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A fork in the river

August 2nd, 2018 Leave a comment Go to comments

Alice found herself submerged without warning. The rapids were stronger than she had expected, but it seemed to her that she still had control of the kayak when it suddenly flipped. It had struck a rock or something, she wasn’t sure, but it hardly mattered now that she was underwater and still inside it. The paddle was leashed to the craft, but she couldn’t locate it to help flip back upright by pushing on the river bottom, and she was left with no choice but to wriggle free for a gulp of air. Fighting against the strong current and her disorientation, she struggled to gain leverage for several seconds that felt like days before finally wresting herself out.

The current immediately embraced her, sweeping Alice downstream. Her head bobbed up long enough to suck in a gasp of oxygen before her left leg struck another obstacle, spinning her in the direction of the southern bank but still forward in the gushing flow. Her primary focus was breathing and reorienting herself toward a riverbank, but the sun stabbed at her now-sunglassless eyes in the rare moments they were above water and she could process next to nothing outside the breathing, an enormous challenge itself. Meanwhile the jagged rocks stood firm as she careened amongst them, injuring her torso and limbs with abandon as the abnormal surge of rainwater forced her along.

Alice’s consciousness waned, and dear reader, it looked bad. There were no fewer than forty lacerations on her body from obstacles within the rapids, including a nasty one on her forehead. Her efforts to keep her head above the surface were increasingly weak, a sure sign of imminent doom, as any lifeguard knows. So now, you must…decide Alice’s fate! Does she:

1) Take one final gasp seconds before a ruggedly handsome hiker ensnares her in his arms? A man who, after having seen a kayak whisk by seconds earlier, tied a rope to a tree and himself and swam out into the river in case a person belonged to the rogue vessel, and pulled her back to the bank. Alice was stunned but fine afterward, extremely grateful to the hiker, who turned out to be Michael Frescan, an emergency room doctor in the local hospital. A year later, while they were contemplating getting married, Alice was run over by a bus coming home and died hours later. Michael was never the same afterward.

2) Will herself to live, then summon the energy to inhale again and latch onto the next rock at all costs? Her forearm was badly lacerated and her hold against the current was tenuous. Alice glanced about her, finding no reasonable way to the shore without significant injury, when suddenly a man appeared along the shore, shouting for her attention. Within a few minutes, he had threaded a large fallen branch through the rocks nearest him to serve as a bridge to grip as he waded out. Fifteen minutes later had Alice on shore, breathing with only sighs of relief and admiration. That man’s name was Michael Frescan, who died in a bizarre liquor store shooting as a passerby outside just four months later, breaking Alice’s heart. She was never the same afterward.

3) Just let go and sink? The current carried her limp form along in brutal fashion for another 300 meters before evening out abruptly and becoming magically placid again. Alice’s inanimate body was floating face down for no more than ten seconds in this stretch of river before a strapping man plunged into the water and rushed her ashore. Expertly performing CPR, he revived her and had an ambulance there within twenty minutes, an impressive time for the location. This was because he worked at the local hospital and was able to stoke some urgency when he called, particularly because the patient was his sister. Alice’s brother Eric was by her side the entire time from the riverside to her deathbed in the ER. According to Eric’s good friend and coworker Dr. Michael Frescan, he was never the same afterward.

Face it, happy endings are often unrealistic. It’s really just a matter of how far you zoom in or out.

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