Qualified Entry: Fiction Category
By: J.R. McRae
The first we know, is the sound, something behind the rain, a dull roaring, then the water, dark, venomous, whirling through the door with such force it knocks furniture over. I grab Ma’s hand and we pull each other along by fixtures out to the back veranda.
We sort of haul each other up on the railings and I half shove, half lever her onto the flat patio roof. Damn, I ‘m glad I kept those blasted weights up even though Dad laughed at me and scoffed, “Who d’ya think ya are, Shrimp?” Well, I reckon my arms were up for it. Like to have seen George manage against those waters. Yeah!
All the time we’re pulling, shoving and heaving, that dark brown soup’s pulling at us like a demon. I swear it has fingers and nails. Ma reaches down to me, “C’mon, son! Quick!” Just then something furred brushes my leg. Bindy! Our dog. Couldn’t leave her, not on your life! Ma swears as I hand a wriggly bundle of wet terrier-kelpie-cross up into her big rough hands just as the railing I’m standing on gives way, dropping me into the drink.
I hit my head on something as I go under and think this is it. Pain and a sense of tearing come next, but it only dulls me a moment. I fight for the surface. It takes forever and I c’n swim. I’d won all my school age races! That damn terdy soup tears at me, claws at me; all sorts of stuff shoving and bumping past me and over me. Then black goes grey and I think, “C’m on mate! C’m on!”
Reckon I shoot up like a cork when it’s held down. The air’s so good! Note to self: George can have the bloody smokes. I taste blood tricking over my face into my mouth mixed with rain and think I can hear Ma somewhere behind me.
Behind me . . . that means I’m heading for the river. Our house sits up the bank on a bend in Mudgee Creek. Dark’s closing in and it’s pretty near impossible to see in the rain. Things rush by me rollercoaster-like.
I try grabbing stuff. Something whips in the waters around my leg. Feels like my leg might tear off. I try to unwind it and get free. Then I realize it’s the old swing rope we used to dive in the water hole with in that part of the creek. I grab, haul. I feel myself swing around into the giant river gum where Dad ‘d tied the rope four years back, Ma protesting we’d, “Kill yerselves, yer silly tikes! An’ you oughta know better, encouragin’ ‘em ‘n all Da!”Even my thoughts are swirling about in my head.
I don’t know how long I hold on in that damn tree. Seems like forever. Rain, darkness, the roaring of water everywhere, bubbling, roaring, boiling like some hellish soup! Now and then, I think I hear Ma, but it might be stuff banging and bumping into stuff down the torrent.
I don’t dare sleep. I might let go. I wedge myself in better than the wedgy Dad gave fat Uncle Marv last Christmas. But the damn soup seems to get higher and higher as the dark turns to black. I just pray, yeah, that’s it, pray that old tree‘ll hold.
Sometime in the morning’s grayness, I hear a chopper. Never seen one except on telly, but I can’t mistake that sound. I start yelling. I yell for all I’m worth! Then there’s rope and this guy and there’s Ma grinning all stupid like and teary and Bindy yapping out the helicopter. I grin, “S’s alright Ma!”
My head takes a few stitches. Chicks like scars, so I’m cool with that. First thing they serve me up’s soup. They want me t’eat this warm, brown lumpy soup. I shake my head “Na, thanks anyway, just bread. “
Swallow any more brown stuff’n I’ll throw!