In our fifties and still strong, my brothers and I drove north from Durham, New Hampshire, to explore the White Mountains. There we found a river filled with great granite boulders made smooth by years of swiftly running water. We found our way to the rapids where crowds of people played.
There were no screaming, jumping children as in our childhood. Back then, Puddy and I played in rapids built by students at the Catholic seminary across the river from our childhood home in Southeast Louisiana. Our little brother, Clay, was too young for our fearless play in a river we would soon leave for the dry air of the west to cure our mother’s tuberculosis.
Now, we three stood watching older people like us climb on top of boulders, forgetting their land-bound fear of falling as they slid down into the water, lifting their feet high as the swiftly moving current grabbed them, taking them to a quiet pool a hundred yards downstream.
Clay, having no memory of playing in rapids, had become a long distance runner. He stood on the shore frightened, afraid of breaking a leg and ending his running career, so we encouraged him. Watch us. The trick is to not fight the current. Let the water take you.
Twenty years later, Puddy and I stood over Clay’s hospital bed as we implored him to re-enter the flow of life. To forget the boulders of loneliness and regret and the sacrifices life had set for him, and to remember that magical day, when he overcame his fear, gave us his trust, climbed on a rock and slid off as the current gave him the ride of his life.
Jere Pfister was born in New Orleans in 1941 and spent most of her early childhood in Covington, Louisiana, where she and her brothers lived in a house that backed onto the little Bogue Falaya River.
Her work has been published in several journals, including The Bayou Review: University of Houston – Downtown, The Weight of Addition: An Anthology of Texas Poetry, Houston History Magazine: University of Houston, and Ten Spurs Best of the Best: Literary Nonfiction of the Mayborn Conference University of North Texas where she won the 2007 third place, Ann Ricco Prize for Literary Excellence. Jere earned an MFA in Theatre from the University of Houston where she studied with Edward Albee. Her play, “A Work in Granite,” was workshopped in the 2002 Edward Albee Play Festival.