The River Rafting Ordeal
1 We had been too busy laughing and telling tales to notice how far down
the river we had floated. Jimmy had boasted about the superior construction job
he had done on the raft. "Why, we could navigate this raft right down the Mississippi,"
2 I usually thought Jimmy was overly complimentary of himself, but I had to
admit he had done a great job on the raft. Besides, if it wasn’t for this raft, I would
have spent my day at home trying to convince my younger sister we didn’t need to
return to the town carnival today.
3 Tyrone stood up and used his hands to form a telescope as if he was
hanging from the bird’s nest on a pirate ship. "What time is it? Is anyone here
wearing a watch?" he asked.
4Kate and Jimmy shrugged their shoulders and pointed at their naked wrists.
I looked at the orange and red ball of fire that was slowly sinking from sight and
groaned. "I promised that I would be home for dinner." I said. "I’m already late; we
need to turn around before it gets any darker."
5 Each of us picked up a pole and began rowing upstream. Without a doubt,
my parents would ground me for arriving home so late. I grunted as I dug my pole
deeper into the river. Coming downstream, we had only needed the poles to keep
the raft away from the boulders that jutted up from the floor of the river. Going
upstream was an entirely different journey. We didn’t seem to be making any
progress. The river was our master, and it alone would decide our destination.
6 "Stop rowing!" Tyrone shouted. "We aren’t working together. When I say
‘in’ everybody put your oars in the water. When I say ‘back’, everybody draw your
oars back through the water. Ready?"
7 Soon, we were all chanting with Tyrone, but despite our teamwork, we
were proving no match for the river’s current. My arms and back began to ache;
each stroke felt like I was dragging a truck over a brick wall.
8 "Boulder!" Kate shouted, a split second before the raft rocked sharply
backward. I felt my body tumbling but was powerless to stop it. I hit the river
with a splash and banged repeatedly into the boulder as I was hurled past
9 "Nina!" my friends shouted in unison, as my head rose above the icy
water for the third time. "Grab the pole," Tyrone said, pushing the last
remaining oar in my direction.
10 I grabbed hold of the bamboo lifeline as my friends tried to pull me
back aboard the raft. I lay across the raft shivering, bruised, and exhausted.
Tyrone untied the jacket that hung from his waist and wrapped it around me.
Kate patted my arm and whispered, "Don’t be afraid. You’re okay now."
11 Was I okay? Were any of us? I wasn’t finding Kate’s words reassuring.
None of us had shared our plans with our parents. I swear I could hear my heart
pounding against my chest. I lay there listening when a new sound caught my
attention. Putt, putt. Putt, putt. Putt, putt. The sound was getting louder, and I raised
myself onto my elbows and asked, "Does anyone else hear a motorboat?"
12 "There it is!" Kate cried, pointing at single lantern bobbing across the water.
13 "Help!" we shouted, waving our arms over our heads. The motorboat
approached us, rocking our raft violently. The driver shut off the boat’s motor. After
the water settled, the boy in the boat tossed a life preserver our way. Tyrone grabbed
hold and hugged it to his chest. Then Tyrone had us all hook our elbows through the
preserver and dig our heels into the raft. The boy and the man slowly pulled the rope
and our raft towards them. Finally, we were close enough to climb on board the
14 "How did you find us out here?" Jimmy asked. "I didn’t think anyone would
see us in the pitch dark; we could barely see each other."
15 The driver credited his son with our discovery. The child grinned and pointed
at me, saying, "I saw your jewelry all the way from our campground. Is there a carnival
16 I felt the plastic glow-in-the-dark necklace and bracelet my sister had given
me that morning. She had won the trinkets last evening by tossing Ping-Pong balls
through a wooden clown face. I owed that girl a huge hug when I got home, and if I
wasn’t already grounded for life, another trip to the carnival.