“Oh, fuck,” I swore, as my oars collided with those of Alissa Barton, high school skank. “For the love of God, bitch, will you please pay attention?”
My arch nemesis didn’t reply.
We were out in the middle of the lake, just over 2 kilometers from the boathouse. It was six thirty in the morning. The sun was just rising over the flat, crystal clear water on a still-warm fall day. Around us, the people inside their multi-million dollar lakefront houses were just starting to stir. We were alone, working on a pyramid of row times Coach had given us – two minutes on, one minute off and so on until we had to row in. He was far ahead of us with the rest of the team, and Alissa and I had been rowing badly and I was pissed off.
It was my first semester on the varsity crew team, and my coach had put me in a double with none other than Alissa “Blow-Me” Barton. Rumor had it she’d already done it with no less than three of the boys in our high school, including my recent ex boyfriend, Alex Abernathy. I wanted to row a boat with her about as much as I wanted to give CPR to a live python, but I’d already promised myself that I’d do anything possible to get to states this year.
“Hey, Barton,” I sneered when she didn’t respond, “any year now.” Her oars were drifting listlessly on top of the water, bouncing lightly in the soft current.
“Barton?” I felt her fall before I heard her hand slap heavily against the side of the boat. Alissa’s head dropped listlessly against my shoulder as I turned. Her eyes rolled sightlessly in their sockets.
“Fuck!” I cried out, taking her shoulders and pushing her off of me. Alissa’s head fell against her chest and lolled sideways. Without thinking, I dipped my hand into the lake and splashed her liberally. The water was lukewarm. The boat rocked dangerously to the side.
“Coach!” I screamed, but the eights were a good 4 kilometers away. There was no one around save a blue heron flying low over the water, scaring off the seagulls who lined the rocky coastline.
Alissa let out a low groan and I looked back at her.
“Hey, Alissa, wake up,” I said, trying to regain some calm, although my voice was pitchy and sounded cartoonish. I splashed her again for good measure, and she seemed to refocus on me.
“Are you okay?” I asked absurdly. She blinked.
“Are the muffins ready yet, Mom,” she said, blinking. Her voice slurred badly and her eyelids were out of sync with each other.
“Shit. Shit. Okay, hold your oars. Can you do that?” I babbled in one long stream. I took her hands in mine and wrapped her fingers around the oar handles. Luckily, she latched on and slumped, marionette style, over her bent up knees.
I turned the boat around in two powerful strokes and started for the boathouse without ceremony. Our craft felt like lead with Alissa’s dead weight, and my oars kept bumping into hers as they dangled from her hands, but slowly I picked up some semblance of a rhythm and the thin craft picked up speed, the water running against the sides of the boat in a low hum.
“Hey, if you die on me, I will kill you,” I panted, with a full kilometer left to go to the boathouse. There was no reply, but I could hear Alissa’s seat rocking rhythmically forward and back on it’s slide under her slack weight. I tucked my head into my chest and kept pulling.
Here’s a really random scene about Dakota rowing? I don’t know. Go with it.
Dakota opened the door of his car and got out. The early morning air was thick with dew and fog, so thick he could taste the heaviness in it. He ignored it, breathing deeply. The rain that was predicted for later would clear out the air.
The misty light made everything look somewhat hazy, but the color of the grass and the leaves on the trees was a spectacular lush green, even though the tree trunks had receded into grey masses that had barely any weight or substance. It was as if the greenery had sucked up all the surrounding density so that while everything else was a hazy nothingness, the greenery was almost overwhelmingly thick.
The boathouse itself was transformed into an almost ethereal form, looming mistily from behind several large and bushy maple trees. The faded, peeling white paint and the aging wood behind it blended into a soft grey. The gutter, which by day was a useless rusted thing hanging to the building’s columns by a single screw, had become an interesting object, alive with dripping dew in the persistent wet. It sparkled somewhat dimly as Dakota walked by it, catching rays of light that had somehow made it past the thick cloud cover.
As he unlocked the boathouse and pushed back the heavy wooden door – the slide it was attached to was rusty and complained noisily about the intrusion – he couldn’t help the sudden rush of excitement he always felt about going out on the water. He was especially fond of rowing alone. Dakota had loved the bustle of his boathouse back home when he was on the team in high school. That boathouse had been far newer and more state of the art than this one, which was really a decrepit old house that had had its garage emptied out for boats. Coming here felt more like a sacred and private ritual than an experience to be shared with teammates. Sure, he knew other rowers here, and had gone out a few times in a double with a guy friend from work, but he preferred having the place to himself.
Dakota signed out a single and picked out oars, carefully laying them down on the dock within reach, but out of the way. He went back to the boathouse and took a deep breathe before hoisting the boat he had picked up and over his head and walking it carefully down to the dock. He flipped it and put it gently into the water with one practiced motion and secured his oars, before quickly running back to the house and locking the door back up. That was the most nerve-wracking part of rowing alone; there was no one to hold the boat for him while he locked up.
It only took him a few strokes to bring himself up to a good pace, body moving fluidly, oars slipping seamlessly in and out of the water, flicking horizontally at the end of a stroke and hovering just over the surface as he moved forward to take another stroke. The single moved forward without jerking, the clean wake a sign of good rhythm. Every few strokes he cast a glance over his shoulder, watching his point.
Within five minutes the inlet widened into the lake and Dakota set a course along the west shoreline, keeping in within sight so he didn’t get lost in the fog. It hovered over the lake in dense clouds, and as he rowed through them, it became harder to see long distances. On the horizon, the water blended with the sky seamlessly, the shoreline impossible to see through the haze. Dakota felt like he was rowing amongst the clouds.