CWN 012: Crossing The River

Today, The Creative Writer’s Notebook offers an exercise in dialog: two people discuss how to get to the other side of an impassible river.

Lenny crouched down, laying forearms across knees as his right hand dipped into the water, as if physical contact with the river’s surface would reveal some riparian property that would help solve the problem before them.

“How deep is it?” Clara punctuated her question by kicking a pile of loose stones.

“I have no idea.” Lenny stood, lifting a pebble in his right hand and tossing it in a high arc towards the center of the waterway. “But I remember hearing motor boats going up and down the river the other day.” He pointed to where his pebble had plunged into the river without knowing whether Clara was looking in his direction.  “And you can see the current’s pretty strong, down the center. Have to be a lot better swimmer than us to get across.”

“So why aren’t there any motor boats today?”

“Because its freaking MONDAY.” Lenny turned swiftly, his lips curled back as he made eye contact with Clara. “And it’s the fall. People have left their summer homes, gone back to work. We’re probably the only people stupid enough to try and make a three-day weekend out of this place.”

Clara frowned, patted the vest pocket of her jacket with her right hand, as her left brushed her wavy brown hair off her face. “I checked earlier, we still have signal.”

Lenny spread his arms wide, contorted his face as if he were being tortured, his black goatee darkening his jaw like coal. “And do what? Call 911? Say, hey, we’re a couple city folks who decided to go hiking, so we crossed this river yesterday, but now we can’t remember where that was.” His arms flapped down to his sides. “Great idea!”

As she stared back at the man whom she once believed would be her husband, the thirty-year-old project manager at First Federal Financing called to her mind the image of Mrs. Thurston, her imperious fourth-grade teacher. “They could send someone. Or maybe they could locate us through our phone, tell us where to go. I don’t know what they’ll do — ” Clara had pulled her phone out of her pocket, now pointed it at Lenny — “but I sure know we have no idea what we’re doing. And we need help.”


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