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July 2017, vol 13 no 2

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Doris Lynch

The Launching of The Annabel Lee

It’s March ninth, my sister Carol’s birthday, and dad tells her she’ll have to wait for her present until he gets paid next week. As Carol’s lower lip trembles, I pull her away saying, “Don’t worry, Colleen and I have planned a great adventure.”

We race next door. As my sister catches up, I’m asking Colleen if we can borrow her dad’s hammers and snitch some rope and nails. Colleen smiles but looks questioningly at Carol’s red eyes. “For the birthday raft,” I say raising an eyebrow.

We hustle down Dawes Road past the newly framed houses on Mulligan Drive. Along the way we find a discarded packing crate with plywood slats that we drag through the woods. We also pick up a few pieces of warped lumber, discarded by the builders.

snow-flattened grass
springs alive –
pheasant’s cry

On the banks of Stony Creek, we hammer away. The crate is large, six by eight feet, and we try to fill the empty spaces between slats with stray wood. Carol hammers fiercely. Her face displays a determined smile.

While we’re strapping two round logs to the bottom, Colleen races home and returns with paint, brushes and some leis she’s ripped off the wall from her parents’ Honolulu trip of a lifetime. Although not every slat has been connected, we splash red and purple paint over everything, and christen the raft by dropping leis over its wide expanse. Carol paints my name of choice – The Annabel Lee – across the center. She adds an exclamation point for emphasis.

We search under oaks and hickories for staffs, AKA jerry-rigged oars. Carol claims the port side, which juts out over the creek, Colleen, the stern, and I, starboard. With a heave ho, we shove off. Within seconds, the makeshift raft takes on water. Winter cold, it pours over our boots and jeans. On Carol’s side, ropes unravel and the log underneath slips away into the current. The raft begins to sink. Colleen and I, near the bank, leap off. Carol pushes valiantly with her pole, but wallows in creek-water up to her thighs, then loses her balance and topples over. She comes up blubbering, face and hair drenched. On her ninth birthday she curses – the first time ever – a stream of forbidden words salty as any sailor’s.

forever unlucky
charm bracelet promised
never received