Eeksy-Peeksy

augury doggerel

Monday, January 14, 2002

Wandered

We have our best walks when I pretend I have no idea where we are, feign confusion, and let the kid lead. Sometimes I don't have to pretend.

Yesterday, we slid past our many foul-weather friends in duckland, then took a new path into the woods. We came to a collapsed bridge along the old, never-finished rail line. The sides arch up to space; rubble lies beneath. The first turn we took led to a high metal gate. Eventually, so did the second.

We were at the bastions of the local vegetable gardens (allotments). Where now? Down, she said, and we slid on ice down to where the fence met the narrow channel that once turned mill wheels nearby. This time I had to go first, stepping carefully around the end of the fence, hanging over the water, and slipping into the gardens. Then we went slowly, delicately, one at a time over a homemade plank bridge that looked as risky as anything she'd seen in cartoons.

After that, she led us along a thin, icy path on a dike between the channel and a deep, muddy ditch with (I don't know why) sharp sticks (the remains of a fence?) jutting up from the bottom. Slip slip slip along the middle. We made it to the mill pond, which is now mostly drained while men rework it for flood control; a man drowned at the end of our street during last summer's flood. A couple dozen ducks worked the remaining water and mud. We went round the rim of the pond until we ended back at the mill stream, now unbridged and narrowed. When I said we'll have to jump, she ran ahead and found a spot she could leap.

We landed, after scrambling over some big steam pipes, in a place we hadn't seen before. Built up but quiet. No traffic. People walking in twos and threes. A cafeteria. A sign.

The psychiatric hospital. We walked quietly but quickly for the nearest exit, ducked under a barrier, and realized that we were just a very short walk from home. The kid was elated and told me (and herself) two or three times about how she had found the way and saved us.

I didn't tell mama all the details.

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