Emma and I sat on the tailgate and neither of us said a word. We just stared at the boat sitting in the library parking lot. I first met her a half-hour earlier, back when we had it all figured out.
“Does it fit in a Camry?” she’d joked.
The thought of both back doors open with the boat sticking out to either side fluttered through my mind.
“Maybe I can find a place to stash it around here,” I said.
“Give me twenty minutes,” she said. “I have a plan.”
Twenty minutes later, she’d traded the Camry for a pickup truck. That was when we thought we had it all figured out.
We lifted the boat’s nose into the bed and slid it forward. It didn’t even make it half way. We turned it sideways, we tried different angles, we begged the laws of mathematics to bend to our will, but seventeen feet of yellow plastic is seventeen feet of yellow plastic.
The boat slid back down to the parking lot and we sat on the tailgate to think. We were quite a pair, sitting on her grandpa’s truck, a pretty 21-year old college student and me. She wore clean work clothes and her hair pulled back. I wore seventy miles of the Rainy River on my skin and looked like I’d just dragged 150 pounds of kayak and gear up a muddy bank. We both sat and stared.
“Sorry,” I said. “I’m such a hassle.”
I wouldn’t have faulted her for abandoning me. We’d only known each other thirty minutes and I’d only been trouble, but Emma brushed my apology away with an inspiring laugh and stared at the kayak as determined as ever.
“We’ll figure something out,” she said when most people would have walked away.
She said it without a doubt, almost relishing the craziness of it all and I believed her.
Five minutes later, we’d moved the boat to the street, attached the set of tiny portage wheels to one end, and pointed it toward her house a mile and a half away.
She climbed in the front of the truck and slid open the window behind her seat. I climbed in the back and grabbed hold of the boat’s front haul strap.
There was no place to tie the boat to the truck, so I wrapped myself around the yellow hull like a baby sloth and hoped my weight would hold it.
“We’re going right by the police station,” Emma said. “But don’t worry, I know most of them.”
I took a deep breath, we smiled at each other one last time through the back window, and she turned the key.
Kids stopped playing to stare as we passed, a man lost every word in his throat and just laughed at us, and no driver dared stay behind us for long.
We inched down the streets, Emma taking slow turns and easing over bumps while I held on in the back with two arms and a leg hooked around the bouncing hull. It felt like I was wrestling some giant yellow beast, but we made sure more than one person in International Falls had something to talk about over dinner that night.
“You know that Emma Pavleck? Todd and Patty’s girl?” they’d say. “You’ll never guess what I saw her doing today.”
“Yes, I know Emma Pavleck,” I’d answer. “She has a taste for adventure.”