Ann LaBar
Writer and Poet

Staking His Claim

Forty Mile City, Yukon River, Canada

August 1896

 

Yes, she was clumsy, but this, she thought as she tumbled over the rope railing of The Arctic, a stern-wheeler, this was not her fault.

She hadn’t seen it coming, racing toward her across the wooden deck.  Impossibly large and brown, it leapt, all paws and tongue, and sent her careening over the edge.

Undone by Edith’s Great Dane.

Again.

She opened her mouth to scream but hit the water before she uttered a sound.  Her skirts dragged her down into the frigid, silt-clouded water; the current’s strong arms wrapped tightly around her.

The turbulent water took hold of her skirts, tangling them in her arms and legs . Unable to swim, panic roared through her. She was wild and desperate, an animal caught in a trap. She thrashed, arms and legs churning, fighting to swim skyward.

With a great push, she broke the water’s surface, only to have it rise to cover her mouth as she gasped for air. She bobbed, lifting her face above the water, able to steal a breath before sliding beneath the surface once more. Once, twice, three times she was able to lift her head above the water before the river quickened and then her struggle was too weak to matter.

Numb and exhausted, her thoughts returned with utter clarity. 

This is death. She’d survived the long journey north only to die before she found her father. Just as her heart and lungs strained, threatened to burst, the bright ripples of sun on the surface of the water, moved further away and the world went black.

 

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