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The Mother's River
Water streamed beautifully along the narrow river. Its water ran quickly and fiercely, the way a lion runs after its prey. It seemed to go on forever with no clear beginning or ending. Its depth remained unknown, as no one had ever dared disturb the forceful streams. There was something majestic about it, and it seemed to captivate all those who encountered its strength and grace.
A little ways north of the river, a house lay atop a hill. It was a small house, fit for only two, three at the most. A young mother and her son lived there. His name was Jason. He was a very healthy boy, and his mother had raised him well. Although, as most 6 year-olds often do, he sometimes needed a little getting on to, but overall he was considered a well-mannered and charming young boy. It was hard not to like him. He had grown up without his father, so he was very close to his mother. He cared for her deeply, and it wasn’t often that he disobeyed her. He aimed to please her more than anyone else. He loved to see her happy. All his life she had been there for him, satisfying his needs. She was his hero, and he was hers. Since the loss of her husband there had been no other men in her life, so all of her time and energy went to her work and to Jason. He was the best thing that had ever happened to her.
“Hello, Momma,” he said as he strolled through the front door. “Hey, Sweetie,” she hollered from the kitchen, “How was school?”
“It was great!”
She smiled lovingly in approval and met him at the dining room table with his afternoon snack, a ham and cheese sandwich cut diagonally down the middle to form two triangles, and a glass of apple juice.
“Can I go down by the river today, mom,” Jason asked still chewing on his sandwich.
“I’m sorry, but I’m afraid not, darling.”
Jason stared at his mom’s face, wondering if there would be any way to persuade her. “Why not!?”
“I just don’t think it’s a good idea. Why don’t you just play in the yard like you always do?”
He said nothing else, but his mom knew this meant he would comply with her wishes.
Jason zoomed around the backyard, kicking his ball back and forth, here and there, looking back every now and then to where his mom watched him from inside the kitchen window while she washed dishes and prepared their dinner. It upset him that his mother had said he could not go down by the river, but he did not know why. He kicked his ball high into the air. It soared through the sky like an eagle, and dropped quickly, rolling down the hill, to where the river lay. He hesitated, looking back through the kitchen window, expecting to see his mom, but she wasn’t there. He stood there a minute, thinking she’d be back in the window any second, but when she didn’t appear, he decided he would retrieve the ball himself. He’d be quick about it; he didn’t want to upset his mom. He raced down the hill, ran right up to the ball, grabbed it, but before he could turn to leave, his ear caught sound of the river’s song. The way the water streamed and splashed against the rocks. It was beautiful. It called out to him. He looked down at the river, watching the fish beneath the water, seeing them swim hurriedly, as if they were racing one another. He wished he were one of them. He bent down and dipped his hand into the water, the cool water refreshed him. He closed his eyes, imagining he was one of the fish, swimming in a hurry. He remembered his mother then, snatched his hand from the water, and ran back up to the house, praying that his mom would not be in the window, and she wasn’t. He wiped his hand on his pant leg, and went inside.
“Mom,” he called out, wondering where she could be.
“Yes, dear!?” her voice echoed from the hall. He ran over to find her doing laundry.
“Dinner will be ready in a few minutes. Why don’t you go wash up? You look starved.”
He smiled, attempting to act normally.
His mom had noticed nothing. She walked back to the kitchen, fixed their plates, and set dinner on the table. Jason emerged from the bathroom to see his plate and glass already at his place at the table. “My favorite,” he said looking over his plate.
“There’s dessert too,” his mother told him, “so, don’t get too full.”
He laughed, feeling just a tinge of guilt, and began to eat. They ate in silence for a while until his mom asked, “Did you have fun outside?” He looked up at her slowly and said yes. She smiled.
“Mom,” he said, “would it be alright if I went down by the river tomorrow?”
Her face was suddenly less sweet. “I’m sorry, but my answer is still no.”
“Why,” he couldn’t keep himself from asking.
She hesitated, “Because if you do, bad things can happen.”
“But they won’t. I went down there today to get my ball, and I’m just fine,” he told her. “
What,” his mom demanded, hurt written across her face.
He was quiet. A long silence followed. He watched while his mom tried to hold back her tears.
“Let me tell you something,” she said finally. “I lived beside a river as a young girl and I would go out and play near it every day, and sometimes we would all put our feet in and let the water splash across them. But one day, my brother fell in, and the river was too strong for him, and it dragged him down and he drowned.” She had tears in her eyes. “I miss him so much, and I would never, ever let something like that happen to you. I love you, Jason, and so I’m not even going to risk it. You mean too much to me. You’re all I have in this world, and so I simply will not let you go down by that river.”
He hugged her. “I’m sorry, momma. I won’t do it again, I promise.” He went to bed that night confused, but comforted by his mother’s love.
“Mom,” Jason shouted from the front door, “could Lucas and Nolan come over to play?”
“Sure,” she said smiling, “that’d be fine.”
“Yeah, c’mon in guys, she said okay,” Jason said ushering in his friends. “Hello, boys, would you like an afternoon snack?” she asked them. They nodded with glee. She fixed them all sandwiches with juice. “I’m going to clean up around the house,” she said dismissing herself, “so you boys just run along and play now.”
The boys ran outside to the backyard where they proceeded to play kickball with one another. Running around, cheering and laughing all the while. Then Lucas kicked the ball and it flew into the sky landing right, as fate would have it, next to the river.
“Ugh, okay, you go get the ball,” Nolan said to Lucas.
“Fine,” he said walking toward the river.
“No,” said Jason abruptly, “we’re not supposed to go down by the river. I’ll go ask my mom to get it.”
“Why,” Nolan demanded, “Are you chicken?”
“No,” Jason said feebly.
“Well, then let’s go”. They walked down by the river. Lucas grabbed the ball, and he and Jason turned to go back up the hill, but Nolan splashed water onto their backs.
“C’mon guys,” he said smiling mischievously.
The boys walked over to the river and splashed Nolan back. Nolan ran, and they chased after him. Laughing as they ran, enjoying the breeze. Jason’s foot suddenly caught on a rock, he threw his arms up attempting to balance himself, but instead he fell right into the river. It was as if time stopped. The boys stared, watching it unfold like a movie. Jason went under. Fear took him and he couldn’t seem to swim out. He came to the surface, and screamed for help, but the boys were unsure of what to do. They panicked. Jason screamed for his mom, hoping she would be able to hear him, knowing she was his only hope.
She was sure she had heard a scream, and then she heard it again, louder than before. She darted down the hall and outside to the river. There her eyes confirmed just what she had feared. Jason had fallen into the river. She forced herself not to panic. She had to save him. She ran to the side of the river and kneeled down, holding out her arms, begging Jason to swim to her.
“I can’t,” he told her.
Seeing that he would not be able to make it to shore on his own, she jumped in and swam to where he was. Fighting the river, she swam with him to shore. The streams had been too much for Jason, but they were not too strong for his mom. They lay there gasping for air, the boys still frozen in shock. Taking everything in, Jason hugged his mother tightly. He didn’t even need to say anything; she understood just what the hug meant.
“I know,” she told him.