Mike grinned again and grabbed the rope netting on the mattress. He waded into the river, tugging the mattress behind him until it, miraculously, floated. Moira was right behind Mike, carrying the futon paddles. Both of them threw themselves onto the mattress, face down. Their chins hung off the front. They looked like a disenchanted married couple. They struggled to keep the mattress from floating away from the bank, digging their paddles into the mud below them.
I handed Lexington to Jill. “You better be good on this trip,” she said to him. Then, she waded into the river to join the others on the mattress. When Moira felt Jill’s weight behind her, she yelled, “Hurry up!”
I obeyed Moira, wading toward the mattress, carrying Sadad under one arm, Bethel under the other. I deposited Sadad between Mike and Moira’s legs. “You hang onto these ropes,” I said to her, putting her little hands on the netting. I put Bethel at Mike’s feet. Then, I joined Jill at the back of the mattress. We were going to add power to the paddling by kicking our feet in the water. At least, that was the theory.
And so, our little ridiculous craft launched from the river bank. Four adults half hanging off, a child in the middle, and a dog and a cat yowling in protest of the whole idea. We actually made good progress, at first. There wasn’t much of a current at the edge of the river. We were moving in a westerly direction and we weren’t being swept too far downstream.
I assumed that things would change when we got closer to the middle of the river. The current had to be stronger, there. But, for the moment, I was happy that we were doing well, leaving Manhattan and giant birds and Disney behind us. That was when little plinks started plinking into the water fairly close to us. “Shit, what is that?,” Mike shouted.
I looked toward the bridge. Sure enough, there were little soldiers up there and I assumed that they were shooting little guns at us. We seemed to be out of bullet range, barely, and that was good. We were gradually moving downstream, and that would take us further out of range. That was more good.
However, it didn’t seem particularly good that the soldiers were bent on killing us in the middle of what they had to see as a suicidal attempt to leave Manhattan. You’d think that the pure craziness of what we were doing would make them leave us alone to see how far we got before we drowned. If Don had been wrong about New Jersey being a safe haven, I was going to be pissed.
Sure enough, we were leaving the plinks behind. Naturally, that was because we had moved into a more current-y part of the river. We were moving downstream much faster, now. Much faster than we really wanted to move downstream, but all we could do was go with the flow, literally, and try to keep moving west.
We were all getting tired. I had no idea how far we’d gotten, and I didn’t want to look to try to gauge our progress. I glanced up at Sadad, to see how she was doing, and she was rubbernecking all over the place. I could only guess that this was high adventure, for a kid. Her parents sure as hell had never taken her out for such a dangerous activity. She turned around to look at Manhattan behind us, and her brown little face turned pale. One of her hands let go of the rope net and shot into a tiny arrow of a tiny pointing finger.
“Bird!,” Sadad screamed. “Big bird!”
I somehow knew she didn’t mean the one from Sesame Street.