Lost and Finds

fiction
Log in the Woods

There is little more than a momentary glint of reflected mid-morning sunlight squinting through the dense foliage of the trees on the shore.  Gaige plunges the paddle into the water to his left. Holding the blade against the current of the river he jerks the canoe into an abrupt shift of direction as the prow leans towards the bank.

Five hard strokes on the left side and the canoe is pointed perpendicular to the flow of the river, and then alternating stokes on each side of the red boat brings it close enough to shallow water for Gaige to nudge the gravel riverbed with the paddle prying himself against the current towards a crook in the bank where he can draw in.

He steadies himself with the wood handle of his paddle resting on the smooth aluminum trim on either side of him. he then steps with a single practiced arch of his leg with one foot into the murky water, grabbing the camera that is spring-clamped to a forward cross brace as he lunges out with a splash into the river. 

He presses record with a practiced thumb as he holds the canoe steady with the other hand.

“Still in practice mode today, friends, but as I was paddling down a new stretch of river this morning I thought I caught a glimpse of something in the woods on the bank.” Gaige speaks in a hushed voice to the camera lens. “I’m just going to secure my canoe —“ he swings the lens towards the boat “—and then we’ll climb up onto shore to see what is hiding in the trees.”

He clicks the record button again to stop the video, and gingerly sets the rig onto the seat of the boat. With the same momentum he grabs a white rope from the floor and tosses it towards a small tree leaning from the eroded shore towards the water. His hand snakes down the line and he tugs it tight and knots it securely in a hitch around the tree’s lower trunk.

Wading a few steps back out into the water, plodding deliberately on the uneven riverbed below, he grabs the camera once again and scurries back onto dry land.

Recording. 

“I likely drifted thirty or fourty more meters downstream before I was able to row myself to shore.” Gaige explains to the camera, pointing it into the woods in front of him as he climbs from the bank. “I’m not one hundred percent sure what I saw—“ he is stepping between the trees now ”—but I know a few people who run through the trails down here—“ he pauses to push a branch clear of his face “—and if I’m right—“ he is jogging up a single-track trail leading into a small clearing set back a dozen paces from the water, finally exclaiming with a yalp “— Yes!”

Weather-worn and slicked with a greasy layer of rainwater and decaying leaves, a trampoline crouches between the trees sheltered from the glaring late-morning sunlight.  The legs are spotted with rust and two of the springs are missing leaving a flap of the mat dangling limply.  Footprints smudge the entire relic, and impressions of multiple shoes have dried in the half-baked mud and grass that encircles it.

Gaige pans the camera across the scene, angling the shot between his own giddy expression and the trampoline as he walks the circumfrence and narrates the moment. “You never know what you’ll find out here in the woods, do you? I’ve heard a few stories about this place, even seen a photo or two—“