The Yellow Boat

Lucy Marcum

 

                I spot the little girl downstream on the riverbank within a second. She’s splashing around in ankle-deep water, or, for an adult, water just barely deep enough to cover the top of your feet. There’s a yellow boat in one of her hands, but from here I can’t see all of the details. Her dark hair occasionally sends the boat into streaking existence as she moves it around her body and through her tresses. I picture her lips in the form of a smile. I take a step closer.

                As strands of my own blonde hair blow into my face, I momentarily lose sight of her. My mind attempts to fill in the details of the fleeting innocence that childhood contains; the time when your brain could lead your feet to trace new worlds; the time when life could be anything and boats could be friends. When everything is a swirling mixture of light hair and yellow boats and green nature.

                She flickers back into sight and I’m reminded of her dark hair, not blonde like mine. A boy not much older than her has appeared, and the little girl hopelessly stretches her arms upward as he holds the boat over her head. To taunt her further, he moves his arm so that the boat is dangling over the rushing water. Though I can’t tell from here, I imagine the little girl looking upstream to the large waterfall, its force sure to sweep away the toy boat forever. The boy lowers it, and the girl desperately reaches for it but is too scared to step past her ankle-deep shallows. 

                He’s probably laughing. Probably mimicking her panic, her tears that are undoubtedly streaking her cheeks. 

                I’m getting closer now, and as he yanks the toy further out of reach from her outstretched arms, I can see that the breeze full of water that brushes past my body reaches them in a light dusting. He pulls the toy to his chest just as I disappear behind the cloud of mist.

                In my mind, the blonde girl collapses into a fit as her boat, her vessel for traveling in life, is taken by the stronger boy. She clutches her chest, and he continues to play with it as though all of the life the girl dreamed into it was meaningless, as though her love was nothing but a tragic game. I feel her heart dropping into her stomach; I feel her quick breathing and inability to think of anything but that yellow boat, of anything but her life in his unyielding clutch. 

                I feel my body join with the rush of the falling water as it plunges me into the darkness of the river.