On the Canada Day long weekend, Elsie and I borrowed a river house and frolicked among the huge lazy mosquitoes.
We had never been there before, and wanted to swim or paddle, but discovered that the river is rapids in front of the house. Canadian shield, steep drop, trees. We hatched a plan to blow up a wide air mattress, tether it to a tree and bob around on the water. We had a kind of sedate resort experience in mind, not an out of control Huck Finn adventure.
With more forethought than usual, I tied a rope onto the edge of the blue floaty thing, and we tossed it into the water. Paddle in hand, Elsie threw herself like a seal onto it, and instantly got swirled away in the current. I yanked her back, hurled myself (more like a walrus) onto the surface, and immediately started trying to grab for trees to tie ourselves to – if we got swept downriver, we’d never get back.
There was a small dock half submerged about 25 metres down the river, and we paddled madly for it. I scrambled onto it, finding my footing like the tilting funhouse floors my dad loved when I was a kid, and managed to tie a knot into a ring on the edge of the dock. We looked up and the cottage up the bank seemed to be empty, so tethered to this random dock, we bobbed lazily for about half an hour, sunlit, comparing brands of board shorts and sporty bikini tops. Summer, slow-moving huge mosquitoes mostly left on shore, water. Perfection.
Then, an angry bark, and a bounding beagle. A man on the bank, total chaos of sitting up too quickly, being flung off the floaty thing into strong current, attempts to right ourselves, awkward chatter with the guy on the dock. “You’re from over there? Yah, I’m not so welcome on their property.”
Sudden realization that we were two women in bathing suits, tethered to a stranger’s dock, as he watched us bob around.
“You hang out as long as you want — I’m just going to work on my bunkie here.” Watching us from the window.
The current made it impossible to get back upriver on the floaty thing. We had to climb up his property. Huge apologies for using his dock, for being on his property. Trying to walk quickly, wet and barefoot, the familiar summer feel of gravel road under your feet.
And then we saw the front of the cottage.
“What do you think that bunkie is FOR?”
Scurrying away, feet prickling with gravel, awkward air mattress a buffer.