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Watching Wolf River flow by is to watch a god in rage. A flood of spring rains turns the typically docile creek into a roiling serpent, broken branches and trash swirling in its coils. Every now and then, little waves leap ashore, bleeding through the grass to lick Adrian’s toes.
He stands a respectful distance from the springtime menace. A year before, he had enjoyed swinging from a rope tied to an overhead branch, trailing his toes across the water like a tease before landing in a dirt patch beyond. But all good predators are patient, and when the old branch snapped, Adrian dropped right into the river’s frothy jaws. It toyed with him, tossing him over and under, slinging him tauntingly against its slippery banks before sweeping him along again. The water was so cold that his body ached. His lungs felt like they were twisting up inside his chest, trying to wring themselves of the water he kept inhaling. The gray-white churn of the surface gave way to blurry darkness.
This is it, he didn’t think but felt, for there is little space for thought in the act of drowning. Thankfully, the hand of God reached down to yank him through a sharp S-bend, and he was mercifully spat ashore.
The wind rushed by, wild and raspy, but then he realized that the sounds were his own gasps for air. He clutched at the earth with every inch of himself. The world spun, the day turning to hazy night and then back to burning day once more. Even as he dragged his trembling body away, a piece of himself would be forever caught in the river’s grip. A piece of his youth, stripped from him and driven to the sea.