It was their idea to go canoeing. I agreed while hiding my surprise at their suggestion. My two cousins didn’t exactly strike me as the outdoorsy type. When we arrived at the park, he asked somebody where we could find the canoes. The other night he had told me that he canoed here often.
The park was enormous. We walked down a winding path over several hills to reach the lake. Three teen girls were manning the rental station. Three people. One canoe. Forty-five minutes. Plenty of time to circle the lake. We each donned an orange life jacket and stepped onto our canoe. She sat in front, saying she wasn’t going to row. Fine. He and I shared that larger, back seat. The three girls handed us our oars and pushed us away from the shore.
The boy had no clue. As the girls were pushing the canoe, he turned to me and said, “Prima. You don’t have to row if you don’t want to. I can do it by myself.” Shit. I asked again, “You go canoeing a lot?” “Yes,” he replied. Liar. I explained calmly that he and I needed to row together. Since we were each sitting on a different side of the canoe, it would require both of us to row.
We were already drifting back toward the shore, and I told him he needed to row or we’d hit it. He responded by dipping the oar halfway into the lake and weakly passing it through the water before turning back to me with a smile on his face. I had no time to paddle that smile off his face as we were about to hit land. I quickly turned around and jabbed the oar into the lake, using it as a rudder to slow and steer us away from the bank. Forty-three more minutes of this? Fuck.
After a little prodding and coaching, I managed to get him to row with me. I compensated for his limp arm by stroking just as softly. Just one other problem. I couldn’t get the boy to row more than three times without stopping.
He would weakly stroke once, stroke twice, stroke three times, and then lay the oar across his knees to stare at the sky, the trees, the birds, the water… I was fuming. It was a gorgeous day. I wanted to see it all. I wanted to feel the wind in my face as the canoe cut through the waves. Instead, we were just barely creeping along, and I was having to work to keep us from drifting too close to the banks every time the bastard took another break.
I don’t think we’d made it one hundred yards before I looked at my watch and saw we had twenty minutes left on our rental. “We need to turn around,” I told him as he was admiring a clump of grass. “Why, Prima?” Because you’re a lazy, lying piece of shit whose fucking up something I love to do. I explained that our time was almost up. “It doesn’t matter.” “Don’t you have to pay more if you take more time?” “No.” Fuck that shit and my idiot cousin. I turned the canoe around by myself.
He continued his infuriating ritual: creep and sit. A particularly strong gust pushed us into a pier during one of his breaks. Resistance was futile. At this point I think he was sensing my fury, so he stepped up the pace after resting alongside the pier. Five strokes to one break. At this point I found it refreshing.
We had one last obstacle when we finally reached the rental station: parking. The canoes were parked diagonally away from us on the right. There was only one canoe-sized opening. My cousin immediately tried to veer right toward the spot. “Stop.” I explained to him that we needed to go left a bit, just past the spot, and then circle in order to enter it smoothly. “Oh, Prima. You’re so smart.” Shut the fuck up and row. “Softer now, ” I told him as we got closer. “Stop.” I finished steering us in.
He was right. One person sitting on one side of the canoe can row alone.
*** Feel free to include your own sketch through a comment and link back in your post. There are no themes. Choose any emotionally charged life experience, and write.