A father and his wayward daughter go for a canoe ride
|The Pirates Breakfast
The small SUV parked in the small gravel field by the dock. An aluminum canoe was tied to the roof of the vehicle, old, but clean
Nick stepped out of the drivers side and took a deep breath of the fresh morning air. His teenage daughter, Patricia, got out more reluctantly, almost petulantly.
"I still don't understand why we had to come out here so early." she said. "We left home two hours ago, and the sun's just come up."
"Early morning can be the best time to get out in the wilderness." Nick said. "The air is crisp and cool, and the forest is just coming alive."
"I still don't see what's so wonderful about the so-called 'great outdoors.'" she said.
"The breeze in the tree limbs, the smell of the water." Nick said, trying to wax poetically, and knowing he was failing miserably. And in truth, he knew he would need more than words to move his daughter. Would the power of the wilderness help? Would she even notice it who seemed more interested in too-short shirts and golden jewelry?
Well, he thought, that was why he'd brought the canoe.
"Help me get this thing off." he said. He began releasing bungee cords, and they lifted the heavy aluminum canoe off the Honda's roof.
"And then their's this old thing." Patty complained. "Will it even float?"
"We'll find out." Nick said. "Set it down, gently now." In fact, he'd given it a close inspection a few days before, and aluminum is pretty durable. He got the cooler with breakfast out, and dropped it in the middle, then did the same with the paddles and other equipment. "Lets get it over to the dock."
Setting the canoe in the grass next to the dock, they both looked out over the water. The sun had come up as they were coming down the gravel road, and they had a clear view across the water.
The narrow dock was really more of a fishing pier. It was supported by a single line of posts underneath, and had no cleats or pilings visible. The slightly brackish water was shallow, the sandy bottom visible stretching at least ten feet out from shore.
The pier tuck out into a broad, rounded cove, with the much broader bay to the right. Looking straight out from the dock, the land ahead was wooded and came to a point just to their right. Pointing just past the tip, Nick said, "It kinda makes you wonder what's past there, doesn't it?" But Patty said nothing.
Patricia scowled as Nick handed her a life jacket. "I'm not wearing this." she said, holding it at arms length. "Bad enough you made me come out here at all, but this is hideous."
"It's not for looks, but safety." Nick said as he put his own on. "And you are going to wear it."
"I won't." she said. "And if I can't go in the canoe without it, then we should just go home."
"Not so easily. We're not turning around now," Nick said. "and you can't get in the until you put it on."
Finally, reluctantly, she did so. "I still don't see what the big deal is," she said. Nick gave her some tips on canoing, but emphasized that he could keep control of the boat from the back. "Not much to it," he said, "but paddle." as they picked up the canoe and carried it onto the dock, then lowered into the water.
He nodded for her to get in, while he held the canoe. Then he stepped in, leaning low, hand firmly on the dock. "And we're off," he said as he pushed away. "Let's make for the point over there. Patti said nothing, but started paddling.
They paddled in silence for a while. Nick guessed it was better than a mile to the point, and he had little idea what was beyond it. That was one of the reasons he'd chosen this spot, though the drive had been far; he'd never been here before. There was always something special about exploring an area for the first time.
He looked at his daughter, wondering where things had gone wrong. It didn't seem that long ago that she'd been his precious little girl.
And now ... how many times had she been caught shoplifting in the past year? Four? Five? And how many times hadn't she been caught?
They both knew that she'd be sent to juvenile hall if she was caught again. It was only his intercession that prevented it this time. He had paid for what she'd stole, and assured the prosecutor it wouldn't happen again. But he could only do it so many times.
And he had "suggested" they take the old canoe out. They spent too much time in the suburbs, perhaps. Fresh air would do them good.
As they rounded the point, he looked ahead. The shore arced in and out, with a couple of other inlets. The ground beyond rose in rolling, wooded hills. The entire area was a state forest, according to the map. The rest of the bay was wide; the far shore could just be seen off in the morning mist. Just to starboard, though, a small, low island could be made out. They had just been able to see it from the dock - it had been well past the point, but just peeking over the horizon. "Let's keep fairly close to the shore," he said, and controlled the turn.
In the front of the canoe, Patty looked forward. She had other things she'd rather be doing; but her father had been clear this was his price for helping her this time. She wondered if he saw that, in trading favors like that, he was only turning it into a commodity, nothing but a deal to be made.
Still, she couldn't help but see the woods and water around her. The breeze felt cool and clear, especially now that they were out into the bay proper; there was a clean scent to it she had seldom experienced. A flash of movement in the trees caught her attention, she turned to look but saw nothing.
"Might have been a bird." her father suggested.
Birds, birds. She wanted to think this was for the birds. But it was so peaceful, so pleasant. She didn't admit that she, too, had wondered what they would find around the point.
"Back when I was in scouts," Nick said, "When we were at summer camp, we'd do a thing called 'Pirate's Breakfast.' The scoutmasters would get us all up at about five in the morning, we'd go down to the docks, and boat across the lake, climb up a hill, and have breakfast. We'd all complain, of course. None more than me, I think."
"Just more adults making us do things we don't want to." she complained.
"But once we were out on the water; dawn over the lake, everything coming to life. I may have complained, but those were some of the best mornings I had at camp." Pointing out a small creek that let out near them. It looked smooth for at least a little back. "Let's try up there, see how far it goes." In a moment they were in the mouth of it. The trees felt closer; but little grew right up to the brackish water at the banks.
The creek was narrow and shallow; they had to maneuver carefully. "Probably doesn't go to far." Patti said, cynically, but wondered what they'd find. Maybe they would see that bird.
They came to a big log, a tree that had fallen and blocked half the creek. They had to stop a moment to see if they could get past. With a little bit of work, they were able to squeeze by, the edge of the canoe rubbing against the sandy bank.
They only came a couple hundred more yards, though, before they could go no further. Rocks were strewn across the creek ahead, the water baubling gently over them. Besides that, the creek had narrowed further, and Nick wasn't sure they'd be able to turn the canoe around.
But there was a small sandy beach on one side, and a clearing above it. "This looks like a good spot." and in a moment they were up to the sand. They both got out, and pulled the canoe up onto it. Then Nick got the cooler out, spread the blanket out. "Now," he said, "Let's see what mom packed for us?"
As they sat down to eat, Patty asked, "Is this like when you were in scouts?"
"No," Nick shook his head. "When we did that, we were on the water before dawn. And the food's better." He looked up ion the trees, then back down the creek. "It's at least as nice a place for breakfast, though."
And they chatted. Nick had decided he wasn't going to push her about the things she'd been doing, getting in trouble. That wasn't why they'd come out here, and both he and her mother had asked her enough times. He wouldn't get a different answer this time.
Instead, he told her a few more stories about boy scouts, and they talked about about how school was going.
After a while, as they were finishing up, Nick asked her what she thought of this spot.
Patty had intended not to like this, to endure it just for the sake of getting off the last shoplifting charge. So she said something to complain about the cold.
But the truth was, the fresh air seemed to be having an effect on her. The sounds of the forest coming alive, the gentle running of the water over the rocks. She took a deep breath and admitted, trying to sound more reluctant than she was, "I guess it's not to bad out here."
Nick said nothing, for a long moment, hearing the hint of something else she needed to say, but didn't want to. For a moment, she listened to the water flowing over the rocks, and a bird chirping in the trees.
Finally, she said, "It is nice out here. Peaceful. The air itself is so much cleaner." She paused. "Things get so tense, so difficult, sometimes. I'd like more excitement, adventure."
"There are better kinds of excitement than shoplifting." Nick replied.
"Perhaps." she said. "But there's a thrill to walking out of a store, stuff hidden in pockets." She didn't mention how easy it was, as long as you walked like there was nothing wrong. So long as the wrong person didn't see her putting things in her pocket.
"That's not the only thrill, or adventure." Nick said. "And better kinds of excitement than risking jail. Besides, even for little things, people get hurt when you steal. There's a reason stores come after you so aggressively."
"They've got plenty more stuff to sell." she shrugged.
"Their margin is less than you think." he said. "And yes, they'll get their money back, one way or the other. Higher prices, perhaps, or paying their workers less. But besides that, how can you expect someone to respect your property, if you don't respect theirs?"
She said nothing, just looked back down the creek a moment. "I guess we can come back out here again, if you want."
"That would be nice," Nick said. "If you can stay out of trouble." After a moment, he added, "We should get this stuff cleaned up."
In a few moments they had everything together, trash in a bag beside the cooler, all loaded back in the center of the canoe. They shoved off and were aboard, carefully turning the boat back downstream.
"Maybe," she suggested, "We can take our time heading back.
Nick just smiled; amazing what the wilderness could do.
Word Count: 1979