Friday, February 22, 2013

The Boy and the River

A boy lived with his family, as most boys do. His family consisted of his Father, his Mother, his older Sister, his other older Sister, and his older Brother.

The family lived isolated by a great river. This river supplied millions of gallons of water daily to a very large city. The very large city was considering damming the river to create a reservoir, because demand for water had skyrocketed. This was due to many factors, principally being that many people had moved from other places to the very large city. They planned to use the reservoir for times of drought, when the river was reduced to a trickle. The family feared losing their house to the impending construction project.
As the city grew, the night sky became less dark. On the horizon to the west, there was a faint glow where there was once a spilt treasure chest of stars. To the east, the stars still contrasted spectacularly against the dark universe.

The boy, his Brother, and his Father would go for hikes through the hills and canyons surrounding their house most nights. Sometimes the rest of the family would join.

One night the boy wished to go for a hike. He finished his supper, cleared his plate, and requested that his Father and Brother join him. His Father declined, “Another night. There’s a storm coming our way that I would not like to get caught in.”

The next night, the storm was still going. The river was rising. This was not a time of drought.

The water rushed and rushed and rushed. The family stayed indoors and went about their lives normally. They read, or worked on a puzzle, or played a board game. Wind and rain swirled around the isolated house but the family was protected inside.

The residents of the very large city attended to their business as usual. The storm had not reached the city. To them, it was of no concern.

As the wind and rain beat upon the many structures, some of the structures failed. Trees split in two. Fences toppled over. But the house, stronger than these, stood still.

Near the house a wood post fell. The difference between the tree and the post (and this proved to be catastrophic) was that the post held electric lines that ran to the house. The electricity in the house went out and the house went dark and cold. The family did not worry.

When the post fell, the transformer at the top burst as it hit the ground. It blew sparks and tiny explosions all around. The sparks sparked a grass fire that grew to a brush fire that grew to a tree fire that grew to a forest fire. Pretty soon inside the house was lit up again from the glow of the growing fire. The Father and the Mother looked out the window at the approaching flames and began to worry. They looked at each other and whispered short sentences to each other. They said things like, “That is awfully close.” “I don’t think it will reach us.” “The rain should put out the flames.” “This will be a mess come morning.”

The fire moved at a safe distance from the house. It moved around and around as flames usually move. It consumed oxygen to the left and the right, but not toward the house. Pretty quickly, a circle of fire surrounded the house and trapped it against the river. The flames stayed at a safe distance away from the house. By now the whole family had gathered at different windows, watching the spectacle with eyes wide open.

The water in the river rose.

The winds changed and the fire spread toward the house. The radius of flame encircling the house shrunk until complete terror set in. The Mother and  the Father realized that night their house would be ablaze.

“Quick, out the door!” Shouted the Father.

“Hurry! Hurry! Don’t worry about anything!” Implored the Mother.

The family rushed out the front door and the heat from the fire warmed their faces. The rain dampened their hair. Everyone was frantic.

All eyes shot around looking for a hole in the fire. None appeared as the fire approached. The only exit appeared to be the raging river.

The Father commanded everyone to return to the house to grab a piece of furniture to float on. He turned over the kitchen table and kicked off its legs. He rushed out the back door towards the water. The boy grabbed a wooden chair, and his siblings followed suit.

The family reached the banks of the now vast river. They held their pieces of furniture tight in their hands. Some kept them over their heads, some at their side, the table where they had eaten their supper that evening lay on the soaked soil. In panic they searched for a point to enter the water as the fire caught the front of the house. It devoured the many fine things inside. Blankets and rugs became fuel, the roast pig in the fire’s feast.

At that same time, a council in the large city voted in favor of the dam project. They were unaware of the plight of the family.

With their house ablaze the family entered the waters, all clinging to handcrafted furniture. The boy’s oldest Sisters tightly clutched the chairs they had brought. The Mother, the boy’s youngest Brother, and the Father grabbed the door. The Father instructed, “Get to the other shore as soon as you can. Use your legs to move and keep your head above water.”

The boy hesitated. He turned to look at the only home he had known swallowed in flames. The fire moved devilishly towards the boy.

He turned to see his family struggling to keep from drowning as the rapids washed around and over them.

He felt the temperature rise as the heat thing got close.

He gripped tighter around the seat of the chair and jumped in the vast river.

The boy wrestled his chair for supremacy. It took him down under the water and he fought back to get on top. They tussled back and forth and back and forth until they crashed into a boulder. Most of the force of the blow was given to the chair. The boy caught a good hit on his left leg, getting smashed between the current and the piece of granite.

The boy let go of the collapsed chair. Now was the time to float alone and hope for the best. He stuck his legs out straight to the important parts of his body from hitting boulders. He laid out on his back and let the current pull him downstream. His leg throbbed in pain.

After floating for around 30 seconds, the boy knew he needed to get to a safe place. He flipped his legs under his torso so he could get a good look around. He kicked his legs and thrust his arms about trying to get his momentum slowed down. He saw a shoreline he could get to if he swam.

He turned in the direction of the shoreline. The current pushed downstream as he pushed sideways. He kicked mostly with his right leg. He kicked hard and pushed fiercely. His head sank deeper and deeper into the water. His mouth filled with water, his eyes they shook, he lunged for the bank.

A hand caught his. He looked up to see his Father. He pulled the boy up onto a patch of gravel with the rest of his family.

They looked across the river and upstream to the glow from the fire that consumed their home. They sat and watched and didn't say a word. The boy looked up at the stars looking for some kind of divine help. He sat there looking up for a very long time.