Upside Down River

There’s two boats I’m a tour guide on, a big one and a small one.

A wooden section of the small boat blew off in the wind the other day. Not an important part, just a two foot square piece that fits into the roof over the captain’s head, only ever required if it’s really sunny (for shade) or rainy (for dryness). Mid-way down the Yarra a freak gust dislodged the wooden square and it hurtled into the brown river behind us. My job was now to retrieve it.

Two German tourists had to hold my feet while I dangled over the side, their respective partners whooping with delight. My fingers could just about touch the water so to fetch the wood from the ferment required precision steering from the captain. On the first pass it bobbed just out of reach, the passengers sighing with frustration like they’d just seen a double fault at Wimbledon. On the second go, I was aligned perfectly and retrieved the square to great jubilation. I was hauled back on to deck, my face purple from being inverted by Germans for so long and held the wood above the baying crowd, a soggy trophy snatched from the void, their applause bathing me just like the Yarra almost did. The Germans shook hands and slapped each others backs, while some Malaysian tourists took some celebratory photos. Remembering my duties, I placed the wood down and picked up my fact sheet – “Did you know the Westgate Bridge was meant to be built in four years but actually took eleven…” It was back to business. Silence descended on the boat once more.


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