North Dakota can be a lonely place...
|The fallen tree was extremely heavy. Jared was on the cut end of the log, while Andrew and Tyler were lifting the two former branch-stumps. This process was tiring as well. They all needed to take breaks at least every couple steps. After about five minutes of lifting the log, they set it parallel to the shoreline. Jared took off his shoes and socks, and he placed his socks inside his shoes. He also unhooked the case containing his radio from his right belt loop and placed them next to his shoes. To test the seat, he climbed into the indent, curled up into a ball, and tried to make the most of the given space. It wasn’t very comfortable, but it was better than swimming.
Now that Jared felt ready to give the log a try on the water, he stepped out of the indent and pushed what he intended to be the front end, the end he cut, into the lake. He waded in to make the log perpendicular to the shoreline. Surprisingly, it seemed to float nicely, for only being pushed a quarter of the way into the water. Jared stepped out of the water and ordered to Andrew and Tyler, “When I tell you to, I need you to slowly push me and the log into the water.”
Jared sat down in the indent, once again. Tyler and Andrew prepared to push the log into the water.
Jared yelled, “Ready when you are!”
Andrew and Tyler began pushing. Both were surprised to find that it wasn’t too hard to push, now that a quarter of it was in the water. In a few seconds, a half was floating, and then the other.
Jared was holding his breath the whole time Andrew and Tyler were pushing the log into the water. But, once he felt himself drifting, he relaxed. A rush of dopamine flew by as another risk was taken. He looked up and smiled, seeing at least ten feet of distance between him and the shoreline. Without saying anything, he tried to rock the floating log to see how balanced it was.
The log was surprisingly sturdy. The two former branch-stumps on the back end of the log kept everything balanced. He gave a thumbs-up sign to Andrew and Tyler, both standing anxiously on the shoreline. They smiled when they received the signal.
Now, the final test, getting it to move. Jared stuck his hands in the water and pushed, hoping to make the log move toward the rock. Barely any movement took place. Jared pushed harder. The log moved a bit faster, but it was certainly far from practical. Still, by this point, there wasn’t much left to do. Jared started paddling rapidly. The process was tiring and inefficient.
After a few minutes of paddling with his hands, he was finally next to the rock. He slid himself out of the dent in the floating log and lay down on the rock. He sat up and pulled the log so he could grab the back end of it. He lifted the back end of the log and set it down on top of the rock, so it wouldn’t drift away. Now that the log was secure and Jared could actually focus on the rock, he noticed how much space there was. He started to imagine what it would be like to have a home there, in the center of the lake.
Jared’s fantasizing was broken when Tyler yelled from the shoreline, “You coming back anytime soon?”
Jared yelled back, “Yeah! On my way!” He sat back down in the log’s indent. As soon as he was comfortable, he realized it was still partially up on the rock.
Jared was too exhausted from the trip over to the rock to get up from the log. He jolted his body to the left to knock the back of the log loose from the rock. It slid a bit, and he tried again. This time, the log came loose. The back splashed into the water as the balance of the log changed. The log rocked to the right, and then to the left. Jared became nervous that the log was going to tip, but when it moved back to the right and left, it did so less and less.
The log was facing the wrong direction. If he wanted to head back to the shoreline, he would need to push the water on the right side of the log to turn himself left. As soon as he rotated the log about ninety degrees counterclockwise, he was about perpendicular from the direction he came. At least, now, he was pointed toward the shoreline and not the riverbank.
It took Jared a few more minutes to paddle from the rock to the shoreline. He knew by this point he would need something in the future to assist him with paddling.
Tyler and Andrew realized what direction he was heading and ran down the shoreline until they were in the path of his direction. Finally, the front end of the log touched the sandy soil on the edge of the lake. Jared started pushing the water on his right to make the boat parallel to the shoreline. Finally, Jared was ready to step out.
While Jared was stepping out of the boat, Tyler asked, “So, how did it go?”
Jared stood up and said, “I need some sort of paddles. It’s near impossible to get around using only my hands.”
Tyler asked, “Can I try now?”
Andrew answered Tyler’s question by saying, “Without a better source of propulsion, that probably isn’t the best idea.”
Tyler’s shoulders dropped with disappointment. Jared walked over to his shoes and radio, still sitting on the floor where he left them.
Tyler asked Andrew, “Can’t we just grab some stick or something? I mean, we’re in a forest preserve!”
Andrew responded, “If you can find a stick, you can use it. But, if you want any chance of finding one, you would need to go into the woods. We aren’t going to find anything sitting in this clearing.”
Tyler realized Andrew was right. They were going to need something to paddle with.
Jared walked back to Andrew and Tyler with the rest of his belongings and said, “You know, I’m pretty hungry after all that work. Should we all break for lunch?”
Andrew and Tyler nodded in agreement.
Jared suddenly said, “I’ll race you guys down to the bottom!”
Jared bolted down the path, and Andrew quickly followed him. But, for Tyler, he didn’t feel like running. Slowly, he walked alone towards the path, leaving the clearing behind him. He didn’t like suddenly feeling so alone, but he remembered that he still had his radio clipped to his side.
As he walked down the path, he thought about what Jared had said. They need some sort of way to paddle the boat. Tyler looked along the edges of the path for large branches that may be usable. Sadly, his efforts were fruitless. After walking for about ten minutes, he made it to the back of Jared’s storage shed. Tyler lifted the wooden bar securing the false wall into place up ninety degrees and let the wall swing open. He stepped into the shed and used one of the metal hooks he grabbed to pull it shut. The light was on inside the shed, so Tyler could still see clearly. He grabbed the hook that was turned ninety degrees to the left and rotated it upright again. The wooden bar behind the wall slid back into place, and it was finally secure.
Tyler opened the door in the front of the storage shed, stepped out, and shut it behind him. As soon as he looked out, he noticed that there were a bunch of guys, wearing baseball caps, working on Jared’s field. Remembering how Jared’s mother received a new job, he began to fill up with envy. But, quickly, he realized that he was not supposed to the where he was standing. Although he didn’t want to, he ran down the strip of grass between Jared’s crops and property border. Tyler ran past Jared’s house and down his driveway. As he ran by, he realized that he kicked a chrome-painted plastic quadcopter propeller accidentally, only giving him more motivation to get off Jared’s property.
By the time he made it to the street, he was panting and sweat was running down the sides of his face. The sun was shining high in the sky and the temperature was a little under eighty degrees. That was usually about as hot as it gets in that part of North Dakota.
Now that Jared was no longer worried that he would be accused of trespassing, he walked down the road to his house. It was only a few minutes before he walked up his driveway and was stepping in the front door to his house. He kicked off his shoes next to the door and greeted his mother who was marinating something in the kitchen. She smiled at him, but she was very focused on what she was doing. His three younger brothers were all sitting on the rug in the living room, playing some board game. From upstairs, Tyler heard dial-up internet noise. It was his father, trying to use the internet. On his parents bed, an old-looking tarp lay. It looked very dirty, and it was torn in many areas.
As soon as Tyler stepped into the room, his father said, “Hey son. Does mom need to use the phone?”
Tyler responded, “No. What are you doing?”
Tyler’s father explained, “I’m trying to see if I can recycle this tarp. It’s old and has holes in it. I got it before you were born and abandoned it in the basement.” He paused as a webpage started to load. “Well, I’m hungry. I’m getting something to eat.”
Tyler’s got up from the computer chair and left the room. For some reason, the idea that the tarp was being recycled stuck in his mind. He noticed that the donation box was sitting open in the corner of the room. His father goes around telling people that if they have junk that they want donated, to simply give it to him. Once the box is full, he would drive to Minot and donate everything to the local charity. Due to a pretty big lack of communication between everyone that lived in the area, it was usually once per every few months to a year before the box is emptied.
Still, Tyler looked into the box. He saw an old, rugged blanked, partially coming apart, and two tennis rackets, both of which had paint chipped and strings missing. Suddenly, an idea struck him. He wondered if he could cut out some pieces of the tarp and adhere them across the strings inside the racket.
Tyler pulled out the two rackets and pushed them underneath the tarp. He opened a nearby desk drawer and pulled out a silver permanent marker. Pushing the tarp down over the rackets to create an indent, he drew an outline of the inside of the racket. He then pushed the rackets farther under the tarp and made two more outlines so he could make cuts for the other sides. Tyler put the marker away and pulled out a pair of scissors. As he was cutting out the pieces of tarp, excitement shot through him as he realized that he was onto something.
As soon as all of the pieces were cut and the scissors were put away, he realized he would need something to adhere it with. He looked inside the drawer and pulled out a hot glue gun and some plastic sticks that could be heated by the gun. He lowered the stand on the front of the gun and inserted a plastic stick before setting it down on the desk and plugging it in.
Now, all he could do was wait. He stared at the gun, not showing any physical changes. After about fifteen minutes, he waved his hand over it, feeling heat radiating off. He smiled and picked up the gun. Even though it probably wasn’t the best idea to do on the desk, he set one of the four pieces of tarp down and drizzled it with hot glue. Once he was satisfied, he carefully picked up the tarp cut-out and quickly flipped it upside-down over the racket, before pressing it down. Tyler repeated the process for both sides of both rackets. As soon as he was pressing down the last one, he heard his mother calling him for lunch.
Suddenly, he realized that he wasn’t doing what he was supposed to. Luckily, the web page finally loaded on the computer nearby. It noted in the title that polyethylene tarps are easily recyclable. Tyler ran over to his room with the rackets and hid them under his bed. He then ran back to his parents room and picked up the tarp sitting on their bed. In a hurry, Tyler crumpled it up and carried it with him downstairs. His father was drinking a glass of water while his mother was lifting pieces of grilled chicken from a pan on the stove.
Tyler’s father looked up and asked, “What are you doing with the tarp?”
Tyler explained, “The webpage you were looking up finally loaded. The tarp is recyclable.”
Tyler was about to stuff the tarp into the little, green recycling bin inside, before his father said, “Son, how about you put that in the bin outside? I think it may be a bit too large.”
Tyler shrugged and responded, “Sure.”
Quickly, Tyler carried the tarp outside and shoved it into the recycling bin on the old front porch. He was hungry and wanted to get inside fast. As soon as he reentered his house, there was a plate of grilled chicken at his place at the table. Tyler ate everything on his plate in less than ten minutes. As soon as he was finished, he bolted upstairs and grabbed the two rackets from underneath his bed. He hid the rackets under his shirt, against his back. The handles of them slid down the back of his pants slightly, and it was very uncomfortable to walk. At least, now, he could get out of the house without arousing suspicion.
Tyler left his room, walked downstairs, past the kitchen, and out the door without raising any questions. As soon as he was outside, he grabbed the rackets out from behind him and ran. By the time he exited his driveway and out of his parent’s possible line of sight, he was completely winded and had to walk. He felt sweat build up around him. After walking for a minute down the road, he made a left down Jared’s driveway. There were still people working in Jared’s field, but Tyler paid no attention to them.
Tyler’s family raised and organically farmed cattle. His father did all of the dirty work, and his mother would do all of the house work. Everything was simple.
Tyler continued down the strip of grass between Jared’s house and storage shed. As he walked, he realized that there were no other cars parked anywhere. He began to wonder where these men might have come from, but then he remembered that it simply didn’t matter.
Tyler arrived at the storage shed and opened the front door, stepped in, and shut it behind him. The light was still on inside, but it was still a bit difficult to see. His eyes were still adjusting to the light change. He grabbed the hook he knew was false and rotated it. Because of its position and leverage, it took a decent amount of effort to move. Tyler had to put the rackets down to get enough force. The wall swung open and the new world poured in. Tyler stepped out, shut the false wall, and lowered the wooden bar back into the hook.
Tyler quietly walked down the path. The air was in the mid seventies in the shade, which was perfect for Tyler. The walk continued uneventfully for about ten minutes, until he arrived at the clearing. He saw the log sitting perpendicular to the shoreline, waiting to float on the water.
Tyler walked over the the log and placed the paddles in the indent. He then slid his shoes, socks, and radio off, just like Jared did earlier. Stepping into the water was nice. The water was perfectly cool. The floor of the lake was soft and sandy, just as Tyler expected. He pulled the front end of the boat into the lake so that it could start moving as soon as Tyler started paddling. Tyler stepped forward so he was next to the indent, pulled out the paddles, and curled up inside. It was difficult and uncomfortable to sit in this log, but he was still fueled by excitement. Tyler stretched out his arms over the sides of the boat and gave the water a push with the paddles he had. The boat lurched forward and was floating completely on water. With Tyler in it, his weight caused the boat to be more underwater than above water, but that didn’t matter. What did matter was how tipsy the boat felt. Tyler became worried that if he leaned to the left or right too much the indent would fill with water. Or, worse, the entire boat would tip over.
Still, Tyler managed to keep his balance as he paddled his way to the rock in the center of the lake. The paddles seemed to be a lot more efficient at moving the boat. Even not being the strongest kid, he was able to get to the rock in under a minute. As soon as he was parked parallel to the rock, he carefully slid himself out. As he put less weight on the boat and more on the rock, the boat lifted slightly out of the water.
Finally, Tyler was completely on the rock. A sense of accomplishment rushed through him, until he was interrupted by Jared yelling, “Tyler? How did you get over there?”
Tyler was lying on his back when Jared started calling. He sat up and looked toward the path entrance. There, Jared and Roger were standing. Roger was the kid that always handed out free technology and assistance to everyone. It never occurred to anyone where he would get those things, but it didn’t matter.
Tyler yelled back, “Look at what I made!” as he waved the two paddles from the rock.
Jared smiled. He knew that Tyler would think of something creative. “Get back over here!” he yelled. “I have to see those!”
Tyler pulled the boat back toward him, realizing that he forgot to lift it slightly onto the rock. He put his foot down in the indent, and then the other, trying to stand. He instantly knew this was a mistake, because the boat tipped, sending him, face-first, into the water.
Dense coldness surrounded him. The density pressed up against him. He heard the low rumble of the water press against his ears. Tyler became startled and tried to gasp for air. He couldn’t do it. His nose burned from trying to inhale. Until, finally, he feet made contact with the sandy floor. He pushed himself upward and his head bobbed out of the water.
Immediately, he gasped for air. The water that remained inside of him caused him to start coughing.
Meanwhile, Jared and Roger were laughing to the point where there were tears coming out of their eyes.
After having had put the wet paddles in the log’s indent, Tyler spat a bit of water out of his mouth, grabbed onto the log to drag back, and began trekking out of the water. Because Tyler was completely submerged, he was absolutely drenched.
Jared and Roger walked toward the lake, still laughing.
As soon as Tyler was in listening distance, Jared said, “That’s exactly what I knew was going to happen.”
Tyler dragged the log onto the shore and yelled, “Look at how wet I am! What am I going to tell my parents?”
Roger responded, “Just stay out of the water for now. The sun should dry you off.”
Roger turned to Jared and said, “Anyway, Jared. I think this place would make a fantastic club for everyone.”