A Paddle Alone on the Fourth of July

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Bullfrogs jump on muddy banks, woodpeckers punch into real-wood trees — it’s the Indian creek, on America’s birthday. Lonesome, yes you are, but not lonely — lonely would be a lesser word to describe you — you are lonesome, not lonely. But man, though, are you lucky — kayak, rod, menthols, cold drinks, baby turtles (yeah, baby turtles) — and you are all by yourself — such a lucky bastard you are, indeed.

So just remember that, you’re not lonely, you’re lonesome — but why though, must you keep reminding yourself — if you must incessantly, always remind yourself anything, then there’s probably more to that thing than you might even know — quit telling yourself, and just go — catch some baby turtles already — commit to some fucking action, before you forget just what it is that you came here for in the first place.

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It’s okay, that you capture wild baby turtles, who really cares what the lady at the gas station said — she didn’t know shit, she just gave a fuck — not both, and a person needs both, if that what they say is to matter, right? Right, and besides, wild baby turtles, have a far better shot at dying, preyed on by birds, raccoons, foxes, and everything else that’s in this creek than at capture by you, on your kayak, to take them home, to feed them, to clean them, to aid of them, to care for them emphatically — you’re a Goddamn saint, to Goddamn baby turtles — That Goddamn lady, at the Goddamn gas station, doesn’t know shit, about baby turtles — she just enjoys scolding people and, talking out of her ass, as well, as if that her mouth was intended for some kind of metaphor — still at the gas station, too, just now she’s lecturing someone else, though, on something different entirely — man, how you can be harsh on people, now go, get a move on, catch some baby turtles — free them, protect them, they are vulnerable.

Your kayak is prepped and packed, ready for water — your net is secured and safely nearby, handy within reach — your drinks are chilling, you got your machete, your ropes, twine, buck knife — bug spray, is sprayed — your dry box is packed of all goods: tobacco, lighter, cell phone — that’s it. You’re ready. The time is now an hour past noon, the Sun is set to fall in approximately eight hours — that’s plenty of time to catch at least one baby turtle. And maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll finally catch the elusive baby painted turtle — all you’ve ever managed catch is red-eared sliders, snappers, maps, softshells, pretty much everything, really, though yet, not once have you caught the most common of them all — well, not the babies that is — adult painted turtles, sure, dimes by dozens do you catch those — and the juveniles, too, you catch those all the time — but never the babies. Today, though, just may be lucky day. Get in the water — actually, though, before you do, lock your goddamn phone away — put it away by itself — seriously, if you open your phone to click, even just once, on that little blue square with that little white “f”, then you sir, are a fucking loser — don’t fucking do it — you are here to be wild, so fucking be wild. Newport’s though, those don’t count, of course, come on, you can smoke them and still be wild — I mean, hey, even John Muir had needed his tobacco, on hand, right — I mean, am I right, or am I right? Did John Muir even smoke? Ugh, Goddammit! Fuck that, who cares! The point is, that had John Muir had an iPhone, then, well, he’d have faced the same problem back then as you’re facing right now. Right? Yeah, right, just keep telling yourself that — but anyway, though, fuck John Muir, go paddle, it’s now past two PM.

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The creek banks smell oh so shitty — so much muck — It’s amazing that, even the bullfrogs, in spite of how lightweight they might be, that they manage to not sink through to its bottom — hopping all about its surface — it’s amazing, as well, that your kayak, for that matter, had managed to slide over it, into the actual creek water — that muck painted you, in itself, up to your knees. Oh, and your Tevas, your beloved, ironically fashionable, Teva sandals have reduced to only but one lousy foot — the muck consumed the other — eh, well, alas, fuck it, Tevas cost like ten dollars — and the baby painted turtles, they are waiting for you.

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Perform the ritual, provoke the Newport — breathe it in — look around you — appreciate the moment — take it all in. Also, clean off the muck, that shit is gross, smells horrible — literally, smells like rotten eggs. Just hang your legs over the sides and get paddling — the anti-current that creates will force your flesh clean. It’s always best to start off, fighting against the flow of the creek — the workout is made all that much better, and also, not to mention, the paddle the way back is rendered a breeze, requiring little-to-no effort on your part, if you’ve none left to give at that point, you can drift your way back, comfortably — lazy river style.

It’s not such a bad Fourth of July — perhaps even a unique Fourth of July. Makes you wonder what other people are doing — many are at the beach, probably — with family, of course, though others might just be with friends — lots of people getting drunk, obviously — potlucks, barbecues, boating, all that jazz — and, as of course, fucking fireworks — what is the Fourth of July ever without fireworks? You could answer that one, though, could you not — here you are, paddling in some backwater creek, alone, by yourself — Fourth of July, and so obviously you’re out hunting all day for baby fucking turtles.

Again, though, what is it about that that bothers you, really? Is it you wish that you were not lonesome, or is it merely you just feel that you should wish you were not lonesome? Should that kind of distinction even matter?

You’re deep in the country now — way into the boonies, you’ve paddled pretty far. With every few winds and bends of the creek you pass, your vision exposes to glimpses of manicured fields —  barns on farms — great tall silos appear in the distance, periodically fading, in and out of sight — mostly though, you see only just trees, surrounding you — they do a pretty good job of blocking out the Sun — it makes it seem a bit later than it really is. Most likely, you’ve paddled your way somewhere into the rural town Clarence  — the country, there, it is beautiful. And for a suburban-bred boy such as yourself — nature — nature even by any stretch — is novel enough to treat you — and the nature or, the country, rather, here, right now, seems to treat you quite nicely.

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But where in the fuck though, are all the turtles? I mean, are they like, fucking hiding? It’s a pretty sunny out — it’s midday-ish, too — they should be out basking — nobody’s here but yourself to scare them away — they should be out and about. Maybe it’s just a bad creek for turtles — after all, you wouldn’t know as you’ve not been here to this particular stretch of this waterway. But you had been told, though, that it was a good creek for turtles, and the person who had told this had both given fucks and knew shit, so, well, where in the fuck are they hiding then.

It seems to be a particularly muddy stretch of the waterway here — clay bottomed, lots of debris, decaying leaves, as well — rotted plants are everywhere, almost carpeting the floor underneath you — also the banks, smell absolutely disgusting here — far much worse than it had earlier. If for nothing else then it might be a decent environment for softshells — who knows — just keep paddling. Smoke some more Newport, slow down the pace, drink a beer — keep an eye out all the while you do — softshells are tricky — trickier than most other turtles, they always behave very cautiously. A baby softshell, now that would be a good find — they always are.

It’s gotten pretty late, though — it’s well past midday by now — creeping fast into the evening. From the sounds of things, you’re meandering your way back into some heavier civilization — people are shooting off fireworks nearby — somewhere close enough at least that you hear them explode. It’s not even that dark out yet — people just love blowing shit up — that is what fireworks are for after all. Fireworks are a bit of overrated — you’ve always said that — no one though, has ever empathized with you on that — people tend to think of that as antisocial, especially on the Fourth.

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Still no baby turtles yet. Where in the Hell are the damn things? Does it even matter.

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