the river

more with Cam/Eden/this wip: camaraderieListen, my son

At the bank of the wide river, someone had tied a canoe. Cam hadn’t ever seen one before, but he’d heard the word, knew the concept. He hadn’t seen a canoe or a river, in fact—just the little fetid streams that trickled through what had once been natural areas, that fine sheen of oil and garbage resting on top. So the noise of the water startled him and he paused, allowing Eden to overtake him.

She passed him and then returned, stared at him for a second, snapped her fingers in front of his eyes.

“Hello? There’s no way I can row this thing on my own.”

Cam blinked and shook his head.

“I’m used to the freighters they ship supplies in on,” he said.

“Wait, the canoe is what you’re reacting to?”

“Well,” he said. “Never seen moving water this big, either.”

“There’s a world of things for you to see,” she said.

She grabbed his forearm and pulled and Cam went without protest, his eyes still fixed on the canoe, until the moment Eden pushed him down into it.

“Now, here’s my thought. If we both row, obviously you’re much stronger than me, so we’ll go in circles.”

She looked at him askance as she settled into the canoe facing him.

“I’ll row.”

He hefted the oar and touched it into the water. He didn’t have any idea how to operate the thing. Leaning onto the handle, he pushed and the canoe jolted forward, its prow kicking up a spray of river water that shimmered across Eden.

“What the hell?” she said. She sounded more incredulous than angry, which was becoming a pattern for her.

“Ain’t got many skills besides operatin’ a firearm,” he said.

“That’s becoming clear to me.”

He tested the oar again, holding back, pushing slower—the canoe jumped again, but less jarring this time, and the next time hardly at all. They moved out across the river, sending ripples out into their wake.

“At least you learn fast.”

“Yeah, I been told that.”

The river widened as they went and Cam idly watched the landscape—the woods on both sides, the frothing whiteness of the water as it spilled over rocks that jutted up from the river’s bottom. He was aware of Eden observing him but didn’t think much of it. Eden liked to observe things. With him, these periods of reflection usually ended with derision, but Cam also thought little of that.

Worse things had happened to him than some mild ribbing from the strange woman he’d been traveling with.

“You’re boring to travel with,” Eden said.

Cam looked up at her. “Oh yeah?”

“You don’t talk. You just follow me around like some big dog.”

“If I’d been talkin’ instead of followin’, you’d be dead.” Cam picked up the oar as the river’s current resigned itself to carrying them along. “So there’s that.”

The canoe abruptly careened sideways. With a catastrophic crunch, it ran aground, spilling Eden out onto the stony bank. Cam felt himself heaved forward as well, but kept his feet. Dumbfounded, he turned toward the canoe.

“Idiot,” Eden spat, staggering to her feet and brushing the sand from her clothes. “You have to steer, too!”

“I never been in a canoe,” Cam said. He shrugged. “I told you that.”

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