Day 7: Kerosene Creek

by Mary Beth

The family decided to take it easy the next day. No more tours or banquets – just a nice walk outdoors and maybe a swim in a river.

Cora fell asleep in the car. She was still recovering from the day before. When they arrived at the river, her mommy unbuckled her and tried to remove the car seat straps from around her shoulders, but Cora pulled them back over herself and commanded, “Buck! Buck!” 

“I’m not going to buckle you! I just unbuckled you! C’mon, we’re getting out.” Her mommy tried to pull the straps off again.

Cora looked at her mommy for a moment, dubiously, then pulled the buckles back over herself again. “Buck! Buck! Buck!”

Her mommy pulled the buckles out of her hands and tugged her out of the car seat anyway.

The sun made a few feeble attempts to come out, and then gave up. Without the sun, the air was chilly. The family brought long sleeved shirts to put over their swim suits if needed.

They walked down a narrow dirt path through a forested area. They caught glimpses of a river to one side as they walked. “Wawa!” Cora cried. But the water looked strange. A mist seemed to be hanging over it, and if you looked closely, the mist seemed to be coming from the water. The family walked closer to the river, and through the mist. It smelt awful.

Not long after, the area next to the river flattened out into rock, and there were people sitting on the rocks, splashing in the water, or lounging in the water. Cora and Annie got excited. So did their parents.

The bank was muddy and steep and slippery. Below it, the water was about six or eight inches deep. An older man was standing in the water. He had a strong French accent and was with a lady much younger than himself. He saw Annie eyeing the water, a little nervous, a little excited. He lifted her up, and dangling her in the air, dipped her toes into the water.

Annie made a noncommittal noise but didn’t seem upset. He lowered her into the water, almost up to her ankles. Then she made an upset noise and the man put her back on the shore.

“It’s too hot!” she said.

“It is thirty-eight or thirty-nine degrees,” the man told them.

“That’s like a hundred degrees,” Mommy explained to the family. “Like a hot tub.”

The river was too hot for Annie, but she really did want to go in the water. It looked like fun. She watched her daddy get in, walk around a little uncomfortably – like someone walking over hot coals – and then seem to get used to it. She put a foot into the water again, but then took it out again right away. She walked along the edge of the water, watching other people playing in the water. She tried stepping in, but then jumped right back out.

Mommy tried to put Cora down but Cora, who was feeling especially grouchy after being woken up from her nap, starting yowling loudly and Mommy gave up. She handed Cora to Daddy. Cora protested loudly.

Annie tried putting a toe in, and was able to keep it in the water for a little while. Then she tried putting both feet in again, and was able to stand for a few moments before she had to get back out.

They walked downstream a little way, trying to see if it got a little cooler further down. They dipped their toes in but it was still just as hot.

“You just have to get used to it,” Daddy said to Annie. “It feels hot, but then you get used to it and it’s okay.”

Annie stepped back into the water. This time she was able to stay for a few more seconds before she got out.

Cora was curious. She was back in her mommy’s arms now. She was not curious enough to leave her mommy. She clung to her mommy. Her mommy walked into the river, and then sat down on the riverbank. “Would you like to put your toes in?” she asked.

Cora did not answer.

“It’s hot, Cora Rose!” said her sister, who had finally managed to get used to the water, enough to stand ankle-deep in it.

Cora looked at Annie. She was not sure she wanted to go in this water. Mommy dipped Cora’s toes into the water.

The water was hot. It felt awful. It felt like her feet and her toes were burning. Cora started to cry. She wanted to get out of here immediately. Why was her mommy in this boiling water? Why was Annie in it?

They stayed a long time by the hot river. Cora did not change her opinion of the river, but Annie loved it, and was eventually able to sit down in the water, in the shallower areas.

Cora was left with a conundrum. She wanted to cuddle with her mommy, not with her daddy. But her mommy insisted on sitting in the middle of the boiling river. After a lot of debating, Cora decided to risk it with her mommy. Mommy held her on her lap, as high above the water as she could. This was fine most of the time, and Cora was happy. But sometimes a toe or a little bit of her bottom dipped into the water. And then Cora screamed.

It started to rain. First it was just a few drops, and then the skies opened up and it poured. Annie and Mommy were in the hot river and enjoyed the feeling of the cool rain, but Cora did not enjoy it at all. It made her cold and miserable. Eventually her daddy came and rescued her, and then Annie and Mommy sat contentedly together, hot water cascading underneath them as cold water splashed onto their faces.

That afternoon, as Mommy had not gotten her fill of boiling mud and steaming water, they went to a public park in search of boiling mud and steaming water. It was cold and raining steadily. No one else in the family had any interest in boiling mud. Annie felt unbelievably sad and Cora continued to be grouchy. Eventually they saw all the steaming, bubbling things they could find, and Mommy allowed them all to go back home to dry off and get warm.

There were a couple of pools of hot water in the park, for people to dip their feet in. There were many people dipping their feet into the pool that was covered by an awning. Daddy chose to put his feet into the pool which was not covered by an awning. The people in the inner pool, feeling bad for the family, offered them an umbrella to use. But this family didn’t need an umbrella!

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