Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pranks in the night

I could write about the canoe/camping trip and the 4th of July.
Or about climbing in Spearfish Canyon. 
Or about why Sassy and I hiked up to Outpost in the middle of the night.
Or about polar plunge.
Or mountain biking with the Scouts.
And I probably will because those topics all include pictures.

But for now, here's a story with no pictures.
I think you'll see why.

Darkness is falling, almost complete, as six of us creep through the woods over the hill towards the lake. 

Into the gully. 

Burrow into the grass, backs pressed against the rocks, becoming part of the shadows, as voices are heard nearby. 

 Is it Ivy and Odin?

Five shadows hunker and wait while one goes ahead to investigate.

No, just scouts tramping about with flashlights.

Send them back to their campsites. 

Carry on, quietly – Can’t you stop talking, and singing, and laughing? No, for the record, the youngest one cannot quiet his whispered antics - across the dam, down the road, to Water Front. 

Far on the horizon lightning flickers, silhouetting Vista and the surrounding mountain ridges. Thunder rumbles a ways off, but above us stars flicker and splay freckled reflections across the inky, smooth lake. 

A foreshadowing we shrug off.

After verifying there are no recalcitrant junior staff making out on the boat house’s covered patio, we congregate and discover, to our chagrin, that the boat house is locked, with the oars inside. 

Luckily we discover a garage-type door on the side of the building which we’re able to lift far enough to have someone crawl under, unlock the door and let us all in.  

The goal? Tie all the boats up to the floating dock anchored in the middle of the lake. 

ALL of the boats, you ask?
Yes, all.
Meaning one will have to swim ashore in the end. 

We each grab oars and converge on the beach in the darkness to assess the boat situation.

Between canoes, row boats, sail boats and paddle boats there are more than we expected.

But the prank won’t work as planned unless every boat is gone, requiring one of the Aquatics staff to swim out, with a paddle, in order to start retrieving the wayward boats.

And we’re committed now. 

Quietly, quietly, I and another lift the first canoe and carry it across the sand to the lake. 

Have you ever solo paddled a canoe? No? Kneel there, near the front, piece of cake.

Barefoot, I wade into the water and climb into the canoe. 

Send her out.

With a smooth heave, two send me sailing away into the blackness. I dip my oar smoothly, trying to avoid telltale splashing.

By the light of the distant flashing lightning, simultaneously illuminating our surroundings and ruining our night vision, I’m able to see well enough to steer towards the dock floating somewhere out there. On the opposite side of the lake lights from scouts camping on Indian Hill help keep me on course when lightning is delayed. 

Alone in the dark on the lake.

Somewhere off in camp someone plays Taps, a lonely goodbye sound in the night.
Ten o’clock.

Behind me now another canoe following, then another. 

We make it to the dock and wait for the one with the rope. Rope is distributed, weaved amongst the canoes, tied off to the dock. 

The one in the bigger rowboat arrives; lightning shows him standing holding the long oar, gliding silently to pick us up. Carefully step from one rocking boat to another, carefully keep balance.

Six in a rowboat, headed back to shore.

Lightning is near constant now. Thunder louder. Only a few brave stars flicker on the lake, not as smooth, roughened by a gusty wind.

The storm is nearing.
But not here yet.
There’s still time.

Round two.

Again I’m shoved quietly out into the night, straining my eyes to see the dock as it appears and disappears with the oncoming storm.

More quickly, not as careful to paddle quietly.
Wind and thunder mask revealing sounds.

Tie up the boats.
Five collected, six in the rowboat.
Back to shore.

Darkness would be complete now, stars cloud covered, were it not for the ever flashing, dancing, striking white lightning. Everything bright as day, then abruptly blackest black. 

Round three.

Have you ever rowed a rowboat by yourself? Or at all? No? Off you go, piece of cake.

To the floating dock, now extended by a long line of canoes and rowboats, tied together, drifting tersely in the wind. 

Sitting in the rowboat, tying off, waiting to be picked up. Five silhouettes blinking on and off in varying distances and poses. 

A sense of urgency alights. 

And then

And suddenly we know it’s here, all around us.
Suddenly this is taking too long.
Suddenly we’re out of time. 

Sitting in my pitching rowboat, clenching the seat, still waiting to be picked up.

Wind howling. Thunder. Lightning ever present, everywhere, white and startling, striking somewhere not too off.


Disco ball silhouettes.
Clamoring from boat to boat.

Hurry! We have to get off the lake! 

Silhouettes on the jogging dock, frantically securing rope.
Boats rocking in the angry wind.

We have to get to shelter!
Silhouettes, anxious and tense, waiting in boats.

We’re coming to get you!

There they are!
Scramble into the rowboat.

Six in a rowboat on the lake in a storm.

Row, row, row!
Toward the shore, now you see me now you don’t.

And suddenly the storm can’t hold back any longer and chaos lets loose; the rain begins without preamble. Instantly drenched, we strain to see the beach through the deluge, shivering and soaking, the wind knocking us ever off course, the boat filling with water. Mayhem, shouting to be heard. No more attempts to shush one another. The tumultuous storm covers all sound that no one is out and about anymore to hear, anyway.

That way! Other side! Pull, pull! Other side, other side! Wrong way!
Oh, the adventure!

Finally, near shore, one jumps out, waist deep, into the wakened lake, pulling the boat the last distance.
Scrambling into the water, onto the beach.

A hurried effort to put the boat upside down.

Running up the beach through the torrent to the boat house’s covered patio. 

We make it just before the hail slams into the sand, the lake, deafeningly against the remaining canoes.

We don jackets and huddle under the shelter, laughing, shivering and congratulating one another.

Marveling at the massive and glorious storm that swells and rages around us.
The lake, the mountains, all is stunningly displayed in stark silhouette against the never-ceasing lightning. We watch, breathless, from our front row seats.

Eventually, gradually, the storm quiets, loses interest, wanders on into the night.
We wait until the night is blacker, the rain and lightning spent, to venture out and use oars to spell out “HA HA HA”, on the sand (a tactic used by pranksters of a lesser prank previously in the summer) to throw suspicion elsewhere, then lock the boat house behind us and head back to camp amidst much puddle splashing and antics.

We didn’t get to finish the prank quite as we’d set out to, but considered the entire venture highly successful. 

We were high on adventure.

Quiet and stealthy again as we arrive atop Staff Hill, whispers Goodnight, good prank! and to our separate ways and cabins.

Wet and shivering, thinking I’ll never be warm again!, I pull on long underwear and wool socks and snuggle deep into my blankets, exhausted but pleased.

As I drift to sleep, the rain begins again outside the open windows.

Somewhere out on the lake, a long string of boats bob and bump against one another.

The next morning there is a rumor spreading that Ivy and Odin pranked Water Front.

Just another day in Neverwood.

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