Chapter 1

Written by: Ray Stone

 Bruce pushes us clear with his oar. I sit behind Artie. His body is edgy, his oar held steady just above the surface. I feel like screaming, “I’ve changed my mind, let me off.”

“Together now – stroke!” shouts Bruce, his voice echoing off the canyon walls.

I’m trying to focus on Artie’s blade. I don’t have time to look at our surroundings because excitement and fear are gripping me as one. It’s not what I’m experiencing now but what is to come, up ahead.

“Great!” shouts Artie, “Can you see it, Sue!” He shouts with excitement over his shoulder. “Can you see that bend in the distance? Pass that and the ride really begins.”

The raft swings out to the middle of the canyon and small white crests eddy. We are beginning to bounce a little. The current pushes us faster toward the bend.

 

It took Artie some time to coax me onto my first roller-coaster ride on my fifteenth birthday. I watched the cars crawl over the top of the wooden trestle and hurtle down the steep gradient. The screams of the riders caused the hairs to rise on the back of my neck. The cars rattled by and out of sight, carrying the screamers toward a cambered curve and another awful climb and drop.

 I clung to Artie’s arm that first ride, with eyes closed most of the time, but that didn’t stop my stomach churning. At the end of the ride, Artie pulled me back into the car and round we went again. That next ride my eyes stayed open and I screamed with enjoyment.

 

After several minutes I’m feeling better as we near the bend. There’s a distant rumbling that’s getting louder. Not much further to go. We bounce up and down. The raft rises and falls, spray showering us each time the bow dips and thumps into the water. I look behind and see the other rafts are following. That reassures me.

            “Look!” shouts Artie. He points skywards. “It’s an eagle, way up.”

            “Stroke!” shouts Bruce. “You must keep stroke.”

            I look up and watch the eagle, just a small outline, its wings fixed in a thermal glide. Between strokes I keep looking up. The eagle appears larger each time it circles. Then I see the blue and red wings of a hang glider.

            In front of me the rumbling has turned into a roar. The bend is rapidly approaching and it widens.

            Bruce orders us to concentrate. We can’t afford to end up pushed against the canyon wall. It’s a bad situation many rafters have found themselves in. Some have even drowned. I gulp back the beating lump in my throat.

            I push the oar into the water, keeping opposite stroke with Artie. Behind us someone shouts above the roar. The raft rises two to three feet. It’s yawing violently. Sheets of water crash over us. I feel like letting go the oar and hanging on to the safety rope.

 

Raymond Stone (USA)

  

 

 

 

Comments

Very well written.  I think I've changed my mind, can I back out of writing a chapter? LOL  This is way out of my comfort zone.
It is precisely because some writers will be out of their comfort zone that they should have a go at this. You would be surprised at how easy it is to fall into another tense once you get going. This serial exercise is one of the ways The Mint is helping us to hone and expand our writing skills. We are all here to help each other. Go for it!
I'm not that worried about the present tense, more about the adventure type storyline. :)  I'm going to have lots of fun with the next one.  :-)
This opening chapter certainly sets the tempo nicely.  It will be very interesting to see this story develop over the various pens of seven more authors.  This present tense of writing will certainly be a challenege for me as it will place me outside of my comfort element of past tense.  I look forward to it.  Nice opening, Raymond.
While technically it is fine nothing in the storyline really gets me yet.  A couple of years I canoed down the Wanganui River in "Daniel Boone(2 seater) canoes with my wife.  These were called the "divorce boats"  by the people who ran the expedition and they were right.  We and the other people we were with had huge fights physically and verballyin these boats with the ones we loved.  That is the memorable moment of that trip.  It ended up fine but in the stortyline to "River Deep"here is no unexpected drama that has come out.   
Whilst I agree we want to see action and mayhem I don't think it's a good idea to start the climax in the first 500 words. We need three chapters to set out the stall, four to tell the story, and then let fly with the blood and gore in the last three, leaving the reader satisfied - or in your case (and mine Ken) slated with dribbles of claret running doen our chins.
Canoe's? The fights probably had to take place because napping was the next most exciting activity. Just kidding. The truth is, gliding along the smooth waters between the canyon walls is the calm before the storm. I can see opportunities for Man against Nature and Man against Man, life and death struggle and broken lives. So stretch yourselves. Get comfortable with present tense, since action-adventure stories are best if you ride with them in real time and we can make this a ride to remember. Yee-haw!
Gregg and I'm not asking for action early on. When I say action or drama I am not saying I like the shoot'em up kind all of the time.  I just find too much description going on when as a reader I'd like to be at the next part of the story.  This story is set on a river but the action does not have to be physical/geographical.    
I realize, while I am reading this, that it is not comfortable for me to read a second person account.  The flashback para is jarring for me.  No negative criticism to you, but I think this makes it obvious why it is rare to read a story in second person.  I am glad I have the last chapter.  Thanks for giving us an example of how to do it.
This is first person present tense. An example of second person would be . . . You find on your travels that your bag does not hold what you need.  Whereas first person would read . . . I find on my travels that my bag does not hold what I need. And of course, third person . . . She finds on her travels that her bag does not hold what she needs. All of these are in present tense.  
This chapter is well written, holds the POV and the tense. But I didn't feel like it advanced the story or the characters, per se, action aside. While I didn't expect blood and guts or an alien invasion, I was hoping to learn something more about the other two people involved in the story. Not an easy task in first person, but somewhat crucial if they're to remain in the storyline. As for the flashback, what it delivered wasn't enough impact for the number of words it took up.
The flashback showed quite a lot about Arnie and Sue - regarding his strong personality and her reliance on him for strength and reliability. Maybe something that will show itself in the chapters to come. The paragraph was one line less than Gina's. As always, no matter what, I am a great fan of descriptive work - you can blame Charles Dickens for that - it is one aspect of my work that will never change.
I already know that Artie is the dominant person in the relationship and that Susan follows him doggedly and silently wherever he leads. I got that from the opening scene.  I also got a sense of deep-seated, "God, I'm going to die" fear from that scene and yet she still stepped into the boat. What I was looking for, and didn't get, was the motivation behind it. Why does she put herself through this for him each time? What's the depth of their relationship? If it were just because she might get that thrill, then the fear would have subsided long ago and it would have been more of the freaky, adrenaline rush/excitement fear than dread.
I understand the reasoning but would find it hard to convey everything in 500 words. I suppose I could have said she loved him but then I hoped readers would know that anyway by the length of their relationship and her reliance on him. This was my first time at this tense too so I guess one tries to focus on getting that (tense) right while paying less attention to the plot. As a novelist (hopefully) and as others are finding out, it is hard to write a short but I love the exercise of doing something different.
Love your title there! And it's absolutely the issue. The tense is scary enough for those not used to it, that it's possibly cutting into the gameplay. Add that to the short word count and it really hurts. Something to watch out for in future chapters.