EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the third chapter of a 15-part story that The Augusta Chronicle will publish in Your Life on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays until July 16.
THE STORY SO FAR: On a break from white-water rafting on the Green River, Aaron and Lisa venture up along the rim of Desolation Canyon. While exploring a cave, they suddenly hear a loud growl.
ROA-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-RRRRRRRRRRRRRR! The shadow in the cave's mouth crouched.
Then laughed like a hyena.
It was Cassidy! He'd followed us up. I tried to laugh too, but it sounded more like a croak. I didn't realize that Lisa had been hugging me hard from behind until she let go.
"That was twisted!" Lisa said. Then she sprinted toward him like she was going to knock him down.
He caught her in a bear hug. "Let go, you creep!" she said. She giggled and squirmed. I couldn't believe it, but she acted like she liked it. I felt that twisting in my heart again and pushed by them, out into the blast of sun.
I started down. "Wait up!" Lisa came scrambling down behind me. Cassidy stayed up there, watching us.
Some stones started bumping and rolling past us. I looked back up. Cassidy was lobbing rocks down behind us! Just as we reached the bottom, this little avalanche started chasing us. "Dude!" I yelled. "You trying to kill someone?"
Lisa came tearing by me on those long brown legs of hers. She was crying-or laughing? I couldn't tell which.
Back on the river, it was so slow that Roger and Dad and Wild Man Willie decided to lash our rafts together and just float downriver for a while.
It was fun. Willie lobbed oranges at us from the ice chest on his boat. Then he flew big flat cookies like Frisbees and chucked some cans of soda.
I leaped over to Roger and Lisa's raft and flopped down beside her on some big rubber "dry bags" filled with clothes. Then Cassidy leaped over and practically landed in Lisa's lap.
"Get off me, you dork!" She shoved him off, but she was laughing.
Cassidy popped open a can of Sprite. It sprayed all over me.
"Thanks, punk," I said.
He took a long slurp, then said, "Dude, last time I went white-water rafting, a boat ahead of us wrapped around a pillar in some bad water beneath a bridge."
"What happened?" I asked.
"Everybody was thrown out, man," he said, taking another swig, "except for the guide."
"What happened to him?"
"He died?" Lisa and I both said it at the same time. She socked my arm. I socked her back.
"Yeah, his leg got caught beneath the safety line that runs down the middle of the raft. When the bottom of the raft wrapped around the pylon, it pulled the line taut and trapped his leg and held him underwater. He drowned."
"That's an awful story!" Lisa said.
"I think it's cool, dude," Cassidy said, and belched. "I like to play with danger, you hear what I'm saying? You only feel really alive when you know the next minute you can be dead." He crumpled his can and tossed it into the river.
Lisa and I glanced at each other. Her eyes looked darker than ever. How are we going to survive this trip with a crazy guy like this along? I wondered.
"Hop to!" Roger yelled. "We're coming up on some fast water!"
Me and Cassidy jumped back to our places and helped break the rafts free, and we were on our way.
Dad rowed. I sat high on the tube at the back. Ours was the last boat in line. I heard the roar and could see a line of white up ahead. Mist rose above the boulders. "Hold on tight," Dad said. He swung the raft around to see what we were facing.
Roger the Rogue's raft was swept into the rapids. I saw Lisa's black ponytail flying as they dropped out of sight.
Then Willie and Cassidy disappeared into the roaring spray. Our turn now. I was nervous and excited at the same time. I felt as wide-awake as you can be, ready for anything.
"We have to stay left of that boulder, Aaron," Dad shouted. "If we hit it, jump to the high side of the raft. With luck, we'll slide down. If not, we'll wrap!"
All of a sudden the river went wild. Waves reared up and crashed. Water churned and burst off of rocks. I clenched my teeth and fists as we whipped and spun and bounced.
"Yee-ha!" I yelled, like I was riding a bucking bronco. "Hey, this is fu - Whoops!" I almost fell backwards, but hung on.
We were racing toward the boulder. It was huge and shiny black, the water pouring over it in a smooth fast gleam of power, then crashing into a big hole on the far side.
"Hang on tight!" Dad shouted again, and I did. Just as we came near the boulder he dug his right oar in and spun us around. We were sliding toward it. Water was exploding around it. We were bucking and lurching and all of a sudden the boulder was in my face. It reminded me of when Dad spun out of control on an icy road in the Sierras and we slid toward a tree. I leaned away, tensed for disaster.
"High side! High side!" Dad hollered.
TEXT COPYRIGHT 2002 JONATHAN LONDON
ILLUSTRATIONS COPYRIGHT 2002 MAILE PICKETT
REPRINTED BY PERMISSION OF BREAKFAST SERIALS INC., WWW.BREAKFASTSERIALS.COM.
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