Angle to Key West: The Machine Sputters to Life (6/21)

International Falls, MN – June 21, 2012

My body flows like the engine of an old car gasping to life. Rusted gears grind together, smoke spurts out, belts slip as they spin. My body is a thousand pieces trying to remember what to do. In the driver’s seat, I smash the pedals and grip the wheel like a madman, ordering, bargaining, and begging for the engine to turn.

Moments feel routine. Moments where I don’t feel my torso rotate, my arm reach out with the paddle, my wrist twist the blade into the water, my back pull. Moments where a hundred different movements slip together and the motor hums.

Each day the moments stretch further and the gaps between them shrink and disappear. At the Angle, they’d last a few strokes. In Baudette, a quarter-mile. Now, long bends in the river fade before the engine shakes apart.

Then I pop the hood, listen to the hiss of steam venting into the air, and bang away until the engine sputters to life again.

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