Tuesday, June 20, 2006

I Say Float, You Say Where (pt 2)

Ten minutes later and the dusty yellow school bus is rolling over the grassy lot, idling loudly and with mildly disturbing puffs of black smoke from the tailpipe. The ten of us, along with a various assortment of true redneck individuals who proceeded to incessantly imitate that gold-toothed, floppy haired individual known only as “Lil John,” boarded the bus and took seats on green pleather cracked and split from years of band trips and morning pick-ups, not to mention the added bonus of overweight hillbillies and their soaking wet jean shorts masquerading as swimming trunks.

On the twenty minute ride in Unairconditioned Splendor, Lilleee did her very best to allay my fears. I, of course, was still struggling with the realization that when Arkansans say “float” they do not, in fact, mean “float.” They mean canoe. With paddles. Over rapids. FOR FUN.

I’ll stop the story here and explain that while a canoe doesn’t scare me, paddling it down a river full of rocks and rapids and currents and creepy river creatures not only scares me, it kind of makes me want to curl into a wee little ball and sing nursery rhymes. Whenever those commercials come on that show people flying down a river in a yellow floating raft, their paddles flailing about, completely ineffectual against the RAGING CURRENT AND ALL, I close my eyes for fear that one day one of those commercial makers won’t pay enough attention and they’ll include footage of someone’s happy smiling face contorting into bowel-loosening fear as they are bumped from their river ride, head first onto an awaiting jagged, protruding rock.

Because when it’s Head vs. Rock, Rock always wins.

At the drop-off site everyone de-boarded the bus with their Coleman ice chests filled with delicious and nutritious snacks of sliced apples and crackers, if sliced apples and crackers are really cases of Natty Light and processed meats shaped in phallic formations. So Lilleee and I proceeded to pick out our canoe and paddles, all while I attempted to hold back the chewy bacon and over-easy eggs from that morning’s Camp Regulated breakfast. We gingerly stepped into our chosen Canoe-o-Death, me in front, Lilleee in back. Theoretically, as Lilleee is much shorter and lighter than myself, those roles should have been reversed. But I think my clenched jaw and white face convinced her that an even distribution of weight meant nothing if we didn’t have someone in back who was capable of using the paddle for more than an attack weapon against the curving, hanging vines and gnarly tree trunks.

As a group we pushed off together thanks to the not-so gentle hands of the river guides, all of whom were highly amused at my state of frozen distress. We got all of two football fields down the river when I saw the first batch of rapids looming in the distance and without thinking I began to paddle backwards, attempting to somehow reverse the canoe towards shore. Then I swiveled around to Lilleee and said:

“Fezik, are there rocks ahead? If there are, we all be dead!”

I think I kind of frightened her a bit because she started talking to me in that voice people use when they’re trying not to distract a rabid dog or an inmate that’s spent a lot of time in solitary. But no matter how many times she told me that everything was fine, no one was going to die, the rocks were tiny and insignificant and that she would bodily throw herself in harms way should my head show any signs of attacking a rock, I just couldn’t fathom spending ten more hours in that flimsy metal canoe. Especially without a helmet and a prescription for Valium.

So I pulled my paddle out of the water, the one that had been attempting to defeat not only Lilleee’s normal forward-moving paddling but the river current as well and placed it on my lap, my head resting on my knees. I took two deep breaths, told myself to stop quoting The Princess Bride and get out of the canoe already because say what you will, I accept the fact that I’m a giant weenie and you know what? This giant weenie still has a head with a firmly attached cranium, not to mention a total lack of bloody gushing gaping holes in said cranium.

Once out of the canoe I realized the quandary in which I had most securely placed myself. The current was too strong and the river too deep for me to walk/swim back to the drop off point. The remaining campers, the majority of whom I’d never met in my life, continued to stare in abject horror at the girl Lilleee had brought as a camping buddy, one who was exhibiting qualities displayed by ‘those’ girls, the ones who squeal at bugs or put makeup on before an all-day river trip. I hadn’t put any makeup on and I wasn’t audibly squealing at bugs but I was most definitely having a hissy fit to end all hissy fits and hardcore campers just do not have hissy fits. Plus, they tend to look down on those individuals, specifically me, who make it quite clear that come hell or high water, they are NOT getting back in that canoe.

After a brief discussion that involved one camper moving into the forward seat I’d previously vacated and one poor (and already vastly intoxicated) kid becoming the lone captain of his canoe, Lilleee tells me to remember to get on the bus to White Oak Campground, not the one to Shady Pines.

“Don’t forget,” she says again. “The bus to White Oak, not Shady Pines”


Carl from L.A. said...

OMG, a cliffhanger

rob said...

Because when it’s Head vs. Rock, Rock always wins.

Nu-uh...head covers rock.

leahpeah said...

anybody want a peanut?

lilylala said...

all i can say is i love you and although i am very sad that you did not make it down the river with us, you did get a FREE candy bar and soda! good job! how is the diabetes?