Long days go by on the river and nobody notices.
They came out here three weeks ago with the camp and just ended up staying, living in the bright teepees and going for swims that last for hours, the four of them coming up blue-lipped and shivering but joyous from the water, pure glacial melt, so close to the snowline that even as the icecaps recede they forget that there’s anything but this one perfect place, these hot and dusty, glorious days along the river.
Nights they sit around the fire.
Deb, Jam, Fran, Mike, they pass the names around day by day, or make up new ones.
There’s a gravel bar that extends across the entire river just below their campsite, and that’s as far as they go downstream. Below the bar the river is fast and dangerous and deep and deadly. They have an innertube that they take turns riding in, hauling it a quarter-mile upstream through the nettles and floating blissfully back down, water soothing on their scratched and sunburned legs.
Weeks down the mountain the camp is sackcloth and ashes and years farther down their parents are in mourning, and the water they drink from the tap tastes of sunshine and forgetfulness.