Monday, October 12, 2009

Crossing the River

Crossing the River

I was riding from there to here when I came to a river. It wasn't a little creek of a river, but a huge, rushing, wide, rolling river, with steep banks lined in willows. There was no bridge, and I could see right away that my horse wouldn't be able to swim across.

Of course I had to build a bridge. There were lots of willows, but I had no axe. I could have woven one out of willow withes, but the willows weren't agreeable. When I tried to cut some branches with my pocket knife, those trees just ganged up on me, waded through the mud like herons in water and beat me black and blue with their branches. Eventually I hollered “Uncle” and we made a truce, wrote it on the riverbank and signed it with drops of blood and sap. But I still needed to get over the river.

I decided to build a rope bridge – one rope to walk on and one to hold onto. I gathered up a whack of those big field spiders and pulled silk out of their behinds. Then I twirled the spiders over my head, twisting those strands together. The spiders put out more and more silk until I had a rope long enough to reach across the river. Then I guess they just ran out of silk. All those spiders came off the end of the rope at once and flew out in different directions, just like water drops off a dog shaking.

So that was my rope to walk on, and I had to do it all again to get a rope to hang onto. Then I had to get those ropes across the river. I tied one end of each rope to a rock and smeared a little cheese on the rocks, and waited for some crows to fly by.

Pretty soon two crows came along, and caught those rocks when I threw them. Right away quick I handed the other ends of the ropes to two of the willows, and they twined their branches around and hung right on. The crows flew across the river. By the time they'd got across, they'd figured out all they had was rocks and not cheese after all, so they dropped the other ends of the ropes. The willows on the other side caught them and hauled them tight, one above the other.

Of course my horse couldn't walk that bridge, so I folded his legs up and tucked him in my backpack. Then I crabwalked across that silk bridge as slick as you please. When I got to the other side I thanked the willows very politely. I took my horse out of the backpack, coiled up those silk ropes and stuck them inside.

No, I don't have them any more. I had to give them back to the spiders. About a thousand of them came after me, wanting the silk back for webs. I stood them off all night before I had to give in and give back the ropes.

But that's another story.


Elizabeth Creith has written flash fiction for the last four years. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Linnet's Wings, Flash Fiction Online, New Myths, Silver Blade, Tuesday Shorts and Grey Sparrow.

She is currently working on a novel based on one of her flashes. Elizabeth lives, writes and commits art in Wharncliffe, a little place you've never heard of.