“What’s that man doing?”
Michael turned to look up the hill.
“Probably the same thing we are,” he said.
Carrie pulled off her sunhat.
“But he doesn’t have any fishing gear,” she said. “Or camping stuff.”
“Maybe it’s in his car.”
Michael stepped onto a rock and cast his line into the river.
“I don’t know,” Carrie said. “It doesn’t seem like it.”
Michael reeled the line in and stepped back onto the riverbank.
“Well,” he said, “what do you want me to do about it?”
Carried put her sunhat back on and looked up the hill. The man was leaning on the hood of his car, his arms folded across his chest. With the sunlight and the distance, Carrie couldn’t tell what direction he was looking in.
“I just don’t like that we’re out here all alone,” she said. “And that he’s up there, and we’re down here. We’re sitting ducks.”
“Sitting ducks for what?” Michael said.
“I’m just saying that if we wanted to leave we’d have to go up that hill.”
Carrie crouched down on the ground and picked up a rock. She studied it for a moment before loosely tossing it into the river.
“I just don’t like the look of him,” she said.
Michael opened the carton of worms and pulled one out. He sat down on the ground to put it on his hook. Carrie pushed things around in the cooler.
“I think I’m going to have a sandwich,” she said. “You want one?”
Michael shook his head.
“I’m going to give this spot one last try,” he said, standing up. “Then we can move.”
Michael walked out to the rocks. He stepped from one to another until he reached the largest and flattest. He looked back at Carrie.
“How’s the sandwich?” He shouted.
Carrie shrugged. Michael turned around and cast his line into the water. The line moved with the current, then Michael reeled it back in and cast again.
Carrie looked up the hill.
“Michael,” she said.
Michael turned. Carrie pointed. The man was gone, but his car was still there.
“OK,” Michael said, pulling in his line. “It’s no problem.”
Carrie closed the worm carton and put it back in the tackle box. She kneeled down on the ground to collect the rest of things to go into the backpack: her sweatshirt, their towels, Michael’s cigarettes, the granola bars, the flashlight, the canteen.
“You got everything?” Michael said, nearby.
“Jesus! You scared me.” Carrie stood up.
“Sorry,” Michael looked up at the car. “You okay?”
“I just want to get out of here.” Carrie said.
“OK,” Michael said. “I’ll grab the rods and cooler if you can handle the tackle box and backpack.”
“Where are we moving to?” Carrie said.
“I thought we’d just go up,” Michael said, nodding toward the hill. “Go up to the car.”
“No,” Carrie said. She pulled on the backpack. “I don’t want to go up there.”
“Well, what the hell,” Michael said. “Where did you expect us to go?”
Carrie looked around, squinting.
“Can’t we just walk that way a bit, along the river?”
Michael looked over his shoulder.
“And then what?” he said.
“Maybe we can walk up somewhere over there,” she said. “And we could tell someone.”
Michael clicked the cooler shut and picked it up.
“Tell them what?” he said.
“I don’t know,” Carrie said. “Tell them we’re scared.”
They walked along the river, pausing every few minutes to stop in the shade. Carrie kept a watch around them. Michael scanned the water for fishing spots. After about half a mile, they came across a campsite.
“Hey,” Carrie said, setting down the tackle box. “There are people here.”
Michael looked around.
“I don’t see any people.”
“Well, this is their stuff,” Carrie said.
Michael set down the cooler and rods.
“Let me grab a cigarette,” he said. “You OK to stay here a minute?”
“Yeah,” Carrie said. “There must be children with them. Look at the towels.”
A small orange towel with a cartoon seashell was draped over a branch. Another – pink and covered in smiley faces – was twisted on the ground.
Michael lit his cigarette and sat down.
“I wonder where they went,” he said. “I don’t hear any swimming.”
“They’re not swimming,” Carrie said, walking around the campsite with her hands on her hips. “Their towels are here.”
Carrie slipped off her shoes and pulled a towel from the backpack.
“If you’re getting comfortable I’m going to try to cast off,” he said.
“Fine by me.” Carrie said. “I think this is a better spot.”
Carrie laid the towel down on the ground and climbed on top of it. She took off her sunhat and placed it next to her, then closed her eyes and leaned back, letting the sun soak onto her face.
“Have you seen that silver spoon?” Michael said.
Carrie opened her eyes.
“The what?” she said.
“That little silver lure I was using this morning. The one with the tail.”
“Oh,” Carrie said. “No, I didn’t see it.”
She closed her eyes.
When Carrie opened her eyes again she realized that she’d fallen asleep. A cool breeze ran across her forehead. Her sunhat crunched under her elbow.
“Michael?” she called out, still lying down.
She sat up and looked around, adjusting her hair with one hand.
The river was quiet, and both fishing rods were propped against a tree.
She crawled toward the tackle box and opened it up, regularly lifting her eyes to look around. She found the pocketknife they used for cutting fishing line and flipped it open.
She crawled back to the towel and sat down.
The sun was starting to go down and it was getting cold. She rolled up the towel and put it in the backpack, then got a sandwich from the cooler and put it in the backpack too. She left the cooler, tackle box, and fishing rods.
She started walking. Up was the way to go. She grabbed onto rocks and steadied herself on branches. When leaves crackled she turned and pointed the knife. The river below was getting quieter.
When she reached the top of the hill the sun had settled behind the mountains. There was light but not much. A picnic table under a small tree had the remains of a gathering – a crumpled chip bag, empty soda cans, a small stack of paper plates. She walked toward the road where the wind was kicking up dust. Looking either way there was nothing.
She began walking in the direction of the car, holding the knife close to her leg. She couldn’t hear the river anymore.
Before long a pair of headlights appeared ahead of her. She crouched down on the ground and lowered her head, then leapt to her feet as the car sped past.
Several moments later she felt herself illuminated by another pair of lights, this time from behind. She turned around and shielded her eyes, quickly moving the hand holding the knife behind her back. The car slowed and killed its high beams. When the window rolled down, a strong beer smell wafted out.
The driver – a man wearing a baseball cap – leaned across the passenger seat.
“You lost?” He said.
“No,” Carrie said, loosening her grip on the knife. “Not really.”
The man looked out onto the road and squinted.
“You looking for a ride?”
Carrie looked into the car. A Styrofoam cup was squeezed between his thighs. A metal crucifix hung from the rearview mirror.
“Yeah,” she said, closing the knife and slipping it into her back pocket. “If you don’t mind.”
The man unlocked the door and Carrie climbed inside, placing the backpack at her feet.
As they drove off, Carrie looked over her shoulder. Through the stained back window she saw a figure run out onto the road.
“Wait,” Carrie said, touching the man’s arm.
He looked at her and frowned.