellowed, splashing through the shallows in our direction. He was a third of the way across before the water deepened to the point he had to swim. He crossed quickly in strong, sweeping strokes. The pain in my arm was replaced by raw fear. For the second time that day, I was ready to run.

“This here’s Garrison proppity, y’ know. Y’all tresspassin’!” He yelled, standing up in the knee deep shallows on our side. “Now, who’s gonna’ pay?”

Let it alone! He doesn’t mean it. He’s just mad about his trotline.

“Garrison, you deaf ? You ain’t gettin’ nothin’ from us. What is it you don’t unnerstan’ about that?” Pete yelled back defiantly.

Oh, crap!

Now, Garrison was beside himself with rage. He was big and threatening and, while Pete would never admit it, I knew he was as scared as I was. But regardless of our trepidation, Fuzzy and Jeff were singularly unimpressed. To those two, the equation was very simply balanced. A human threatened their gods...but he was only human, and no match for the slashing savagery they brought to a fight. The only course of action they knew was to attack, and sepulchral warnings issued from two heavily muscled chests as they placed themselves between Garrison and us.

“You do them dogs a big favor t’ keep ‘em offa’ me,” Garrison warned, but the words were somehow absent their former conviction.

One- hundred -sixty pounds of unrequited malevolence stiff-legged their way to the water’s edge, thick ruffs bristling, ears laid back, lips wrinkled and lifted to reveal gleaming ivory daggers…all amid a hideous duet of rising and falling growls and hoarse, chopping barks.

“I tole you I ain’t afraid o’ yore muckin’ dogs.”

“You better be!” I shouted. “They’re trained to kill!”

“Yeah,” Pete challenged, reinforcing my bluff. “Since you so brave, jist get all of ‘em you think you can handle. They’ll tear your throat out!”

The dogs continued their resolute advance toward Garrison, who abruptly backed into deeper water. “I catch you little suckheads down here agin I’ll stomp yall’s asses.” He turned, stroked quickly across to the far bank. Once on the other side, he stood up and shouted. “You little crapheads ain’t seen the last ‘a me!” He turned and disappeared into the brush. We both ushered a sigh of relief.

“Come on”, Pete said, “Let’s get outta’ here.”

A wave of nausea swept over me and I remembered the deeply embedded hook. Intense pain returned. Pete regarded me with what might pass for sympathy in a normal human.

“It’s gonna’ hurt when the doc digs that out.”

“Thanks for reminding me, dummy. And what is your problem anyway? Are you crazy? Were you tryin’ to start trouble with that guy?”

He shrugged. “Don, he was the one lookin’ for trouble, not me. An’ what was that about Fuzzy ‘n Jeff ‘trained to kill’?” He laughed.

“I had to come up with something. You were about to get us killed.” I laughed with him, ignoring the throbbing pain.

“Did you see the look on that bastard’s face?” Pete continued, laughing louder.

“Yeah, yeah! He believed it! He believed it! Oh, God my arm hurts!”

“I know, I know!” He screamed hoarsely, laughing even harder…

Our laughter grew, turning into guffaws of released tension. Finally, lack of oxygen forced us to stop with exhaustion. Pete, laboring to breathe, reminded me, “Your dad’s gonna’ be pissed about his tools…an’ don’t you go tellin’ him I’m the one that lost ‘em.”

All I could do was shake my head and go on hurting. “Pissed” would represent the best possible outcome. We emptied the water from our shoes and Pete wrung out our shirts. My arm was on fire.

“That sucker’s crazy.” Pete said offhandedly.


“And so are we…floatin’ down the cool, green creek…”

“Mighta’ made it if they hadn’t got in the middle.” I interrupted, nodding toward Fuzzy and Jeff. Pete snickered, watching the dogs maintain an alert watch down Garrison’s direction of retreat.

We didn’t tell our parents about Garrison, fearing they’d bar us from our beloved creek. My wounded arm somewhat mitigated Daddy’s anger over the lost tools. A few days later we looked for the raft with no success and figured it had washed on down to the Trinity River. After a while, we forgot all about Garrison. There were more important things to consider…after all, it was 1954.

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