Pungo Creek

Clara pulled in the oars, scrambled up to the front of the boat and threw the anchor over the side. It made a loud splash and probably scared away all the fish within a half acre. But they’d left their fishing poles behind so it didn’t matter.

“She’d be sorry if I was dead. If I was drowned she’d be sorry she hit me all the time.”

“If you were dead it wouldn’t matter because you wouldn’t be around to watch her be sorry.”

“It would if I was a ghost. I would come back and haunt her to the end of her days. I’d tap-tap-tap on her window at night and push the back porch swing….” Clara frowned and wiped her eyes.

“Come on, Clara. Do you really think there’s any such thing as a ghost? I mean, what if there isn’t and you go and drown yourself and that’s it? You’re just drowned.”

“The way I’m feeling right now, Ivy, I’d be willing to take a chance. I don’t see how being dead can be any worse than…”  She stopped.

“Worse than what?”

Instead of answering Clara stood up and brought her hands up in front of her like she was praying. “Remember when I got baptized and Reverend Linton said I died and was born again – that I came back to life? He dipped me down in this very creek.” She closed her eyes and just stood there in the front of the skiff.

Ivy studied her sister… She thought Clara looked a little like the angels in her Bible stories.  Her curly blond hair framed her face. She was even dressed like an angel. Like always, Clara was wearing one of her good dresses instead of the worn out shorts that Ivy always wore.

“Clara, I don’t know why you insist on wearing your good clothes to go fishing in. You’re just going to mess that dress up and Mama is going to fuss about having to wash and iron it.” Ivy squirmed in her seat. This had gone on long enough. She eyed the bag that held their lunch. “Quit kidding around, Clara. Sit down before you fall overboard I’m hungry. Let’s eat.”

“I’m not kidding around. I’m praying. Be quiet.”

Ivy watched as sister raised her arms up to the sky and began to speak in a passable impersonation of Reverend Linton. “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”

“Amen. Brother Ben. Shot at a rooster and killed a hen.” Ivy countered. “You’re nutty, Clara. I am going to eat my sandwich.”

Ivy opened the brown paper bag that held their lunch – two banana sandwiches on Sunbeam bread. She wiped her hands on her shorts, unwrapped her sandwich and placed it on the waxed paper that she had spread carefully on her lap. She was just about to bite into it when she heard the splash.

Clara let go of the side of the skiff and allowed herself to sink into the brackish water of Pungo Creek. Her hair floated around her head catching the light that still streamed through the Carolina pines. Her eyes were open. Little bubbles escaped from her nose and gurgled to the surface.

Clara caught hold of the anchor rope and pulled herself to the bottom.  Then she set the anchor on her stomach so she wouldn’t float to the surface and she waited.  When she couldn’t hold her breath any longer she breathed in the creek water. For a second she almost gave in and pushed off the anchor, but she just kept remembering Reverend Linton dipping her in the water. It was just like being baptized. She felt Pungo Creek just flowing into her body and then all the fear left her.

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One response to “Pungo Creek

  1. Vernon

    I stumbled across this looking for info on the Pungo Creek bridge construction. I love your writing and am very interested in the (repeatable) history of the area. We bought Floyd’s place on Jack Creek. Can I get printed copies of your work?

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