Ramp

“He takes a kitchen chair and sits in the yard and all the ducks come around. He holds up the cheese curls in one hand and caramel popcorn in the other and his audience looks up and he tells them a joke. He says: So one day a duck come into this bar and ordered a whiskey and a bump and the bartender was pretty surprised, he says, “You know we don’t get many of you ducks in here.” The duck says, “At these prices I’m not surprised.* And he tosses out the popcorn and they laugh. ‘Wak wak wak wak wak. I was shot in the leg in the war.’ Have a scar? ‘No thanks, I don’t smoke.”

― Garrison Keillor, Truckstop and Other Lake Wobegon Stories

There’s a park at the end of my block with a couple of flood-control ponds (the drainage from the ponds runs in a creek/ditch behind my house). Despite their utility in times of rain and excessive urban runoff they are quite attractive.

The ponds at the end of my block, Richardson, Texas
Pond at the end of my block, Huffhines Park, Richardson, Texas
The ponds at the end of my block, Richardson, Texas
The ponds at the end of my street, Huffhines Park, Richardson, Texas

My neighborhood is called Duck Creek, because of the eponymous body of water that runs diagonally through the place, but there are also plenty of ducks. This is the time of year that the baby ducks are hatched and groups of them are herded around by their parents.

Huffhines Park Richardsion, Texas (click to enlarge)
They don’t call it Duck Creek for nothing.
Huffhines Creek, Richardson, Texas. My house is in the background to the left. This photo is taken from the little dam and under a bridge.

The problem is that there is a little, low dam at the end of the ponds. The water flows over it – during the summer it’s not much more than a trickle. Unfortunately, often a baby duck gets swept over this dam and separated from their loving duck family. They can’t get back over the dam, even though it isn’t more than a couple feet high.

The rest of the ducks then have to go over the dam to rescue their sibling. Then they have to waddle up the bank and cross a fairly busy street to get back into the pond.

People in my neighborhood have been complaining to the city about this and today, I discovered that there is a new construction project going. The city is making a concrete duckling ramp so that they can get up and over that low dam.

The duckling ramp under construction.

Excuse all the trash in the photo – it tends to collect there – a crew comes by periodically to pick it up.

I’ll go back in a few days, once the wooden forms are removed and see if the little ducks are actually using their ramp – I’m sure they will. Maybe the turtles will too. I’m sure the snakes will.

Does this count as infrastructure?

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, A Quick Dip, by Neeru Nagarajan

“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?” That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”
― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

The river and the Hwy 90 double bridge from the Crescent Park Bridge, New Orleans

From my Online Journal – July 3, 2000 (almost twenty years ago – yikes! – my kids were nine and ten at the time) written during a camping trip at Balmorhea State Park in West Texas:

We came back down to Balmorhea in the late afternoon and decided to go swimming. We talked to Lee about his fear of the fish in the pool and, as I suspected, it was mostly that he was tired and hungry yesterday. Some rest and some food and he was ready to hit the water.

He didn’t really do any swimming. What he preferred to do was to put on his goggles and stretch across his inflatable inner tube and let me swim and pull the tube around the big pool. He’d take a deep breath and stick his head into the water and look at the bottom. The pool is very large and there was a lot to look at. He would have requests like, “Swim me over to that end,” or “let’s go out to the deep part,” and I’d oblige. He’d plunge his face and come up with a report of what he saw: a school of fish, or some rocks, or a turtle, or a place where some kids had inscribed their names into the algae growing on the bottom.

After the crowded holiday that day before, only a handful of swimmers and some scuba divers were there. As I pulled Lee around Nick dove off the high board and swam until it was his turn. Lee wrapped up in a towel and walked back to the campsite. Nicholas put on his goggles and I started swimming him around on his tube. We went into the deep end to try and spot the place where the copious flow of water erupted in a bed of white bubbling sand.

We came up against the stairs on the far side. I was getting tired and cold, the spring water is very chilly, it was late, I’d been swimming a long time and it was taking its toll. I asked Nick if we should walk back, around the pool or swim across. We did have his inner tube – I felt confident we could make it across one more time. We decided to swim. It was a mistake.

Nick looped his goggles around one shoulder and took hold of one side of the tube while I grabbed the other and we started to swim. Not too far from the side, but at the deepest part, maybe thirty feet deep, Nick called out, “Oh, oh, there go my goggles.” In retrospect I should have let them sink; but I took a big gulp of air and took off underwater, diving as deep and as quickly as I could. Maybe twenty feet down I saw a sinking orange blur, frog-kicked over to the goggles and grabbed them. Then I swam back up to the surface.

When you start reaching well into your forties, like I am, there is a fundamental change in the relationship between you and your body. What has been a good friend over the years, a partner, something you are… well, attached to – suddenly turns traitor. Abilities you have taken for granted for decades disappear. No one tells you about this. As a youth I could swim underwater with the ease and comfort of walking across a field. I took this for granted, the ability to hold my breath, come up for air and refresh myself. I discovered tired, and cold, and old, and fat… this is no longer true.

When I came up and handed Nicholas his goggles and put one hand on the inner tube and started kicking and swimming I realized that I was not going to be able to catch my breath. It came on with awful speed. No matter how hard I tried, my breathing became more and more labored, shallower, moving my arms and legs in the cold spring water was becoming extremely difficult.

It was horrifying.

With amazing clarity of thought, I knew I was not going to drown. I did have that inner tube for a float, even though I was rapidly becoming so weak I could barely hold on to it. There were some scuba divers in the pool that had finished diving and were sitting on the steps talking over the day’s sights and I knew I could call to them and they would haul me out of the pool. I came within a hair’s breadth of doing that.

The main fear I had was I thought I might be having a heart attack. I had never felt like this before. There was no pain, but I simply could not breathe, I could not get enough oxygen into my body to keep my arms and legs moving.

I don’t know what Nicholas thought, holding on to the other side of the inner tube, my son’s face only a few inches from mine. I must have scared him a little because I know I was flopping more than I should, trying to hook my arm into the tube and was unable to get it done. I didn’t want to frighten him unnecessarily so I kept my rising fears to myself.

Slowly, we continued to move across the wide pool, and finally I was able to reach down with a toe and touch the bottom. That didn’t help as much as you’d think because I was too weak to stand in the water and the energy used to hop and get my face above water made my breathing more impossible. Finally, the floor became shallower and shallower and before I knew it I was on the steps.

I released the tube and the brisk wind blew it away. “Could somebody get that please,” I asked, and a scuba diver caught it with a couple strong sure strokes and brought it back to me.

I didn’t have to sit beside the pool for very long before I felt fine. The fear and panic quickly drained away and left me with a slight elation even though I was still a little tired. I told Nicholas to take his towel and walk back to the popup at the campsite, I’d catch up in a minute.

Looking back on it now, I realize what I was feeling, in addition to simple exhaustion, was hypothermia. The spring water was cold and I had been in it for hours.

Walking slowly back to the camp, enjoying the last purple glow of the set sun, following the channels that the water followed as it coursed out of the pool, roaring down the irrigation ditches on out of the park, I felt fine. But the memory of those minutes of fear, the feeling of helplessness and drowning, are still with me. I had never felt like that before and I don’t look forward to feeling like that again. Unfortunately, I’m sure I will.

And today’s flash fiction:

A Quick Dip, by Neeru Nagarajan

from Middle House Review

Neeru Nagarajan Twitter

Neeru Nagarajan homepage

Short Story Of the Day – What is the River? (flash fiction) by Bill Chance

“We all float down here!”
Stephen King, It


Klyde Warren Park,
Dallas, Texas

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#56) More than half way there! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


What is the River?

Sitting by the stream the little boy talked to his strange new friend:

“Where does the river come from? Where does it go?” the boy asked.

“It is simply there. The river does not move.”

The child released the tiny boat and watched it around the bend.

“But it is moving.”

“The water is moving. The water comes from the ice in the mountains and goes to the salt in the ocean. The water comes and goes. The river does not move.”

“But what is the river if it is not water?”

“That is a good question. The water is different every minute. But the river is always the same. The river has to be something other than the water… but what… I don’t know.”

The Boy looked at The Clown.

“Tell you what, boy,” The Clown said, “Let me go think about it for a while. When I figure out an answer, I’ll come back for you.”

“You promise?”

“Oh, I will, I will, I promise.”

The boy watched as The Clown began to shimmer and bend and then slither down through the drain slot in the curb. The Clown looked out from the shadows at the boy for a second, then disappeared.

Short Story Of the Day, Heat Wave by Bill Chance

She stopped for gas. Shoved her card into the slot and clicked the automatic hook-deal on the handle so the gas would flow on its own. Susanna purposely stepped back, out from under the sheltering gas station roof onto the unprotected part of the apron and strolled to a lonely strip of turf that bordered the station.

—-Bill Chance, Heat Wave

Galatyn Fountain, Richardson, Texas

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#21). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

 

 


Heat Wave

 

Susanna drove home from work that afternoon, the tape of “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” speaking its pages from the cassette player in the dash. Now, to listen to a tape while driving takes a lot of concentration. Susanna could listen and drive, watch the road, but not anything else. It was plot, voice, character, and oncoming traffic. Some effort, skill maybe, was needed; she had been checking out tapes from the library long enough that she could do it.

With all her attention focused like that, Susanna did not even consciously notice some shapes smearing on the windshield. Instinctively, her hand twisted the knob on the steering column, setting the wipers in motion. Several minutes went by before she actually realized what was happening, what was smattering on the glass.

It was raining.

Ordinarily this would not be a big deal at all. But it had been so long, exactly a month, and the intervening oven days so broiling that Susanna had forgotten about rain. It was no more than a sprinkle, but ohh, it looked so good.

She stopped for gas. Shoved her card into the slot and clicked the automatic hook-deal on the handle so the gas would flow on its own. Susanna purposely stepped back, out from under the sheltering gas station roof onto the unprotected part of the apron and strolled to a lonely strip of turf that bordered the station. She wanted to feel the rain, get wet, and see the spots form on her white shirt. She felt like yelling, singing, dancing.

The smell was wonderful. Suzanna had forgotten the odor of fresh rain on dry grass.

It was not much of a shower, not enough to end the drought. The triple digit days would return by the weekend. But it was something… a respite. More than that, it was the return of hope. Someday, the killer heat will dissipate; the drought will drown. Until that day, those indisputable facts were impossible to imagine.

Hope- a reminder that things will get better, that we will all survive. That’s what we’ve been missing.

Sunday Snippet, Archipelago by Bill Chance

They liked to ski in that area because of the hundreds of small islands that cut the wind and waves and made for the smooth glass-like surface that was so fun to ski on. But the area was like a maze, as much land as water, and a confusing labyrinth of passages, gaps, and islets. It was tough to know exactly where your were at any time.

—-Bill Chance, Archipelago

 

Trees reflected in a pond, inverted, with Chihuly, Red Reeds

Archipelago

Sam leaned back and pulled on the rope while cutting his ski into the water. He shot sideways, outward, and felt the wave of the wake as it shoved him into midair. Bracing, he cut back as he landed on the smooth, green surface outside the wake and turned to grin at Jim on the other side. Sam relaxed and enjoyed the smooth skimming across the mirror smooth water.

He realized that in the year since his family moved to Central America his skiing had improved so much. The fact he could ski every day, all year round, made such a difference. There was never that long layoff of the winter months where he would get soft and uncoordinated – have to relearn everything in the spring.

He glanced up at the boat where Jim’s father and little brother were driving them around the water in the vast archipelago of little jungle-covered islands. Something was wrong and he could see Arnold’s red hair disappearing below the rear gunwale as he looked for something in the bowels of the boat. Jim’s father was turned around too, looking, pointing and barking orders, although Sam couldn’t understand what he was saying.

“What’s up?” Sam shouted across at Jim, “Something wrong in the boat.”

“Hell if I know,” Jim shouted back.

“Make that jump, Jim. See if you can get as high as I did.”

Jim nodded, pulled and made a sharp turn outward like Sam had a few seconds before. He did fly high as he hit the wake wave, maybe a little higher than Sam had. But he over rotated and waved his hands desperately as the nose of the long slalom ski caught the water first and at a bad angle. Jim cartwheeled over twice bouncing off the water and then sinking in.

Sam laughed as he let go of his rope, slowly coasted to a stop, and sank down to his life jacket. The two good friends had been working hard on their skiing and fell hundred of times. He knew Jim was fine and saw him smile as his face poked back up above the water.

They both turned to the boat expecting to watch it circle around so the both of them could grab their tow handles and keep skiing. It was a routine they had done many, many times before – three times that very day.

But Arnold was still rooting around and his father was still looking at him. Before either of the two boys could yell from the water the boat had moved around the nearest island and disappeared.

“Shit!” Sam said. “They didn’t see us fall.”

“Don’t worry, they’ll notice soon enough and come back to find us.”

They liked to ski in that area because of the hundreds of small islands that cut the wind and waves and made for the smooth glass-like surface that was so fun to ski on. But the area was like a maze, as much land as water, and a confusing labyrinth of passages, gaps, and islets. It was tough to know exactly where your were at any time.

As the two boys bobbed in the water, floating on their foam jackets, and holding on to their skis, they could hear the whine of the outboard motor moving around between the islands, going back and forth, but couldn’t see anything. This went on for a long time.

“They can’t find us,” said Sam.

“Don’t worry, eventually they will, the water’s warm, we can wait.”

But then the sound of the motor died away.

“Now what?” asked Sam.

“They probably are low on gas and went back to fill up.”

By that time it was getting to be late afternoon and it was the rainy season. Inevitably, the small clouds overhead began to quickly coalesce into large angry-looking black overcast blankets. And then the rain began to fall. It was warm rain, almost like a hot shower. But it was think and heavy – coming down in a deluge of giant globs of water. The boys were used to that, but they were very exposed.

“What do we do know,” Sam yelled over the din of splashing water.

“Let’s swim to the nearest island and wait it out there.”

They weren’t very far from the dark green hillock and were strong swimmers. It was an easy task, especially with their life jackets, to paddle and cover the space between them and the nearest land, even pulling their skis along.

The problem was the jungle grew in a thick, inhospitable blanket right down into the water. They had to swim along the shore until they came to a spot where a tree had died and fallen into the lake, leaving a gap in the jungle foliage. They were able to swim among the dead branches and find a little bit of spongy ground to sit on.

As they moved up they were startled by a gigantic toad, camouflaged invisible into the thick layer of forest detritus along the shore. The toad, bigger than either of the boys had ever seen, grunted and leaped past them into the water with a gigantic splash. Both boys cried out in a moment of fear and then laughed together when they realized the gigantic monster was merely a harmless toad.

There wasn’t much open space left in the spot the amphibian and abandoned and the two boys had to crowd together sitting on the wet ground, still holding their skis. The thick vegetation overhead provided only a little shelter from the rain – the drops of water falling on their heads came a little less often, but were much larger after they tumbled through the leaves.

“They will never be able to see us here,” said Sam.

“In this rain they couldn’t see us or hear us anywhere anyway. It’ll have to stop sometime. They’ll come looking then.”

And the rain did stop. But by then the sun was falling behind the tall trees of the next island to the west.

The suns sets quickly in the tropics – its path is straight down and there aren’t very many minutes of twilight. As it disappeared in the post-rain humidity it became surprisingly cold and the boys shivered in the misty miasma of decomposing life that flowed out from the darkness behind them into the lake.

The two boys sat silent, their thoughts to themselves, as the dark night descended and devoured the whole world. The loud sounds of the nocturnal jungle dwellers began to rise in a wild cacophony of shrieks, cries, and growls.

The boys could only listen and wonder where the whine of an outboard was.

The Swirling

“My soul is a black maelstrom, a great madness spinning about a vacuum, the swirling of a vast ocean around a hole in the void, and in the waters, more like whirlwinds than waters, float images of all I ever saw or heard in the world: houses, faces, books, boxes, snatches of music and fragments of voices, all caught up in a sinister, bottomless whirlpool.”
Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

Old photo of the Trinity River in flood stage, Dallas, Texas

The Dawn Remaking the World

“Veil after veil of thin dusky gauze is lifted, and by degrees the forms and colours of things are restored to them, and we watch the dawn remaking the world in its antique pattern.”
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

A duck at dawn, Bachman Lake, Dallas, Texas

Cell Phone Tower Reflected in Bachman Lake, Before and After Sunrise

“There’s always a story. It’s all stories, really. The sun coming up every day is a story. Everything’s got a story in it. Change the story, change the world.”
Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

Bachman Lake, Dallas, Texas, before sunrise

Bachman Lake, Dallas, Texas, after sunrise