This article has been submitted by Nikili Rochill for the CLATGyan Blog Post Writing Competition. If you think this article is a good read, ‘Like’ this article on Facebook (the button is at the bottom of this piece) or post a comment using the ‘comments’ section below.
By the countryside flowed a small river. Its waters were clear and sparkling, moving over the smoothened rocks gently, oh so gently, as it made its way downhill. To get to the river a small boy or girl simply had to walk for a mere ten minutes from the nearest cottage and tread up the dusty grassy path that led to – The Enchanted River, as it was named.
Old man Bailey, the oldest resident of the little village that neighboured the river , credited himself for the christening of the river, despite the fact he was only eighty two years old, and that the river had been named many , many years earlier.
He would often talk about the river in a rather exaggerated manner .
“It’s a magical river, it is. My father often took me fishing there. Oh the fish we would catch. So large, so shiny, so full of life it was. He used to tell me that the river was called “enchanted” because of its beauty -“
At this point some younger village lad would interrupt his discourse and ask him, pray tell, how his father knew the name of the river when it was he who had named it? This would lead to a lot of mumbling and shuffling and the old man would mutter “Something wrong, something pie” which made no sense to those listening and the question would be let go.
One summer evening at that little village old Bailey decided to visit the little river and get himself “acquainted with all the changes that must have taken place ” during the years he had not visited it. His prime years had gone by and left him mostly tired and sore. He regretted the time when he had gone climbing trees with his friend Bob when he was still a teenager. He had fallen from the large orange tree and even though by luck, he had accumulated only a few of those “troublesome bruises” as he had so called it back then, in his old age, it seemed like his old injury spots were now causing him discomfort.
“If I had known that ‘this’ would have happened to me lad, I would have stayed at home all day reading books as my mother had wanted me to.” , he would say , letting out a long sigh and making a very peculiar expression that would make Sam, his only grandson laugh and then stop after seeing the expression change to that of annoyance.
“Well no dilly dallying son, tomorrow , at the break of dawn we head off.”, the old man would say.
“But grandpa, it’s only a ten minute walk, and really, I promise I won’t stop on the way to blow off those cotton bud flowers.” Sam would say in defence every time the duo had planned the trip earlier.
“Those are Dandelions lad, not cotton buds- “, Bailey would retort only to be interrupted again by his grandson.
“I know grandpa, I know . I’m just not comfortable with the word dandy.” the eight year old would mumble. At school he had seen a group of older boys tease another boy and call him names, one of them being dandy. He did agree that the boy did style his hair and dress up a little more than was required though. However, slowly, the discussion between grandfather and grandson would change to a discussion about what was appropriate and what was not. The plan to visit the river would be forgotten.
That evening however, old Bailey, called his beloved grandson to the kitchen. Sam was departing the day after the next day to return home to his parents after the end of his summer vacation and so he knew that he couldn’t put off his plan anymore.
” Well no dilly dallying son, tomorrow , at the break of dawn we head off.”, old Bailey told his grandson as he dug out the sweet potatoes out of the ashes from the fireplace using a prong. Sam knew immediately what those words meant and started fidgeting. Getting up early during vacations was a real bore he thought.
” Grandpa it’s a ten minute walk, well , fifteen. If ,we count the walk from our house to Miss Maloney’s, but really, it isn’t quite that far.” he began.
Bailey , slowly peeling the potatoes, sat down on a chair, heaving a little. “I never christened the river..”, he began, his voice trailing off a little.
“I know that grandpa, I think everyone does.” Sam replied, his eyes immediately looking right and left as he shuffled his feet uncomfortably.
Bailey let out a little cough. “Ahem, well then that’s that then.” he said looking down.
“Well, we start tomorrow.” he then continued, as if placing an ultimatum.
Sam looked dejected and walked out. Bailey placed the peeled sweet potatoes in a bowl , covered it with a plate and sat down. He closed his eyes slowly, he felt particularly sleepy that evening. In his mind, he thought of his wife Catherine who had passed away a year ago. How beautiful she had looked in that floral dress of hers when he had first spotted her by the river. Yes, the river. He had been enchanted when had seen her. Though, to be honest he had been enchanted by everything that day. By the sunlight, the air, the birds, the trees, the way the water flowed so gently and , his first taste of love. He thought about the evening he had first gotten drunk with his friends and how frightened he was of his father. His wedding to Catherine, how they had both lain on the marital bed awkwardly, doing nothing the first night. How innocent they were! He let out a laugh. Then the birth of his first child, it was coming back to him, memories, and he felt sleepier.
The next morning, Sam woke up early to surprise his grandfather, and ran to the kitchen. He smelt the sweet potatoes and saw his grandfather fast asleep on the chair. The grey hair slightly tousled, the eyes slightly opened, slightly closed, and stopped.
The funeral was held on a Tuesday, the sound of crying , muffled. A little boy and his father and mother, both who had rushed down as soon as they had heard the news, stood by the casket surrounded by relatives and people, just people, to the little boy.
“How traumatic it must have been for the poor boy.” the voices were saying.
The little river flowed on, as the bearers picket up the casket and slowly walked away from it. Some other boy threw a penny into the river, and received a knock on his head from his mother for wasting money, even amidst protests from the little boy who had just read a book on Greek mythology. The penny sank down into the river, and rested against the other stones, as the ripples over head slowly calmed down and there was stillness in the river surface again.