Lower Mississippi Mile 887, South of New Madrid, MO – November 16, 2012
Word traveled up New Madrid’s long boat ramp like a bad game of telephone.
“He’s going to Minnesota and is from Florida.””
“No, he’s from Minnesota and is going to Florida.”
“Where’d ya start then?”
“Oh, he started in Minnesota and is going to Florida, yea, he’s from Florida.”
“Well how’d you get up to Minnesota?”
After a minute, Brenda decided the shouting wasn’t reliable enough. She strolled down the long ramp, called me over, and told me to sit down a moment and tell her what was going on.
She told me I was crazy a dozen times, asked if she could sit in the kayak and “go for just a small circle” until she realized it only sat one and she’d be all alone, then assured me that I would be eaten by alligators somewhere down the river.
“You’ll remember me when they got ya,” she said.
“I’ll try,” I said, laughing, “but I’ll have a lot on my mind if an alligator’s got me.”
“Naw,” she said. “You’ll remember me, you’ll remember I told you so.”
I promised to think of her if a gator dragged me under and that my last words might be “Brenda was right.”
Satisfied, she continued to tell me I was crazy for another ten minutes until she rose to leave with her friends who had been fishing. Halfway up the ramp, she turned and started moving her body, snapping her hips back and forth, dancing to an inaudible beat.
“Hey now!” she shouted, still dancing. “You’ll remember me now, won’t ya?”
I laughed and not sure what to do, started dancing myself because it’s not every day you come to a small town in Missouri named after a big city in Spain and have an impromptu dance-off on a boat ramp next to the Mississippi River.
Not expecting this, Brenda folded over hooting with joy and leaned against a handrail to steady herself. I took it as a victory and she laughing all the way back to her car.
I waved and laughed too, hoping she was wrong about the alligators, but sure that she was right about one thing, I would remember her for a long, long time.