Arkansas Postcard

Miles and I are looking dubiously at Jack, at the river, back to Jack, back to the river. Jack: “Well, this was my idea, so I guess I should go first.” By a long shot, this wasn’t the only river we’ve had to cross on the trip. But in the dark, with a drizzle, not having had much to eat today, not to mention, though it’s hard to tell in our headlamp light, that this one looks broad and fast nor do we know how deep. Jack is continuing that after all, he’d been down this section in his Jeep some weeks ago and he didn’t remember it going much above the axles.

We shuffle in, water temperature is pleasant enough. Jackets have been just to keep our merino dry from the precip, but otherwise a shorts and t’s day. I follow, beam wagging and skittering across ripples. Jack stops and looks back like he’s forgotten something very precious. We’re basically idiots at this point. It would be the simplest thing to backtrack and take the cutoff. Adds six miles, a little bit of climbing. We don’t care about the time, we’ve ridden in the dark virtually every day on this tour.

He’s halfway across and the water looks to be at his waist. Wrestling with something, his sense, sure, but also the bike. It’s leveraged off of his shoulder, planing up high, kinda looks like an unusual dance. I’m seeing the whole thing floating off, we’d be fine but certainly irritated about the long swim and finding and fetching kit downstream. Jack’s talking but can’t be heard, later when I’m standing right there it will seem more plausible that he was talking to himself. I’m loving that it’s so dark. By which I mean the towering colossal stupid.

Jack’s across. Miles is standing next to me and I’m explaining variations on the concept of foolishness, and he heads out into a struggle and I’m sure it doesn’t matter that both J and M are like five inches taller than I am. Now Miles is back without a bicycle—I didn’t see it float off, but I didn’t not see it do that, either—and is sputtering and blinking. “At University I took a class on swift river rescue!” I nod. “They taught us, ” I lean in to hear, “that the little guy,” that would be me, presumably, “walks downstream in the wake of the big guy,” evidently Miles in this imaginary scenario, “and everyone locks elbows.”

So I shoulder my bike, we lock elbows.