June 3, 2010

Muddy Waters

The two of us stood at the edge of the road. The pavement was hot, hot enough that I could feel it through the thick calluses on my bare feet. The street we stood on was lined with trees, it’s entire surface coated in the mottled shadows of leaves. We were in the edge of this darkness, at the barrier.

In front of us, to the left and right, was a stone wall. The wall was unbroken, unworn by time or use. The stones fit perfectly next to each other, the cement was smooth, and the barrier, despite the fact it came up barely past my waist, seemed insurmountable. We had been walking alongside the wall for a time, as we had finally turned left from Julie’s house and gone away from the beach, and now, right here, there was a wall.

In the wall, at the place where we had stopped, was a gap. It was as wide as the three of us if we stood shoulder to shoulder, so a hair wider than the usual door. The sunlight seemed to push outwards from the smooth lawn beyond, and the only thing blocking us was a single chain hanging across the gap. The lawn was small, barely bigger than my garage, but at the end was a wooden dock that glowed in that way that metal ones couldn’t, and beyond that, the mud.

“I want to go in,” said Karen.

“I really don’t think we should, though.”

“But it looks so nice.”

“It’s somebody’s yard, though,” I said.

“I want to feel the sun,” said Karen. “I’m going in.”

She ducked under the chain and turned around, expectant. I looked at Julie.

“You go,” she said.

I considered ducking the chain, but a closed gate was a closed gate, so I went to the wall, the smooth-cut wall, pushed my arms on it, and hoisted myself up. My ankle caught on the corner, and I felt a slight snag before my entire foot caught, and I tumbled off of the wall into the light grass. I stood up immediately and looked out at the lot. The grass, even while I stood on it, seemed unreal, but the dock looked as if it would be more tangible. I walked towards it, to it, stepped onto it. I could feel Karen, who stood still by the gate, watching me. I stepped forward again. I moved closer to the shore, then closer, and then I was at the edge of the dock. I looked down to see the water and discovered that it was mud, dark and thick. I bent, picked up a pebble, and dropped it into the muck. It rested on the surface, not rippling, not sinking. I stared at it, entranced.

Karen came up behind me. “What are you doing?”

“Look.”

She moved next to me, then looked down at the rock.
We stood in silence. I looked up, following the muck. There was water, out there, but the mudflat stretched out all the way to the island in the middle of the river. I looked at it, wondering what was there. Karen’s eyes were still on the pebble, and her gaze was calculating.

“Do you think,” she asked, “that it could hold us, too?”

“Probably not.”

“But would we sink all of the way?”

“I dunno.”

“I’m going to try it.”

“But you’ll get your pants dirty.”

“Fine.” She undid the tie and took them off, hanging them on a support. “I’m going in.”

“Wait.”

“What?”

“I’m taller than you. If we’re testing for the bottom, I should go first, because I’m less likely to sink over my head.”

“Okay.” She looked at me expectantly.

I shucked my own pants and hung them atop hers before sitting on the edge of the dock. I stuck my legs out in front of me, not touching the mud.

“That won’t work.”

I made an annoyed noise, then began to lower my heels. The right made contact first. The mud was cool. It held under my foot, its surface bending as I pressed downwards. I lowered the other foot, pointed my toes, and slipped in.

“Do you feel a bottom?”

“Not really, but…” I wiggled my toes around a bit, feeling the chilled pressure along my skin, between my toes.

“But what?”

“It feels strong.”

“What?”

“We won’t sink.”

“If you say so.” She prepared to leap in.

“Don’t jump.”

She came and sat next to me, pressed in her feet, then stood. She sunk slowly until the mud was just past her knees. She lifted her leg, stepped forward, then looked back at me.
I stood, and I sank. The mud rose, slowly, pushing up and up till it stopped, about a foot higher than it had started. I lifted my left foot, pulling against it, then cleared the surface. The mud sucked into place beneath me, and my foot felt suddenly free. I lowered it again, this time further, and repeated the process with my right leg. Whenever my leg came up, the mud was dirty, grasping, grimy. When it went in, it was calm and warm and good.

Karen had already progressed a good ten feet. “Are you coming or not?”

“Coming where?”

“The Island.”

“Oh.” I stayed where I was, wiggling my toes, feeling. “Isn’t the mud enough?”

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