LB Gschwandtner
LB Gschwandtner

I Fell Off The Dock

I fell off the dock at twelve minutes after five. I know it was twelve minutes after five because I had just looked at my watch to see if it was time to go up to the house. I always make dinner so it’s ready at six because Len, who I married twenty-two years ago, likes dinner on the table at six every day.

I must have tripped somehow out at the end of the pier where the water is only three feet deep at low tide. Closer in I would have fallen into plain mud. It’s the kind of mud that drags you down like quicksand or really thick chocolate pudding. When you try to walk, it sucks your shoes off.

I scraped my arm when it hit the rough edge of one of the deck boards, which I told Len just the other week are in need of a coat of paint. I could see the scrape on my upper arm was bleeding. And I thought I have that roast in the oven and Len likes it rare so I need to take it out. Also the scrape had started to burn. I didn’t want to let it get in the water because I had read about bacteria in rivers that get into a cut and you can end up with an amputated limb. I didn’t want that. So I had to get out. But the chocolate-pudding mud was sucking me down.

When I tried to walk my feet sank farther and farther. The harder I tried to take a step the more the mud pulled me down. And then my shoes dislodged from my feet. I thought I have to call Len to help me but my phone had clattered onto the dock when I fell, which pissed me off.
I was not that far from the stringers that run underneath the dock boards so I thought if I could hang onto one of those I could counter balance against the mud and pull myself up enough to go hand over hand to the shore. But I couldn’t reach them by a measly two inches.

Even though the edge of the decking boards were rough I thought what the hell because I had to get out of there. I managed to grab the top of the end of one overhanging board with the tips of my fingers but it wasn’t enough to gain any traction against the mud, which I thought had to stop pulling me in at some point because there was hard ground down below it – somewhere. I knew that because the original pilings weren’t long enough so we’d had to drive new pilings when the boathouse started to sink. But those pilings were like twenty feet tall and I’m not.

I thought if I stayed there long enough Len would come down to get me, especially if his dinner was not on the table.

I remembered the way to get out of quicksand is to lie down flat on top of it with your arms out to distribute your weight over a larger area. But I was half in water almost up to my boobs by then so that wouldn’t work. Then I remembered the other thing. Don’t pull your feet straight out. Just vibrate your toes and your feet with tiny motions to create displacement and the quicksand will slowly let you loose.

So I started that. And it did seem to be working some because I stopped sliding down. I thought this was a good sign so I kept wriggling my toes in the mud. Sometimes I felt a clam shell. I hoped they would stay closed. I tried to keep my bleeding arm out of the water. I worried that even if I got my feet out where I was, I would have to go through this process again and again for about eighty feet until I got to the shore.

I don’t know how long it took to get my feet out enough to take my next step. When I did, my feet sank again and I went through the same process. The sun had moved behind the ridge in the west. The tide had turned. I had taken maybe six steps. The water started getting deeper, which made it harder to pull my feet out of the mud. But I kept on. I worried about my arm and Len’s dinner. I wondered why he didn’t come down to get me. I started getting angry at him.

A flock of geese – maybe forty or fifty of them – swooshed down on the other side of the boathouse by some big trees that had uprooted and landed half in the water. The geese set up to roost for the night. They made a lot of noise that sounded something like dogs barking.

Finally with about ten feet to go in a few inches of water, I heard the crunching sound of a car coming down the gravel driveway. And then I saw it was Len’s. He got out and walked out the pier to where I was still struggling in the mud. I must have looked a mess.

“What are you doing down there?” he asked me. “I’m hungry. What about dinner?”

All I could think of was my father’s old joke about the man who has a flat tire in the middle of the Nevada desert. He doesn’t have a jack so he walks five miles in blasting heat to the only gas station and gets himself so worked up about how he’s over a barrel and they’re going to gouge him on changing his tire that when he finally arrives at the station he walks in and yells at the poor slob sitting by the coke machine:

”You can take your jack and shove it up your ass.”

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