A story inspired by the Magpie Tales website. Writers from across the globe write poems, short stories and vignettes inspired by images posted as prompts on this site. Click on the fish to find them all.
I will be travelling in Europe for the next seven weeks so my Magpie's will either be non-existent or inspired by Spain and Portugal.
Another deluge. I am in Far North Queensland on a wet November day. My wife and I have arrived at the Barron River National Park mid morning. We've had a wonderful week in the tropics. It has rained in the rainforests, flooded the floodplains and held me in a steam-bath of humidity as only the tropics can do.
At this point the Barron River surges through a ravine downstream from the majestic falls upstream. It crashes over precipices, drops into whirlpools and flows around huge boulders smoothed by millenia of irresistible floodwaters.
We leave the car swathed in raingear, hats on our heads, determined to enjoy the walk to the rock pools we are confident we'll find upstream. After two hundred metres it is obvious that we are beginning to become part of the landscape. Water finds its way past every barrier. It seeps then flows down our backs, fronts, up sleeves, under hats, into shoes - it seems that we are submerged.
We cross a wobbly suspension bridge, squeezing past other walkers all of whom are making a dash for their cars. We turn a corner and are greeted by nature performing for us. The rain sheets down. The river slaps and slides, racing to its destination. There is a deep pool on the lee side of a group of gigantic boulders which eddies silently and still.
Andrea takes this in at a glance and decides to turn back.
I have decided to take the plunge. I have no swimming costume with me but there is no way anyone else is going to be here in these conditions. We are alone in this majestic forest.
Gingerly I clamber down to the small gritty beach. I strip off my wet T-shirt, drop my shorts and slip my undies to my ankles trying to discard them while keeping them above the pooling water at my feet. I wrap everything in the towel I've brought in case this opportunity arose. They sit forlornly under an overhanging limb hiding unsuccessfully from the drenching. I don't waste time. Even though I'm sure I'm alone I still have a sense of urgency, partly a residual guilt about nakedness in public.
Crouching, I slip into the swirling water. It's freezing. The rain is warm by comparison. I am quickly in deep water and luxuriate in the cold playing on my body, my arms, my legs, the joyful feeling of water curling around my genitals across my backside and sluicing across my shoulders. I strike out for the other side of the pool and catch a faceful of wash. This is heaven, and it's all mine. For the next five minutes my senses are alive to every sound and sight around me. Then I remember Andrea and wonder if she'll be worried about me - imagining my body swept away by the raging torrent, cast up on some damp rock downstream.
I turn and begin to dog-paddle towards my beach when voices alert me to the presence of humans. A group of Japanese tourists is lined up 0n the ridge above the pool. They are having a wonderful time, cameras clicking, voices calling to each other excitedly. I notice for the first time that the rain has eased. I am stuck. As I tread water I debate with myself the options. Do I nonchalantly emerge from the water as if I do this every day? Do I swim around in circles entertaining them like a seal, occasionally duck-diving to flash my whiter than white bum their way? Being a squib, I choose neither. I tread water, and tread water some more, having decided to wait them out.
My balls are freezing. My eyeballs begin to cramp. I find a ledge to stand on as the cold seeps deeper into my bones. And still they click and chatter. Everything around me is still except the school of tiny fish who have discovered my feet and are intent on having a meal of my flakey skin. I see them. I feel them nibbling and tickling. Sunbeams slash the pool.