By Mary Jane Beaufrand
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Shhh,” Ranger Dave kept saying, patting circles on my back. “I know. ” Then we heard one siren. Two sirens. A whole orchestra. An ambulance came. A Santiam County Sheriff’s car came skidding to a stop. Sheriff McGarry herself got out and climbed down the bank. She was a thin woman in her thirties with perfect auburn hair, no flyaways, and she sometimes saluted me when I ran past. If you saw her out of uniform you might think she was harmless and dateable, but when she pulled over drunk drivers she became a grizzly.
That morning I felt more adrift than usual, as though someone had cut an anchor. I got out of bed and smoothed the three layers of antique quilts behind me. As I did, I closed my eyes and listened. It definitely seemed as though the river were crying. I looked out the window. The water was brown and high, but we seemed in no danger of flooding, so I shook off the creepy feeling as I pulled on my sweats and dashed downstairs. Dad was sitting at his favorite table in front of the picture windows in the café, eating his three-berry bran waffles and looking up every so often to make sure Fred the Eagle was still in his aerie in the treetops along the opposite bank.
But she always came back. I remembered my foot connecting with the mud pies before I started out. “I think she was at the inn earlier. She left us a present. ” Mr. Armstrong smiled, but he was holding his breath. “I hope she isn’t down by the river. ” At that moment, even though I was saturated, I got a chill. On days like these with the snowcaps beginning to melt, the rapids were swift. Lost lost lost… even here I could hear the river wailing. Nothing’s wrong, I told myself. She disappears all the time.