Iowa Writes

JIM ESTES
Paddleboatin'


I woke with Annie up already and drinking coffee. She had her chair tipped back and her feet up on the table. She had a book, Poems by Sylvia Plath, open, face-down on her lap.
   
"Good morning," she said.
   
"Were you watching me?"
   
"Yeah, some," she said.
   
"Well, good morning," I said. I stretched in my boxers and no shirt like a skinny lion.
   
"This will be a beautiful day," she said. It was a Saturday. The sun shone brightly through my eastern, bed-side window, across me and the room to her bare feet and the table.
   
"We should be outside today," I said.
   
"I thought something lazy like sail-boating at Lake Ralphine."
   
"You're good on a boat," I said.
   
"Yes."
 
We rode bikes through the old part of town, slow through unnecessary, indirect, randomly chosen locust-lined streets. We stopped at Petroni's Market for lunch. She ordered salami and sliced farmer's cheese at the deli and leaned against me sideways, light against my ribs and right arm. She felt good. We got sourdough bread, green apples and water.
 
At the marina we locked our bikes on the dock railing, and put the food in my backpack. The boy at the desk told us the sailboats were rented, but that we could have a paddleboat.
 
Annie looked at me, "Anything to be on the water, I guess," I said.
   
"Alright."
   
We got a metallic purple paddleboat, built for two. I took the right and she took the left seat and we paddled backwards, looking over our shoulders as we eased out of the slip. The sun was hot on us and we stripped, me to just shorts and her to a black bikini. We made a paddling, bubbling, slow trek around the beaches, docks, coves and marshes of Lake Ralphine. We stopped in a cove, nosing a grassy bank, under the shade of an overhanging oak.

I woke with Annie up already and drinking coffee. She had her chair tipped back and her feet up on the table. She had a book, Poems by Sylvia Plath, open, face-down on her lap.
   
"Good morning," she said.
   
"Were you watching me?"
   
"Yeah, some," she said.
   
"Well, good morning," I said. I stretched in my boxers and no shirt like a skinny lion.
   
"This will be a beautiful day," she said. It was a Saturday. The sun shone brightly through my eastern, bed-side window, across me and the room to her bare feet and the table.
   
"We should be outside today," I said.
   
"I thought something lazy like sail-boating at Lake Ralphine."
   
"You're good on a boat," I said.
   
"Yes."
 
We rode bikes through the old part of town, slow through unnecessary, indirect, randomly chosen locust-lined streets. We stopped at Petroni's Market for lunch. She ordered salami and sliced farmer's cheese at the deli and leaned against me sideways, light against my ribs and right arm. She felt good. We got sourdough bread, green apples and water.
 
At the marina we locked our bikes on the dock railing, and put the food in my backpack. The boy at the desk told us the sailboats were rented, but that we could have a paddleboat.
 
Annie looked at me, "Anything to be on the water, I guess," I said.
   
"Alright."
   
We got a metallic purple paddleboat, built for two. I took the right and she took the left seat and we paddled backwards, looking over our shoulders as we eased out of the slip. The sun was hot on us and we stripped, me to just shorts and her to a black bikini. We made a paddling, bubbling, slow trek around the beaches, docks, coves and marshes of Lake Ralphine. We stopped in a cove, nosing a grassy bank, under the shade of an overhanging oak.
   
"This is not quite the lazy day I had in mind," she said. Her forehead shone with sweat.
   
"The old purple flash is a bit of work."
   
"Mmmhm."
 
She dug in the backpack.
   
"You tear the bread," she said.
 
I tore the bread roughly into sandwich-sized slabs and Annie put salami and farmer's cheese on the slabs. I ate and let my right foot dangle off the side, the coolish, green water over my foot and ankle. She handed me a bottle of water. Bluegills swarmed, small, dark saucers just under the surface, returning from where we must have sent them when we bubbled and splashed into their shade beneath the oak. The smaller, bolder ones nosed my toes and arch. Annie tore thumbnail-sized pieces of bread from her sandwich and threw them to the bluegills, which ignited a frenzy.
   
"They like you, I think."
 
She smiled at me.
   
"I'm done," I said as I ate my last bite. "I'll paddle while you relax."
   
She threw the rest of her sandwich to the bluegills and lay back, her eyes closed against the sun.
 
I took us to the middle of the lake and let us drift, almost motionless, but for a slight up and down from the three-inch waves. Annie seemed to sleep and I tried to sleep, too, but I think I was just still, with a quiet mind, for maybe an hour. I opened my eyes then and studied the deep, featureless sky. The Iowa sun lay brightly over us and the damp earth smell that is the nose's experience of early summer after a rain reached us even here, in the middle of Lake Ralphine, if that's where we really were. I turned, quietly and I thought smoothly, so as not to wake Annie, to get my bottle of water and I dislodged her dark blue t-shirt from the cargo hold, which fell into the lake. It lay on the surface of the lake for a moment, just out of my reach and I spun the boat around by paddling but the shirt sank, fully opened, as if she were wearing it still, spiraling into the deep, green gloom, beyond my grasp.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


JIM ESTES

Jim Estes is a therapist in private practice living in Davenport, Iowa. He writes, "I fish, write, work on our old house and love my wife and daughters." "Paddleboatin'" is an excerpt from his novel, Giants Of The Earth.

This page was first displayed
on January 21, 2008

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