What the River Knows
by Debra M  and Monica M
Regents AU

Chris eased back on the throttle slightly to half speed as he guided the 20-foot, half-cabin boat through a sharp turn in the river. As he did after every turn, he looked back to ensure that his six friends were all still inside the boat. They were all there, still as boisterous and noisy as they had been ever since they left Clint at the jetty for a day of boating and fishing. The one exception to the loud chatter was Josiah who was sitting in the passenger seat to his left examining the map Clint had given them.

“Worried we’ll get lost?” Chris grinned at his roommate.

“No,” Josiah grinned back. “I never worry about something as simple as that. Not with this group,” he chuckled.

Chris shook his head adamantly.  “Nothing is happening today!” he vowed more for his own reassurance than Josiah’s.  Amusement touched Josiah’s lips but before he could respond Nathan came and stood between them, grasping the back of Chris’ seat for balance.

“Still can’t believe your dad agreed to bring us all back here for the weekend,” Nathan commented.

“I think he figured we could get into less trouble up here,” Chris replied dryly.

Nathan snorted with disbelief and turned to Josiah who suddenly had one of his pondering expressions visible.

“You know in many cultures boys are sent into the wilderness by their elders to become men,” Josiah mused aloud.

Nathan and Chris exchanged “how fascinating” nods as Nathan turned and observed Vin and J.D. leaning out the side of the boat seeing how far their spit could dribble out of their mouths before the wind took it, while Ezra was beating off Buck’s attempts to get him in a neck hold.

“That ain’t happening on this trip,” Nathan laughed.

A few minutes later Nathan busted Vin and J.D. foraging in the cooler.

“Hey no food yet.  When we stop, you can have a snack then,” Nathan told them.

The two younger friends rolled their eyes and replied in unison, “Yes, Mom!”

Satisfied, Nathan resumed his seat and after some twenty minutes they all grew quiet.  Every so often J.D. would turn and lean out of the boat letting the spray from the bow mist over his face.  Vin and Ezra now slouched in their seats together, the Texan’s cap was pulled down low over his eyes.  They passed a boat going the other direction and Nathan watched their heads bobble simultaneously as their boat bounced over the wash created.

The Texan’s good mood was well and truly evident as he stretched lazily in his seat, pushing up his cap slightly, revealing mischief filled eyes.

“I left a good job in the city,” Vin drawled loudly and then prodded Ezra with an elbow to the ribs.

The southerner raised an eyebrow amusedly but was soon responding, his accent thick, “Workin’ for the man every night and day.”

“An’ I never lost one minute of sleepin’” the Texan sang in a raspy voice.

“Worryin’ ‘bout the way thangs might have been,” Ezra sang, making his voice louder in a competitive way. Vin turned his cap to the side and they both grinned at each other before they broke into the chorus.

“Big wheel keep on turning, Proud Mary keep on burning. And we’re rolling, rolling, rolling on the river!”

“Man that is awful,” Buck commented loudly while he still grinned, enjoying the irritation that crossed Chris’ face and the laughing Nathan and J.D. were doing.

Buck’s comments only ensure that the singing continued relentlessly in a mixture of wrong keys and exaggerated accents.  Chris winced as Ezra took up the do, dooo, doooos which only emphasized Vin’s raspy singing voice.



“ROLLIN’ on the RIVER!”

“You’ll be floatin’ down the river if you don’t shut up!” Chris threatened with a smirk, after the fourth obnoxious chorus.

“Floatin’,” the duo responded laughingly as they got to their feet and edged closer to Chris.

“FLOATIN’ DOWN THE RIVER!” they yelled at him.

Chris looked behind, grinned evilly as he saw the two friends on their feet, then nudged the throttle to send the boat surging forward.  Vin and Ezra ended up at the back of boat, sprawled on the floor in a tangled heap. As both boys tried valiantly to get back to their feet they only managed to teeter like drunken sailors before their laughter brought them collapsing to the deck again. By the time Ezra could breathe enough to muster an indignant chide to Chris, Vin distracted him with a tackle wrestle.

As the southerner fended off the tackle and grinned, laughed and teased with all his friends, he was suddenly grateful he had “allowed” Vin to talk him into yet another fishing weekend.  He should have remembered with this group of friends, where there was fun, trouble was soon to follow.

After choosing a spacious part of the river to fish, Chris has stopped and anchored the boat.  There was a certain amount of mild chaos and flashes of temper as seven teenage boys retrieved their fishing rods, baited them and jockeyed for positions to fish off the boat. Vin and J.D. went and sat on the bow to fish from there, however, there was only enough room for two there so Ezra was forced to fish from one of the sides of the boat. After an hour or so Ezra grew restless and bored with his lack of success at catching any fish, while Chris, Nathan, Vin and even J.D. all reeled in catches.  He squeezed in between Nathan and Buck, rolling his eyes when Buck caught a fish and began to crow barely a minute later.  Pouting slightly, the southerner moved across the other side of the boat and almost took off Chris’ cap while casting out his line. Chris glared but Ezra merely shrugged innocently and moved again.  This time around Chris and under Josiah, paying no attention to where the end of his rod was going and subsequently never realized he had successfully collected a number of the other lines.  All he knew was that, at last, his line tugged promisingly.

“I got one!” he announced as he began to reel in excitedly.

“Wait, Ezra” Josiah pleaded as the large senior was the first to notice that numerous lines had been tangled together.

Ezra didn’t listen.  His line was snagged on something. A good pull ought to do it.  He put every ounce of effort into it.  The line broke, his rod flew back behind him, sending him off balance.  Someone swore loudly.  Ezra turned to find Chris rubbing the back of his head before the moody senior dropped his rod and went for the southerner.

Chris was not exactly sure what he had planned to do, maybe just grab Ezra and make him untangle all the lines or just yell at him. Instead he surprised even himself when he lashed out and shoved hard sending the southerner tumbling over the side of the boat and into the water below. But that surprise gave way to satisfaction as he heard Ezra’s startled cry and the loud splash that abruptly cut it off. He avoided looking at his friends since he was not completely sure how they would react to his impulsive reaction.  Instead he looked into the river to see Ezra surface, tread water, and sputter indignantly as he brushed futilely at wet hair that fell in his face.

“Maybe you’ll have better luck catching fish if you get into their habitat!” Chris called down to him.  He felt a little relief when the others laughed behind him. They probably thought that of all the things he could have done to Ezra this, while being the most painful to his pride, was the least painful to his body.

From the bow Vin stood up and with perfect balance made his way back to the others, disapproval coloring his eyes as he looked over at Chris. The Texan had no idea what had happened to make Chris throw Ezra over, but he did know that if he didn’t act fast that their enjoyable day of fishing would get swept away in the maelstrom that was fed by Chris’ temper and Ezra’s contrariness.

“He tangled all the lines,” Chris stated a little defensively even to his own ears. When Vin ignored him as he made his way over to the ladder to help Ezra back in the boat, the senior added, “And he hit me in the head with his rod.”

Now that Vin was sorry to have missed, but he said nothing as he practically hauled Ezra back in the boat. Every nerve and instinct in the Texan was on edge because his roommate had been far too silent the entire time that it took for him to get back into the boat. With the southerner silence was never a good thing, no matter how much you prayed for it. Vin’s intention had been to keep hold of Ezra and keep him away from Chris and act as an intermediary. It was a role he had become good at playing. But even though he and the others had helped Ezra train for a season of baseball and had seen what he was physically capable of, it still sometimes slipped their mind how strong he could be. They were far more used to watching him slack off doing as little as possible. So Vin did not have as good a hold on him as he should have and with one good pull Ezra yanked his arm free and strode toward Chris.

He stopped short, though, and with an infuriated glare accompanied by hard breathing brought on both by his exertion and his anger, struggled to reach into the pockets of his sopping wet blue jean shorts. Finally he pulled something free of the shorts and hurled it at Chris’ feet. The senior jumped back and winced as the object hit the deck and shattered into several electronic components. But even broken apart it was obviously the remains of a cellular phone, a phone that was not meant to be submerged in water.

“Ezra, I didn’t mean…”

”What you mean to do, Christopher,” Ezra practically snarled in a venomously drawl, “is replace everything on my person that you have just ruined!”

Chris shifted his stance, standing taller and looking down on the sophomore. “Look, Ezra…”

”No! You look!” Ezra took the step that brought him mere inches away from Chris. “You look at my useless phone! A top of the line phone that cost me…”

“A ‘top of the line’ phone you’re not even supposed to have!” Chris yelled back tired of being chastised by the younger teen.

Ezra’s eyes flared furiously and he shoved Chris with both hands, but the blond had been prepared and while he staggered back a step he did not go overboard.

Buck had been standing with the others watching the familiar sight of Ezra and Chris arguing. But there was a different feel to it this time. This time Ezra wasn’t merely goading Chris with words secure in the knowledge that the older teen would threaten and posture. This time he was escalating things and Buck had the feeling that things were quickly going to get out of the southerner’s control. The lanky teen saw Vin start forward but he shook his head at him. As Ezra’s roommate, Vin knew him best and was often the one who knew how to mediate between his two friends, but Buck knew that he could not be the one to move in this time. Neither Ezra nor Chris would appreciate the interference and Vin did not need both of them mad at him. Buck was used to taking the brunt of Chris’ anger and could handle it. He knew Vin could probably handle it too, but having Ezra mad at him on top of that would be too much to ask of the Texan.  So Buck stepped forward and handled things in the way that only he could.

He moved behind Ezra and scooped him up and dumped him back overboard with a laugh. “Sometimes you just gotta throw the little ones back in.”

Of all the possible things that Buck could have done to defuse the situation that had to be the very last one Vin thought he would do. The Texan leaned over the side of the boat to see Ezra actually swimming away from them.  “Where do ya think you’re goin’?”

The southerner swam a bit further out before stopping and treading water. “I’m obviously not wanted on board so I am taking myself elsewhere.” With that he continued swimming toward the far bank of the river.

“See what you did?” Chris further surprised them all by blaming Buck.

The tall junior blinked away his shock. “Me? You’re the one who threw him in the first time. And I wasn’t too sure that you weren’t about to hit him. I had to do something.”

“So you threw him in again?” That was Vin voicing the question they all wanted to ask.

“Desperate times call for desperate measures. He needed to cool off.”

“Well, seein’ as he’s swimmin’ away from us, I don’t think that worked out the way you wanted it to,” Vin retorted as he pulled his t-shirt over his head.

“What are you doing?” Chris asked.

“I’m goin’ after him. You know he ain’t gonna come back on his own.”  Vin kicked off his shoes.

“Then let Buck do it.”

“Me?” Buck looked over to where Ezra was very slowly making his way to the bank, almost as if he were waiting for someone to make the effort of going after him.

“You are the one who threw him in,” Chris pointed out.

“You threw him in first,” Buck repeated.

Chris cocked his head to the side with a smug grin that Buck just hated. “I had cause. He snarled up my fishing line and hit me in the head with his rod. You just threw him in AND insulted him.”

For the life of him Buck would never be able to explain why he turned his back on Chris at that moment to point out that Vin was ready and willing to go after Ezra. That moment of inattention was all it took for Chris to gain the leverage he needed to throw Buck overboard.

“Stay where you are, Ezra,” Chris called out with a laugh. “Buck’s coming to get ya!”

“I don’t need anyone to come get me!” Ezra yelled back though he did pause to see that Buck was indeed coming after him.

Buck surfaced and slapped angrily at the water as he tossed a few curses back up at Larabee before moving to swim after the southerner. “You better get your ass back in the boat!” Buck yelled after a few strokes carried him close to Ezra. “I ain’t getting wet for nothing!”

Ezra threw a glare at the other teen before calmly, yet quickly swimming away from him.

Back on the boat the other five could not help but laugh as Buck chased down Ezra. The two swam back and forth, with Ezra even once trying to climb up the riverbank only to be pulled back into the river by Buck. But the older teen couldn’t keep a hold of the wily southerner and so had to continue chasing him in the water. They all called out encouragement and advice in between their bouts of laughter. Finally Vin saw an opportunity and took it.

They were all treated to the very rare sound of a surprised Chris calling out, “Wha..?” as he suddenly found himself going overboard as well. Even Buck and Ezra paused in their struggles to laugh at the sight of a curse sputtering Chris treading water.

Vin leaned over the side of the boat and yelled, “I thought Buck could use your help there, cowboy! And I figured you were just the man for the job!”

Buck laughed uproariously at that but was quickly silenced when the Larabee glare, not losing any effectiveness though it was half hidden behind the wet strands of his lank hair, was fully focused on him. The junior even released the good grip he had finally gotten on Ezra and began to swim away from Chris and the boat. The southerner would never admit it but he was a bit relieved when the senior started after Buck first. He took the opportunity to start back to the boat, taking a circular route to stay out of Chris’ line of sight. He looked up at the boat to keep his eyes on his goal and had to stop to watch events unfold up there.

If someone had to describe J.D. with just one word, nine times out of ten that word would be enthusiastic. So when he saw everyone else throwing someone into the water he just knew that he had to get into the action. While Vin leaned over the side to yell at Chris, J.D. took the only opportunity he knew he would ever get. So he moved quickly and grabbed Vin’s ankles and bodily lifted him up and over the side. But he was not prepared for Vin’s reflexes and agility. The Texan managed to twist around as soon as he felt the freshman grab hold of him so that he also got hold of J.D. Momentum pulled them both over and into the river below.

Once they both surfaced Vin reached over and dunked J.D. back under but laughed good-naturedly as he did it and quickly let the younger boy back up. He quickly swam away when J.D. threatened to dunk him in return. That took both of them straight to Ezra who hit at the surface of the water, splashing them in an attempt to keep them away. But it did little good as they both moved to attack the southerner.

Josiah looked over to where Chris and Buck had suddenly teamed up and were plotting their moves to attack the three younger boys. “Looks like fun, doesn’t it?” he said conversationally to Nathan but flashing one of his wide, devilish grins.

“Don’t even think about it!” the junior warned.

“Oh come on, Nate. Live a little,” Josiah laughed even as he grabbed at the other teen’s arm.

“Let go of me!” Nate yelled back and tried to shove Josiah away. The two tall teens struggled but in the end it was hard to say if Josiah won out or if it was purely accidental. Either way they both ended up in the river with the other five. Soon all seven of the boys were involved in a watery wrestling match filled with laughter and splashing.  Vin and Buck always managed to keep themselves between Ezra and Chris simply because they did not want the hard feelings to resurface. They all knew that things had not quite been settled between the two, but much preferred just enjoying the afternoon to having them fight all over again.

Despite the reluctance that most of them had showed about going into the water, it was quite some time later before they all made their way back on board the boat. Nathan joked that it was probably only because Vin and J.D. were claiming to be starving to death. So as they all found spots to sit down and stretch out to dry off in the sun, Nathan opened up the cooler and started handing out sandwiches and drinks to everyone. He was surprised at how few complaints there were at the menu, but shrugged that off to everyone being so hungry to eat just about anything. But it was the person he least expected who complained the most.

“What the hell is this?” Vin demanded as he stood up and waved the cardboard box that held his ready to eat meal.

“It’s nachos.”

“This…” Vin shook the box with barely contained indignation, “this is not nachos!”

Nathan took the box from Vin and showed it to him, pointing out the word ‘Nachos’ on the Lunchables box. “Nachos! Says so right here!”

“I don’t care what it says. This here’s just some crackers and cheese! That don’t make it nachos! I ain’t eatin’ these things!”

“Then I guess you ain’t eatin’,” Nathan answered back. “And those are real chips in there, not crackers.”

“You ain’t got nothing else in there for me?” the Texan almost pleaded, his blue eyes going wide at the thought of having nothing to eat.

“Sorry, Vin,” Nathan responded trying to hide his smile. “But we didn’t have a bigger cooler so we couldn’t pack too much. So you’ll have to eat that or nothing.”

The sophomore looked around to see if anyone else would offer him any of their sandwiches, but the other five ate quicker and ignored his looks. Only J.D. met his gaze and offered, “You can have some of my pistachios.”  He tossed him a half empty can that he had brought with him in his backpack.

Vin caught it and sighed heavily before sitting back down again. “It’s only ‘cause I’m so hungry that I’m even gonna eat this! I’m just sayin’,” he grumbled as he tore open the package of chips, cheese and salsa. Suddenly a grin flashed on the Texan’s face, “Hey at least I got a little candy bar!” He ate that first. After he swallowed it down he shook his head, sad once again, “Course it had to be one of them little ol’ bite-sized ones. Hardly fair at all.”

The other boys grinned and finished off their meals as Vin continued to grumble about the “stale” chips and the “bland” salsa and cheese. Somehow though he still managed to eat every single bite of the nachos that he claimed did not meet up to his high standards.

As the afternoon grew late and fishing became of less interest, Chris declared they were packing up and heading back to the cabin.  The silence began and grew as Chris tried continuously to start the outboard without success.

“You probably flooded it,” J.D. offered as he stood and went over to examine the outboard.

“I did NOT flood it,” Chris snapped back.  Ezra snorted derisively earning him a glare.

“Let me try,” J.D. announced intently as he muscled in past Chris and began checking the ignition and throttle.

“Well, genius?” Chris queried after the boy had spent several minutes checking all the instruments.

“I’m not sure, yet,” J.D. replied in deep concentration, ignoring Chris’ sarcasm and increasing bad temper.  He disappeared below deck, reappearing a very short time later with a toolbox.

“No!” Buck and Chris said in unison.

“I can fix it,” J.D. protested. “It’s in the electrics, I’m sure!”

“Whoa there, kid,” Buck said good-naturedly, carefully removing the toolbox from the teen’s hands and passing it to Chris. “Let’s check our other options first,” he added as he turned to face the others.

“Too bad contacting Chris’ dad is not an option,” Nathan spoke for all of them.  Chris squirmed uncomfortably as all eyes traveled to Ezra’s broken cell, which still lay in pieces on the deck.

“We’ll have to make our own way back,” Josiah spoke up quickly.

“Josiah’s right,” Chris agreed. “We make for the river bank, find the roadway and hike it back.”

Ezra’s jaw dropped as he stood indignantly. “I just dried off and now you want me to get wet again and then HIKE?”

Vin rolled his eyes and pushed him overboard, breaking yet another potential conflict by sending Ezra into the water himself.  Before the southerner had broken the surface and spluttered a curse, Vin had already dove in and bobbed up beside him.

“Come on, Ez,” he encouraged as he began swimming.

As one by one the others joined them in the water, Ezra sighed and began swimming for shore.

Reaching the riverbank, Vin led them through some thick undergrowth before they climbed the steep bank and found the road. They headed in the direction of the cabin. Vin stretched his lead up front as most of his friends became increasingly grumpier complaining about the heat, blisters from wet shoes and worst, chafing from wet shorts. The latter especially from Buck. Vin picked up the pace. The sooner they got back the better.

“Trying to leave us behind?”

Vin shrugged as Josiah effortlessly loped along beside him. “Why can’t we all get along for just one day?” Vin blurted, after a short burst of bickering behind them.

“Ahhh,” Josiah nodded understandingly.  “These complexities take time.”


“’Rivers know this: there is no hurry, we shall get there some day’,” Josiah quoted.

“That something you just made up?” Vin smiled.

“Nope,” Josiah replied. “It’s a famous quote.”

“From who?”

“Not who, but Pooh. Winnie the Pooh to be exact,” Josiah grinned as the Texan looked sideways at him a little bewildered before he let out a short laugh.

“Let’s wait for the others,” Josiah suggested as he paused.

Vin followed suit and turned back to face the others just in time to see J.D. stumble into Ezra, which instigated an immediate shoving match that ended when Ezra fell down hard, yelping in pain as his ankle twisted.

“Awww hell,” Vin drawled as he jogged back to the main group.

Josiah shook his head slightly. “Winnie has a lot to answer for,” he muttered to himself before he followed Vin.

Immediately all fighting stopped when the others heard Ezra’s cry of pain. Nathan was the first to kneel down by his feet and try to take the injured foot into his hands but the southerner slapped away his hands and actually kicked out softly with his other foot. “Leave it alone!”

“Let me look at it, Ezra! Get your shoe off in case it starts to swell,” the junior could not help the tone of his voice, he had heard it all his life from his parents, both doctors.

“I don’t need you. Would you all just leave me alone?” This time the southerner used his good foot to push against Nathan’s chest knocking the older teen to the ground.

Vin helped him to his feet and drew him along with the others away from Ezra but before he could even try explaining what they needed to do Nathan protested, “I’ve gotta look at that. It could be a pretty bad sprain.”

“Guess you don’t know your own strength, J.D.,” Buck attempted to tease.

“I didn’t mean to,” the freshman denied. “None of this would have happened if you had let me fix the motor.”

“Break it beyond repair, you mean,” the junior continued to joke.

“You know I can fix anything,” J.D. straightened to his full height but not even the full measure of his indignation could make up for the height difference between him and Buck.

“Oh just shut up! Shut up, all of y’all!” the Texan among them exploded and surprisingly brought silence to their little group.  It was in their sudden silence that they got to hear Ezra’s soliloquy.

“Why did you listen to these people, Ezra, when they told you that it would be ‘fun’ to go on one last fishing trip? You’re usually so much smarter than this, but this time you let your good sense get overridden by friendship. And as always happens, you just get hurt in the aftermath.  When will you ever learn?”

“That ain’t true, Ezra,” Vin stated, taking a step toward his friend.

“What?” the southerner looked up with actual surprise. He had been muttering under his breath and had not realized that the others had heard him. He moved his foot and winced with pain looking for any distraction.

But Vin had none of it. “That’s not what you really think, is it? I mean, you do have fun with us, don’t you?”

Ezra’s mouth dropped open and shock and indignation warred in his, for once, overly expressive eyes. “I was tossed out of the boat twice, no three times! My clothes are wet, my shoes are wet and I’m having to walk who knows how many miles back to a rental cabin to sleep on a hard cot. That is if the ruckus you six create will even let me get any sleep at all. Where, in any of that, would I have any fun?”

Vin and the others stared at their feet sheepishly for a few minutes, none of them quite knowing how to respond to the question. But a grin broke across Vin’s down-turned face as he finally answered with a single word sung more than slightly off key, “Rollin’.”

“Have you lost your mind?” Ezra asked but his question was drowned out as four of the five others joined in with Vin in a raucous chorus of “Proud Mary”.  They became most inspired with the do do dos of the song throwing in hand motions and dancing moves that were all rhythmically challenged.

The sophomore was determined to remain stoic during the entire performance and was actually managing quite admirably. But Vin was just as strong-minded and he nudged the only other member of their group who had remained silent. He was met at first by a glare, but then a crooked grin surfaced beneath that sour expression and Chris Larabee actually joined in with the new chorus of “rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river.”

The sight of the grim senior laughing and singing along with his friends was too much for Ezra. He laughed so hard that he finally had to lean back and lay out on the ground. His enthusiasm got the better of him as he tried to join in the next chorus of ‘rollin’s’ by doing some actual rolling around on the ground and the pain in his ankle suddenly reasserted itself to the forefront of his mind.

This time he only protested when Nathan declared they should take off his shoe. While the junior, with Buck and J.D., argued with him Vin, Josiah, and Chris tried to decide what their best course of action would not be.

“Nate and I could take turns carrying him,” Josiah offered.

“He ain’t gonna like that,” Vin pointed out.

“Not much other choice,” Chris responded his firm look emphasizing just how he was going to let Ezra know that.

“How many miles you think we need to go?” Josiah asked.

“All we really need to do is make it to a store or somewhere that we can call my dad. Then we can just wait for him to come pick us up.”

Josiah nodded but Vin cocked his head as if listening to something. “Car’s coming,” he stated with certainty even though the other two heard nothing.

“I don’t hear anything,” Josiah said straining his ears to hear. But Chris simply accepted Vin’s words as truth and turned to warn the others. They were plainly visible in the daylight and there was plenty of room on the road for the car to go around them, but with Ezra’s bad ankle it was better to be safe than sorry. Buck and Nathan both bent down and put Ezra’s arms around their shoulders and lifted him to his feet. Both teens stayed hunched over so that the sophomore could keep his good foot on the ground and hop with them as they walked over to the shoulder of the road.

“You’re slacking on me,” Chris teased as the vehicle came into sight, “that’s not a car, it’s a pickup.”

“Whatever,” Vin slapped Chris on the back, “I still heard it before you did. They do say the hearing’s the first to go.”

Their teasing stopped as the pickup slowed upon sighting them. As one they stepped toward it, keeping between the vehicle and their friends. They walked up to the passenger side since that window was rolling down and was closer to them. They hung back though, neither willing to get too close. But their fears were somewhat allayed when they saw a woman sitting on the passenger side with a young girl of about ten sitting in the middle of the small truck’s bench seat. Behind the steering wheel was a man in his late 30s as was the woman. “What happened to you boys?” the woman asked, her concern mirrored on the genial man’s face.

“We were out on the river and the motor on our rental boat went out. We didn’t have a way to call,” here a loud cough from Ezra interrupted Chris who ignored him, “so we’re just trying to get somewhere to call my father so he can pick us up.”

The man and woman exchanged looks and came to a quick decision. “We don’t have a lot of room,” the man stated gesturing to the bed of the pickup that was crowded with various pieces of furniture. “but we’d be glad to take you boys.”

“We’d be much obliged,” Vin answered for Chris. He had the feeling the senior would turn down the help, but with Ezra hurt they needed this stroke of luck.

“Then climb on in,” the woman said. Her smile dropped when she saw Buck and Nathan half carrying, half dragging a protesting Ezra. “Oh, what happened?” She moved as if to get out of the truck but Chris shook his head.

“He just sprained his ankle, ma’am. He’ll be alright.”

She tossed a meaningful look over at her husband. The man gave a very soft sigh and asked, “Where are you boys staying? It’ll be better if we take you all the way there.”

Again Vin spoke up first, providing the name and location of the cabins they were staying in. Then he led Chris over to back of the truck where the others were waiting for them.  Without a word, Chris and Vin climbed in first, followed by Josiah and J.D. They then helped Nathan and Buck get a still complaining Ezra into the truck. Finally when they had all managed to find spots to sit down in the cramped quarters, Chris motioned for them to hold on while he banged on the side of the truck, signaling the driver that they were all settled. As they all lurched with the sudden movement of the truck, Buck laughed and threw an arm around Ezra, sliding it up so that he had him in a headlock. “How could you say that this ain’t fun?” he asked while giving the younger teen a noogie. Ezra pushed Buck away from him with a scowl on his face, but there was also a glimmer of laughter lighting his pale green eyes.


Clint Larabee sat out on the porch of the rental cabin and savored his last moments of peace and quiet on this day. He expected the loud, boisterous, seven boys to come trekking back to the cabin at any moment. They were already a little overdue but he was not worried just yet. He knew from experience that Buck and Chris could lose track of time out on the river, so he would wait a bit longer before contacting the boat rental company.

He stood up when he saw the pickup pull up in front of the cabin and shook his head as several of the boys waved at him, grinning happily. His eyes went immediately to his son’s but only received a shrug in response. As the boys started piling out of the back of the truck, Clint took in how they helped a hobbling Ezra, but he would deal with that later. For now he walked over to the driver’s side door and nodded his greetings to the driver and the woman and child within. “Clint Larabee,” he introduced.

“Paul Harrison,” the other man returned as they shook hands through the window.

“I’m sure I’ll get the full story from the boys there, but thanks for helping them out,” the officer stated.

“They seem like good kids,” Paul answered with a smile. “Though I think they make me glad that I’ve just got the one girl here.” He threw an arm around his suddenly bashful daughter and squeezed her warmly.

Clint nodded. “They are a handful. Again, thank you for helping them out. I hope they weren’t any trouble.”

“Well,” Paul glanced at his wife who nodded encouragingly. “They weren’t any trouble, but…”

Clint threw a glare over his shoulder at the seven boys who were now sitting all over the porch, Ezra of course commandeering the rocking chair Clint had just vacated. “But what?”

“Well on our way here…well we got pulled over for having the boys crowded into the back like that. We were just up the road and we explained that one of the boys was hurt so the officer let us bring the boys all the way here, but he did give us a ticket. And we were hoping…well the southern boy, Ezra I think is his name, … well he said that you were a cop yourself and that you would be able to help us out of it.”

Clint sighed and again threw a glare over his shoulder at the boys. Ezra must have known what was being said because he grinned that smug grin of his and even tossed him a salute. As he got some information from Paul, Clint wondered if there would ever be a time when he would have the final say with these seven.

He learned that it would definitely not be tonight as he waved goodbye to Paul and his family and returned to the porch. Before he could even begin to question the boys Ezra, who now sat with his ankle elevated with ice on it, said, “I believe someone,” he emphasized that word with a look at Clint, “will have to go and explain what happened to our boat to the rental company.”

It was decided that Chris and Buck would go with Clint to do just that while the others stayed back and prepared dinner. As he walked by Ezra, who still sat on the porch smug in the knowledge that he would avoid any and all work with his sprained ankle, Clint grabbed the southerner in a headlock and gave him a noogie just as Buck had before. It wasn’t exactly the final say but somehow it was almost as satisfying.