The River

Her reverie was broken by her waders being dropped in her lap. She knew it was time. But still, she made her protest, “Papa, can’t Egbert go today? He’s your first born and it’s his calling.” Silently, Papa turned to look out of the window, and her gaze followed his… To where Egbert was chasing butterflies with a sword. Rosa sighed. Point made. Another perfect cup of tea, destined to go cold.

As soon as she saw the river, her mood lifted, like it always did. There were several journeyers floundering. More pacing on the opposite bank. And just a few dazed souls sitting on the near side. Rosa’s triage instincts kicked in. The easy first step was to gather into the shelter those journeyers who had already made the crossing, and ask the most able of them to hand out blankets and make hot drinks. She could talk to them later.

Papa, today like every day, was already in the middle of the river. Gently coaxing the flounders to their feet. Pointing them to the shelter, encouraging them to keep moving.

Of course there were some who were petrified. They’d gone too far to ever return, but had no idea what came next. Papa could deal with that. He’d once sat there for three days with someone in distress, waiting quietly until they asked him the way.

She struggled into her waders. They weren’t necessary from this bank. Standing here, the river was clearly a gentle, bubbling stream. But once she crossed to the far side, she’d be just one of the journeyers, searching for the way across a raging torrent. The waders were Papa’s concession. She’d made this journey so many times, at least she’d stay dry.

Once on the far bank, she moved purposefully among the pacers. Within moments, she couldn’t remember why. All she knew was this impossible river, blocking the way.

She looked up and caught the spark in a man’s eye. A sense of adventure stirred. “Should we try?”

They turned, hand-in-hand, and headed straight for the river. The directness of their movement caused a ripple through the crowd. Some called out, saying it was dangerous, or futile, or that the risks of injury were too high. One or two even suggested they was irresponsible, when there was still work to be done on this bank.

Nothing deterred her. She categorically knew the route across. Not all of it at once, but each next step, as it was required. He held on tight and followed, never more than half a pace behind, never slowing her down. Clambering the bank, she could hear Papa teasing that this was her fastest crossing yet. She blinked, and remembered.

The journeyer was laughing and crying, still holding her hand. Expressing gratitude beyond measure.

Here’s what she told him. “I cannot help anyone who isn’t ready. It’s the spark in your eye that lit the way.”

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