Often, as school days give way to summer heat, friends decide to keep track of one another via the telephone.
This was not an exception with Elfin Girl and She. She was not afforded many luxuries in her life but the telephone opened up the world in a way her books could not. Conversations over the phone couldn’t be reread or guessed at, human beings could truly say any unpredictable thing. Not only that, the person over the phone was talking to her and she was no longer a passive observer.
Such was true the day Elfin Girl asked if She wanted to go swimming in the river. Extremely excited, She ran to ask her parents if she could go, her father was ambivalent, did She swim well enough? Would there be an adult who was a good swimmer around? Would there be any boys? Her mother just wanted to know if she had to drive and how far. This way mother could decide down to the dollar how much this trip would be and if it could be afforded.
After some parental conversations back and forth, it was decided, yes, She could indeed go.
Rummaging around in closets and drawers She found an old black ribbed one piece suit, a pair of thin worn black Old Navy foam flip-flops, a black pull on skirt, red tank top, and a big black floppy hat to hide her skin from the sun’s unforgiving rays. She had skin like milk and it spoiled just as quickly in the sun.
Painting her toenails a cheerful blue and ignoring the downy blonde hair on her legs, She tossed a bag together of under things and deodorant, hair ties and a hair brush. A scruffy like green beach towel was dug out from the back of a linen closet that went to far left. She was ready to go and rushed out to sit in the old wood-paneled station wagon parked in the driveway.
An uneventful drive to Elfin Girl’s log cabin in the woods (her mother rented it year round instead of months like most folks) and another drive in another station wagon (that incidentally had a naked woman swimming in a pond painted on the roof, for truckers, said Elfin Girl’s Mother) to the river.
The river was wide, it cut a large path trough a thick green forest filled with ivy (poisonous and non) and short squat bushes. The river was perfectly lazy this time of year and the stones didn’t tumble about, instead they just sat smooth and soft on the bottom of that riverbed just waiting to cradle young swimmer’s feet. The water itself was a light sepia color and you couldn’t quite see the bottom clearly so when the fish nibbled your toes, you could pretend it was a river monster instead… if you wanted to, which young girls often do.
Much splashing later, they lay in the river resting on top of the stones chatting about nothing when Elfin Mother mentioned the history of the river.
The river had been near to a Native American settlement, it was unclear if it was a Cherokee or Tuscarora settlement but they had used the river for everything: washing, cleaning, fishing, bathing, and playing. She even told us that we might just reach down in this river and come up with a piece of history.
Laughing at the absurdity of the idea both girls stood up, dripping with river water and plunged their hands beneath the river’s surface.
Elfin Girl pulled her hand out of the cool crisp water clutching a beautiful red, but ordinary river stone. She pulled her hand out of the water clutching a strangely shaped black stone. Both girls giggling turned their rocks over in their hands examining their prizes.
While Elfin Girl’s stone was beautiful it was just an ordinary stone. She discovered her stone was not ordinary. It was rounded, almost like the shape of a clam with a knob coming out of one end. The knob had an impression in it that looked very much like a spiral shell. Yet it was a rock. Both girls were intrigued. Was it a fossil? Was it a simple tool, like a hammer? Did someone use it once? Or was it something lost to the river long before people?
The find in the river occupied their imaginations for the rest of the trip. The girls went back to the cabin and ate popcorn and talked long into the night keeping their find close by, their piece of history, and imagined.