Water Fall by Randy Cockrell
It had been a hot and muggy July and Mom and Dad had taken us to the shore for the first week of August. Not just any shore, we were in Maine and the water was so cold you could only go into the ocean to your knees before you turned blue as the sky and had to come back out.
I was thirteen and feeling too old to play with the little kids but not old enough to just swim out like my teen-aged cousins. So there I was; wading in to my knees until my toes went numb then back out to the beach to sit on my blanket and dig those frozen toes into the hot sand.
After two days of that, Dad asked if we wanted to go for a hike. There was a nearby national park we could drive to and a waterfall to visit with a pool at the bottom, perfect for swimming. My older brother wanted to stay at the beach with our male cousins. The female cousins wanted to stay at the beach, too. I’d seen them flirting with some boys their age. It seemed they were much more interested in that than a change of view.
So Dad and I climbed into the car with our hiking boots, swim suits on underneath the hiking clothes, and drove to the woods. After we parked, we stopped to put on socks and boots. Even in the dirt lot I could feel myself relaxing. The ocean was noisy with the wind and the surf crashing and the screaming of little kids as the waves washed over tiny feet for the first time. The woods were quiet with bird song, the sound of crickets and frogs, and the soft sigh of the wind in the tree tops.
We started off, Dad carrying a day-pack full of our lunch and water bottles. The trail followed a stream. “Is this the stream with the waterfall?”
“Yep. It’s about two miles away.” He adjusted the pack on his shoulders. “I’m hoping no one else is at the pool and waterfall since it’s a weekday. We’ll have to see.”
I hoped so too. A whole pool and waterfall to ourselves! Along the way we stopped to look at the moss growing between the roots of massive oaks, red flowers my dad called Cardinal flowers, and fascinating yet horrifying, a snake that was eating a toad, only half-way into the snake’s mouth. We stopped to watch the drama going on just off of the trail.
“Can’t we do something?” I felt a little queasy.
“Would you like it if someone came along and took your dinner out of your mouth?”
He had a point but still. We left before the poor toad was totally eaten.
We rounded a bend in the trail and I could see what we’d heard for the last quarter mile, the waterfall. “Oh!” I ran to the edge of the pool. The falls were at least three times taller than my dad. A young couple was just packing up their things to leave.
“Pretty awesome, huh?” The young man picked up his pack and helped a young woman to her feet.
“It is.” I couldn’t take my eyes off of the wide ribbon of water falling over the lip of stone.
“Have fun.” The young woman waved as they left.
Dad and I kicked off boots, stripped off hiking clothes and dove in. The water was cold but nothing like the ocean. I came up for air, gasping and laughing. Dad splashed water at me.
“Race you to the falls!”
We raced across the pool, half the length of a swimming pool and stopped just outside the range of the waterfall. “Beat ya!” he laughed.
I eased onto my back and floated. The roar of the water falling could be heard through the water in the pool as I stared up into a clear blue sky framed by maple, oak and white pine trees. Dad climbed out onto the bank, spread out two towels then lay down and closed his eyes.
I continued to float, listening to the falling water, loud near the falls, mellower as I drifted away. A gray squirrel darted along the branches of an oak, stopping to rip a leaf from the tree and throw it at the pool, chattering in fury at my intrusion. It occurred to me that I liked the forest much more than the sea shore. I could hear my heart beat, slow and steady. The flow of the water across my skin was soothing, not the abrasive battering that the ocean gave. It seemed as though all of time trickled to a stop and it was restful as the sun dappled the leaves overhead.
Too soon Dad called to me. “Time to eat, Emma.”
It took a force of will for me to pull myself up and swim the few strokes to the shore where Dad had laid out lunch. There were two sandwiches, a couple of apples, two bags of potato chips. I sat cross-legged on my towel and wiped my hands on it.
“Yes.” I picked up a sandwich and unwrapped it, taking a big bite. My stomach was growling. He did the same. We watched the water ripple out from the falls, sun sparkling off of the tiny waves. “I like it here. What’s it called?”
It was fitting. “I think I’m going to call it Eternal Water.”
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