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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

"Still Waters" Chapter Five

One of the reasons these chapters come slowly is I continue to tweak and revised posted chapters—usually to better improve dialogue or provided more dimension to character or theme. The following "theme" detail was added to Chapter 3: "Big Rapids was a bit of a misnomer. There had been rapids a century or so before when water rushed around the boulders that had broken from the rocky banks as the river carved its way through time, but over the recent decades the boulders that made the river dangerous had been removed by various canoe rental business in an effort to extend the life of their fleet. The only rapids that remained were engineered for effect in the shady city park."

For the same purpose, I added some details water/rock details to Chapter 4. Here is an example of one such change:

"He had found work in Kansas with a construction company that was building a dam for a new nuclear plant. The site was chosen for both its water supply and the fact that it rested on a bed of limestone that could be quarried out to make the dam and the hole that would become the cooling reservoir beside the plant.

The nuke plant itself did not yet exist and would not operate for another five years. First the world around the site would be transformed from parched, rocky soil to a gorgeous lake. It was a sobering thought to James when he was first told that the place he would spend the next three months would someday be forever under water."

I also added significantly more detail about the crushing of rock to make the dam. You may find chapter 4 worth re-reading. Along with those changes, I provided the following additional details about James, Sam, and Clair:

From Chapter 4: James trusted Sam, and come mid-August, he turned in his Bobcat keys and became not a Quaker but a college freshman at Riverdale College. The school's roots were still Quaker, but its enrollment had broadened somewhat in recent years to a general mix of conservative people of faith. It suited James fine. He was twenty-six at the time.

Sam graduated a year before James, who by then had met an attractive Riverdale graduate who worked in the library and typed papers for a dollar a page. Clair McNeal happened to be from Kansas, thirty miles from that rock quarry where he had worked three years before. That fact alone seemed too providential for James to ignore.

What began as a business transaction became regular meetings for lunch; then Sundays to church and dinner; then pretty much pleasantly presumed days with Clair who eventually began refusing payment for typing James’ papers. "You might need to start saving your money," she'd say, trying to hide a smile.

James stayed on for grad school at Riverdale; saved up for a ring; got engaged (She had gotten over the fact that her name would be Clair Sinclair on about their third date) ); earned his masters; and married Clair in the summer of 1980. Two weeks before their wedding, James accepted a teaching position there at Riverdale. Clair kept her job in the library, and the next twenty-five years turned like pages in the wind.

Chapter Five

Without  missing a beat, the Flashmap directions took Dr. Sinclair to the last right turn that took them over a bridge of the Muskegon River where they could see Porch Rock Inner Tube Livery was nestled below. To all of their surprise, the livery had indeed been a livery, a horse livery way back when. The place still had the charm of a bygone era: mossy shake shingles, weathered barn wood, hitching posts, and fence-rows festooned with idle inner tubes.

From up on the bridge, they saw a large group of older teens carrying tubes on their shoulders or overhead to the river like ants carrying cake crumbs across a picnic blanket.

“Wow. This is busier than I thought it would be,” James said.

“It is the weekend,” Clair reminded.

“Cool,” Anna said, sitting up in the back seat.

As they reached the bottom of the bridge, an old school bus now painted blue turned into the driveway ahead of them. The bus was about half full of sunburned faces staring blankly out the windows. Behind the bus was a tall trailer enclosed in chain-link fence with stacks of interwoven inner tubes inside.

“See, girls? That’s how this works. We put in the river here, and then they pick us up down stream and bring us back to our car.”

“How far down the river?” Kenzie asked.

“There are two float prices,” James explained. “One takes an hour, according to the brochure, and the other takes three hours.”

“Let’s take the three-hour one,” Anna said.

“Yeah,” Kenzie agreed, “I want it to last a long time.”

They parked the minivan in what had been a pasture years before. It was still unpaved grass that seemed pressed down by tires rather than mowed.

“Leave one of your two water bottles here for when we get back. I’ll put the other ones in this mesh bag.”

“Here. Put this sunscreen in there, too.”

“Let's put it on here," James suggested. "I don't want to carry a lot of stuff in case we need room in the bag for things we might find,"

"Things we may find?" Clair asked.

"I might find some nice stones to add to the waterfall I made this morning," James smiled, handing her the sunscreen.

"Don't expect me to carry them," Clair warned.

"They'll be light in the water." James said.

“Should we take our towels?” Kenzie asked.

“Not if you want them dry,” Clair said, happy to change the subject.

“We're traveling light. It’s just us and the tubes and the raging rapids of the Rama-lama-dingdong.” James said in mock bravado, making up a name for some fierce and mysterious jungle river.

“Oh, brother!” said Anna, taking her father’s arm as she had in the yard.

As they approached the livery, James began singing a short jingle out of the blue:

“Long time. Long time. Chewy, chewy Tootsie Rolls last a long time.”
[Notes: A-G...octave up A-G.........E-E..........C-C.........E-E........C...octave down A-G-A-C]

He sang it twice, seemingly unaware that he was doing so or why. He had actually been hearing the jingle deep in his subconscious ever since Kenzie said, “I want it to last a long time,” referring to their tube ride. That statement had triggered the jingle from his childhood, and it had been carried like a leaf down a tiny creak in his mind, then to a larger estuary in his consciousness until it babbled out of his mouth in song. He sang it again. “Long time. Long time. Chewy, chewy Tootsie Rolls last a long time.” This time he was aware he was singing, remembered the conversation that prompted it, and smiled at how the mind works.
“Did you bring Tootsie Rolls,” Kenzie asked.

“No, I’m just singing an old commercial and it's all your fault," he joked. "It’s hard to explain why.”

But he did try to explain. He told of an old Saturday morning commercial about a boy eating a tootsie roll at the matinee, about how at the end of the commercial the narrator sang that jingle like a lullaby, about how her words triggered the jingle that had been lost like a marble way down in the dusty arm-corners of a couch somewhere in his mind and then POOF there it was after all those years.  He sang it again. Kenzie joined in, and by the time they were done, the whole family was standing at the counter inside the livery.

“Four of you today,” said a man in his fifty's holding a clipboard with a pen dangling from a string. There was a remnant of southern accent in his voice that suggested he was not from Michigan. He tossed the first two inner tubes on top of warn wooden counter.

“Yes, four,” said Clair.

“We throw in an extra tube for a cooler for just five bucks,” said the man.

“For a cooler?” James asked.

“Right-sized cooler squeezes right in the tube,” the man explained. “Great for picnic lunches or whatever else you want to keep cold,” he said with a wink to James.

“Ahhh… no,” James said, “We’re all set. Won’t be needing a cooler.”

“Taking the one-hour or three-hour trip?” the man asked with a pen poised over a piece of paper.

“Three hour,” Kenzie said, “We want it to last a long time.”

“And don’t start singing, Dad.” Anna added.

But in truth he had never stopped singing the jingle in his head. James leaned over to Kenzie’s ear and sang, “Chewy, chewy Tootsie Rolls last a long time.”

“Sign here,” said the man, “It’s just a waiver saying there’s a $20 fee for damaged tubes and we’re not responsible for anything that happens on the river.That'll be $25.44 with tax. Pick whichever tubes you want outside the door to the right.”

James put $25.50 on the counter, skimmed over the full page of legal jargon and scribbled his name at the bottom of the page.

“You’ll want to get out of the river just little ways past ‘Fools Hill.' You’ll see a little sign and some wooden stairs. Don’t miss it. The current picks up past there and our busses don’t go no further than that spot.

“Fools Hill?” James asked.

“There's another name the locals call it, but when there's ladies present, I call it 'Fools Hill.' We got nothing to do with it, but you’ll hear it, and that’s when you know to get on the left side of the river to get out. A bus runs every hour. Last bus pick-up is at 6:00 PM, but you should be there in time in to catch the five o’clock bus.”

“That’s only two-and-a-half hours from now.” James said, looking at his watch. "The brochure said three hours."

“Three hours is just a guesstimate. Depends on how high the river is. River’s up from that last rain. You might want to avoid that last bus run. It’s awful crowded and all. We send two or three busses at 6:00 just to get all the stragglers. It’s up to you.

“We’re just going with the flow today,” James said. “We may stop here and there along the way. If we don’t make the five, that’s fine.”

“It’s up to you,” the man said. “Ya’ll have fun.”

With tubes on their shoulders, they began walking the long path to the water's edge.

"I think we should shoot for that 5:00 bus," said Clair.

"Oh, come on, Clair. Let's not rush this. We have no schedule to meet today."

"I didn't like the sound of what that man said," Clair whispered so the girls did not hear.

"What? The crowded busses?" James whispered back, "Being squeezed in a bus never killed anyone."

Clair dismissed her concerns and was not sure why she had them. If her husband had not been preoccupied with the jingle in his head, he might have connected the man's conversational dots that fell like pennies on the counter.

[The old jingle Dr. Sinclair recalled is at the end of this video clip.]



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