Electric blue polyethylene attracted eyes imagining, moulded plastic shaped into a featherweight toy rowboat.
Three friends lazed away a holiday morning in a decaying downtown, one about to begin a slow transition to a post-industrial environment. Two looked with interest at other hobby store objects. One locked on the cheap flotation toy.
Enthralled, he purchased. The bulky item meant no public transport, and necessitated a three-mile walk home. With boat, the three waited on traffic signals, crossed two decrepit canals and a bigger steel grate bridge, below which passed a river of moderate effluence. Its polluted water, tinged a sick teal near the bridge, emitted a pungent odour. The three tried their best to limit breaths on its traverse.
Mid-span, one looked inside the six-foot long prize and spotted its official name: Poly Play Boat. An eruption of laughter inhibited attempts to explain the outburst, but soon, all three clued in to the humour.
At their homes, arrangements firmed for afternoon, a holy day by their school calendar. They planned the initial voyage on a nearby stream, local congregating spot on warmer days. There, the thin-as-a-rail one accepted nomination as volunteer test subject, checking buoyancy. A strong push from shore floated the craft out twenty feet, into water five feet deep. At once the toy proved wanting, its hull incapable of supporting even the lightest amongst them.
Standing on the slow-buckling, wobbling surface, the child declared, “No boat will sink on me!” Into the chilled water of a temperate April day the child jumped, water emerging from winter’s influence. The child cared not. Faced with loss of control, the child embraced choice, action, and control of destiny.
Forty-five years later, the spirit what caused my jump stands restored, near a decade after full personal breakage what blew by any failsafe.