PUBLISHED IN: 2013.
THE AUTHOR: Brian Francis Heffron
THE EDITOR/PROOF READER: Phyl Manning
THE PUBLISHER: Little House Books: Los Angeles, London, New York
SUMMARY: With refreshing depth, distinct literary merit, and highly original poetic phrasings that spill from the pages like paint, Colorado Mandala is poet Brian Heffron’s debut work of literary fiction. It mines the complex landscape of post-Vietnam America to unearth the deep connections that bind individuals together, and also ferociously rip them asunder. Illustrative, luscious, seductive, and engaging, this rare piece of craftsmanship will stir the senses of any one who thirsts for artistic expression, or who longs for an era in our country now utterly, irretrievably gone.
In the heady, hippie backdrop of Pike’s Peak, Colorado, in the tumultuous 1970s, three souls swirl together in an explosive supernova. Michael is the flinty-eyed, volatile former Green Beret, whose tour in Vietnam has left unbridgeable chasms in his psyche and secrets that can never find light. Sarah is his fair-haired paramour, the ethereal Earth Mother widow of a fallen soldier and single mother to a ten-year-old son Stuart. Paul is a young wanderer, who is drawn in by Michael and soon bears the mantle of both minister and scourge. As they are drawn together, and torn apart, each is changed forever. And our hearts race along with them, through the rocky, raw Colorado terrain amidst the blood sport of man and beast.
Laying bare the loss and acceptance of a pioneering age, Colorado Mandala shines revelatory light on the crazy, glorious, and romantic notion that each generation conceives anew: that love can be a spiritual gift shared openly rather than coveted, or hidden, or hoarded. If you wish to go barefoot again and climb an unspoiled Colorado trail, look no further. If you long for something to wake you up in simple, clean language, a shimmering story awaits. Awaken to what you have always known: simple truths show you the way home. With his gripping and unforgettable Colorado Mandala, it is clear that Brian Heffron knows the way.
*Portion of proceeds to benefit clients of PTSD charitable organizations.
THE BACK STORY: Mr. Heffron started writing the book as a creative writing assignment during his second year at Emerson College. He shelved the manuscript for some 30 years to work as an award-winning television writer, producer and director. Also an established national poet, Mr. Heffron revisited and completed the novel in 2013. In tune with a reemerging interest in PTSD, a mental health condition triggered by a terrifying event, Colorado Mandala is set during the tumultuous 1970’s in Manitou Springs, Colorado, where the main character’s struggle with PTSD is a driving force in the plot. A gripping flashback to the earlier Viet Nam trauma explains the character’s symptoms of hyper-vigilance, volatility, severe anxiety, and a constant struggle to sustain loving relationships.
WHY THIS TITLE? A mandala represents a serene and settled psyche. The book is the story of three people trying to help each other leave the past behind and become serene.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? “Colorado Mandala pays tribute to the many thousands of soldiers currently suffering from PTSD across our country, particularly the Viet Nam Veteran, and is being reviewed for possible inclusion in bibliotherapy, the use of literature to heal,” explained Mr. Heffron. “The thousands of stories I heard while hitchhiking and visiting Colorado in the 1970s, and meeting so many recently returned Viet Nam Vets, created the framework for this story. I lived amidst these emotionally shattered guys and the hippie community which embraced and nurtured them and their women. So I feel a deep connection to these wounded warriors and for this reason I am donating a portion of the proceeds from Colorado Mandala to PTSD therapy organizations in support of their client work. My hope is that this novel will provide a compassionate, creative voice of tenderness to these fractured folk who need far more acknowledgement, kindness, love and support..
“Colorado Mandala is a fabulous tale of love, honor, friendship and the psychological morass of Viet Nam Vets; their private codes, their impenetrable camaraderie. Brian understands the life of the nomad, getting a ride here, jumping off there and hoping for peace and new encounters. His understanding of human strengths and failings is impeccably delineated in this marvelous account of Michael, Sarah, her young son, Stuart, and himself. The plot has been carefully and craft fully drawn and readers of all ages, those who remember Viet Nam and those who have only history to rely on the terror, will appreciate this tale, close to a My Lai experience,” said Stefanie Stolinsky, Ph.D., clinical and forensic psychologist and a nationally recognized expert in the fields of trauma, PTSD, and child abuse.
Colorado Mandala can be purchased in bulk for Veterans of America hospitals and other organizations.
“COLORADO MANDALA has won an Independent Publisher’s Award, was a Finalist for the Rone Award, and was Goodreads.com‘s very first Book of the Month in June 2013.”
MIDWEST BOOK REVIEWS 5 OUT OF 5 STARS:
“Colorado Mandala comes from poet Brian Heffron, who departs from his established genre with a novel of the seventies recommended for fans of literary fiction. The novel opens with an eloquent preface explaining the author’s early attraction (at age twelve) to hitchhiking, an occupation that leads to journeys throughout America:
“This connection to highways, and journeys on them, may be because I was born the summer Congress passed the Federal Highway Act. I came in with the highways and have actually grown up on them; my New Jersey suburb had a major national highway route running right alongside its border. This meant that total geographic, continental freedom was only one bold, usually cold, thumb ride away.”
Each new ride leads to encounters with strangers, new fables and legends, and different perceptions of love and connection which form foundations for the fictional experiences (based on fact) described in Colorado Mandala.
This book is all about shared connections, different visions of love, and a journey through America that vividly connects strangers and places.
Its dialog and descriptions are exquisite, pairing a sense of place with a sense of character and linking the two with a fine mesh of intricate, accurate and sensual description:
‘A narrowing canyon: deep, long and slim, with fluted columns of red sandstone and brickish dented walls. Yellow cinquefoils blooming from niches bob in the noonday breeze. Within the canyon is a fast stream so filled with rocks and boulders that the water can hardly find a course. The bank is clay and has retreated with the burden of the spring run-off. Along the southern shore is a roadbed; beside it a flock of brewer’s blackbirds feed on ticks and water spiders. Their hollow white eyes snap to at the first rumble of an approaching vehicle.’
Heffron’s use of the first person is an added bonus, taking full advantage of the protagonist’s observations of and experiences with his world and its various interactions, and will delight readers looking for a ‘you are there’ feel in their reading.
From canyons filled with climbing, nature, and water adventures to bars, drinking, and bad debts, Colorado Mandala moves swiftly and easily between very different atmospheres, carrying readers like a river through the eddies, undercurrents, and compelling mystery of human interactions.
There are cave explorations and cockfighting, there’s debt and repayment, wilderness encounters, and the coming together of different peoples and personalities – all set against the backdrop of Colorado’s natural wonders.
As the story evolves, readers become immersed in the journey, changing relationships between very different protagonists, and an evolving pressure of past upon present which eventually transforms lives and personalities alike:
‘I never believed it possible, but now, in this high wilderness timber clear-cut, there was something I had never seen before in my former partner’s eyes: murder…as he approached, I remembered another clearing, a clearing not in my life, but in his. A far away jungle clearing that he fought in a long, long time ago. A clearing he had never really left behind. And I thought, ‘Here is my best friend. My finest, and most loyal friend, even if there are occasional fisticuffs, here he is out of his mind with a toxic dose of long-held, misplaced guilt: a killing in the past that so devastated him that he is willing to commit a murder in the present to cover it up. Madness.’
“Gripping writing, solid descriptions of friendships, relationships and changes, and the vivid setting of Colorado’s wilderness byways: these facets make Colorado Mandala a tapestry of light, sound and color perfect for readers seeking evocative, compelling stories of journey and inspiration.”
— Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
“Colorado Mandala is an intricate chain of literary fiction…The novel fuses poetic verse with gritty contemporary dialogue and solves conflict with love. From spelunking to cock fights, readers won’t imagine what’s coming next. The author stretches the paradigms of romance by magnifying love as misshapen but uniquely perfect for friend and amour. At the beginning and end of each chapter, the author holds the reader aloft by a perspective crafted with exquisite diction to foreshadow a scene or thought. Then abruptly the literary rug is pulled away to join his first person perspective. The plot is eclectic. Conflicts are resolved in a true to life way. Those who love the art of the written word will probably agree this work may quite likely be genius, but most definitely not mundane. The pant-o-meter may not be breathing heavy, but it is transmitting a response resembling an unsteady heartbeat .”
—Natasza Waters — In D’Tale Magazine
“Often the value of a book is in the feeling that remains after the last page is turned. Heffron is a gifted storyteller and his poetic voice and melancholic mood left this reader with a feeling of yearning. The story is well structured, and the mood is worthy of comparison to that of John Steinbeck. The author, I think, intends to haunt, as Steinbeck often did, and in this he succeeds, leaving the reader with both a sense of the `sixties-seventies’ high aspirations, and the beginnings of the resulting fall back to earth.”
— Gridley, June 15, 2013, Asheville, NC,
AUTHOR PROFILE: Poet and novelist Brian Francis Heffron was a staff writer/director/producer at PBS for 20 years where he created educational programming to assist students and teachers.
After getting a BFA in Writing from Emerson college, Heffron became a professional sailor, working up from deckhand to celestial navigator to delivery skipper, eventually circumnavigating the north Atlantic including a passage from St. Thomas to Gibraltar in a 37 foot sailboat.
He got his first television set experience in the world of Advertising working for WRK, a subsidiary of Young & Rubicam. There he learned the ropes of production and produced his first commercials. Since then has worked at almost every position on a set from grip to props to production design and was eventually the director of photography on the award winning independent feature film, “The Imported Bridegroom”.
Heffron has worked in Los Angles since the early nineties as a screenwriter and TV producer/director. Since joining PBS he has won multiple Telly Awards, Aurora Awards, Videographer Awards, Emmys, and the Davis Award. He is credited with creating the first animated web series on AOL entitled “Hollywood Nights”, and he was the creative director of a software and art company that created the fifty thousand clip-art images contained within MSWord.
Along the way he created a poetry life-blog in his Facebook Notes section that attracted an international audience. On Valentine’s Day 2009 he published a handmade poetry chapbook, Sustain Me with Your Breath, that sold out in three weeks. It then became an ebook sensation. Heffron followed up with a one hour spoken word poetry CD entitled, “Something You Could Touch”. This broke sales records in its category.
He has been writing since he first met Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh. “Go, Dog, Go!” was a strong early influence and remains so. His poetry and prose is deeply infused with images of nature, and hopefully, snatches of humor.
Currently a resident of Glendora, California Brian Francis Heffron has distilled his poetic sensibility into a deeply lyrical work of fiction. For more information, please visit brianheffron.net.
Critically acclaimed poet Brian Francis Heffron has written his first novel Colorado Mandala in tune with a reemerging interest in PTSD, a mental health condition triggered by a terrifying event. Colorado Mandala is set during the tumultuous 1970’s in Manitou Springs, Colorado, where the main character’s struggle with PTSD is a driving force in the plot. A gripping flashback to the earlier Viet Nam trauma explains the character’s symptoms of hyper-vigilance, volatility, severe anxiety, and a constant struggle to sustain loving relationships.
“Colorado Mandala pays tribute to the many thousands of soldiers currently suffering from PTSD across our country, particularly the Viet Nam Veteran, and is being reviewed for possible inclusion in bibliotherapy, the use of literature to heal,” explained Mr. Heffron. “The thousands of stories I heard while hitchhiking and visiting Colorado in the 1970s, and meeting so many recently returned Viet Nam Vets, created the framework for this story. I lived amidst these emotionally shattered guys and the hippie community which embraced and nurtured them and their women. So I feel a deep connection to these wounded warriors and for this reason I am donating a portion of the proceeds from Colorado Mandala to PTSD therapy organizations in support of their client work. My hope is that this novel will provide a compassionate, creative voice of tenderness to these fractured folk who need far more acknowledgement, kindness, love and support.”
SAMPLE PREFACE & OPENING CHAPTER:
“When I was twelve, I first stuck my thumb out to hitchhike long distance. A yellow Pontiac Bonneville driven by a young Italian girl pulled over onto the dusty shoulder of the Garden State Parkway entrance ramp and I got in. I mention her ethnicity because at that time the Irish and the Italians were like two sides in an ongoing hockey game with lots of checking. I did not really understand this feud other than as two tribes that had not yet merged in the American melting pot engaged in a struggle for resources, jobs, opportunities, and that golden fleece: a solid economic future. Then we hippies came along and rejected all that. Things have never been the same since.
Forever after that first free ride, I could almost never be dissuaded from hitchhiking to any destination that had a highway, or any paved road, leading to it. Seventy dollars was my cash threshold to have on hand to set off on a long hitchhiking journey. With seventy dollars in my pocket in Boston, I could be in the Florida Keys for every spring break, or the Colorado Rockies as spring turned to summer, both within a few days to a week: A week living outdoors in an exterior America. Where a pickup truck bed is a double bed. Where your last ride often offers you a meal and a real bed for the night. A life lived out of doors was once commonplace in America, but now the wild places are occupied mostly by raccoons, possums and squirrels. Twenty to forty rides later I would arrive at my destination not having spent a cent.
So America’s highways held no mystery for me. Their easily understood system of routes, urban loops, city bypasses and best of all, major cloverleafs, was my friend, even more than they were for the mere “drivers” who also used them. No driver was ever forced to stop periodically (when a ride ends) and examine the land through which they were passing. Hitchhiking is moving in unplanned and unknown duration hiccups. Hopping like a pogo stick in one general direction until you narrow it down to where you actually want to land. The Citizens in the cars that picked me up were very nice to me all over our country, so I went wherever I wanted.
The truth is, I love the hulking cement “Jersey Barriers” that stream alongside the fast lane, just inches from your rear view mirror, and separating all of us from the on-coming traffic! They are not eyesores to me. They are part of my human infrastructure, my transportation psyche.
At night, along the highway, I love the dirty-brown light from the cheap sodium vapor lamps cantilevered out over the roadway from giant spindle like aluminum poles.
I love to examine the pointed advice of previous hitchhikers who have carved their thoughts into the gray metal bases of these lights: “This place sucks for hitchin’!” “No rides for four hours! The Rambler USA72!” “Good luck getting out of here, Oct 1976 Bicentennial!” I love the generic green destination signs that hang out over the highway every few miles. A new universal visual language: “Grand Ave One Mile”. I adore the cold empty concrete; Cowboy boots and engine running gas fumes of any decent truck stop in the absolutely dead black middle of the night.
This connection to highways, and journeys on them, may be because I was born the summer Congress passed the Federal Highway Act. I came in with the highways and have actually grown up on them; My New Jersy suburb that had a major national highway Route running right alongside its border; This meant that total geographic, continental, freedom was only one bold, usually cold, thumb ride away.
But bundle up, stuff a small pack with an extra T-shirt and jeans and off you go into the darkness. Hitchhiking out into the enormous bloodstream of 41,000 mapped miles that run all over America. Except for the annual 95 South hitch to Florida (for the sun!), I focused mostly on the coast to coast, east/west highways draped across America’s chest like a diverse array of chains and necklaces. The dark slushy snow of industrial Route 80 at the top, the rustic Route 40 bisecting the country along the old the Mason Dickson line, and the sweaty Route 10 loping along the deep south amidst the American Tropics.
America’s highways granted me access to our entire country via a long entrance ramp that started right at the edge of my own hometown. Aladdin’s Carpet was waiting at the end of that black macadam ramp: all you had to do was stick out you’re your thumb and you were off.
Admit to the world that you needed a ride. Admit you wanted to travel for free. Admit you were going on an adventure. And I’ll tell you, the world responded. Everyone likes to see another person on an adventure. They wish they were so bold so they admire you. Many people stopped to pick me up. I never waited anywhere for very long.
Exit 172 on the New Jersey Garden State Parkway was my portal to the innards of America. Within a few years, via hitchhiking, almost every remote mountain range, coastal peninsula or Midwest flatland could quickly become a destination for me.
I took Moonshine with grizzled hillbilly farmers in Georgia who teased me about my hair, but then drove me twenty miles out of his way to get me back on track. I met breathtakingly beautiful girls camping wild in the Florida keys with their kitchen utensils delicately suspended in the crooks and branches of a flamboyantly red Royal Poinciana. I met single Moms fleeing unhappy homes: Alice had started to not want to stay home anymore.
Hitchhiking was probably scarier for the drivers giving me rides than it ever was for me. In all the thousands of rides I got I never once felt any true sense of threat, fear or danger. Only a few times, in my naiveté, I got into cars that I later realized I was lucky to get back out of. But mostly it was safe, cheap and fun.
If the driver sounded crazy, then the crazier I pitched my act. No matter how bizarre they became, I always went a bit further. Meet nonsense with gibberish. Meet psychosis with agitation. Treat crazy people with true respect on their own level and you’ll soon make a friend. (But I would stay away from taking a ride in any vehicle once, or presently owned, by a funeral parlor: Just a rule of thumb based on one late night ride through a hurricane in Maine.)
I should say that, right from the start, I never felt any obligation to tell the truth to anyone who picked me up hitchhiking. Each new ride and new car was a new audience and got a new fable about whom I was and where I was going. I simply thought that telling the truth to someone who had gone to the trouble of pulling off the highway to pick me up, would be a great disservice to that person and really letting them down. These tired and weary drivers wanted and deserved a lively story from me. They were not on an adventure and I was, and it was time to pay for my ticket!
So, for each new ride, I invented a fresh, Paul Bunyan size fable about myself and my dire circumstances, troubled past, urgent mission, pursuit by parents (or worse), etc., Stories that would pop their eyes right out of their bourgeoisie heads. I happened to be a very well-trained fibber at the time, and they needed a good story while they drove, so I was really only holding up my end of the bargain.
Out there in the middle of this enormous country of ours soldiers almost always pick you up. When you are stuck in nowhere Ville Indiana on Route 70 it is a lock that when some young man, or now woman, serving our country passes you that they will pull over their (invariably) American Muscle Car to give you a ride…Or a drive, really, because they always immediately slid over into the passenger seat having judged me capable of handling their huge, overblown, over horse-powered, product of Detroit. This was true when I roved America’s national boulevards, and its still true today. American military personnel simply always pick up hitchhikers. Why? Because they have only a few day’s leave and it is a long way between their base and their hometown. And so they always want to cover that distance as quickly as is combustion-enginely-possible and hitchhikers who can drive facilitate this speedy process. After they pick you up, these soldiers almost immediately fall deeply asleep, so it is important to identify their ultimate destination before they are overcome with an un-wakeable slumber.
I once met a Soldier very much like the character Michael Boyd Atman, whom you are about to meet within the pages of this book, when he picked me up hitchhiking on Route 70 in Kansas in the seventies. If this is of any use to you: one might even imagine that Paul, the narrator of this story, actually hitchhiked into our tale by meeting Michael in just this manner, as a hitchhiker thumbing a ride somewhere in the high desert of Route 70 in Kansas or eastern Colorado, heading straight for that bright line of snow dusted mountains that splits our country from top to bottom like a spine: the Rockies. Although that mystical meeting between our characters would have had to occur long before our tale begins, when they have already become blood brothers.
# # #
This book is about the crazy, glorious and romantic notion that every generation conceives anew: that love can be a spiritual gift shared openly among all who feel it, not coveted, or hidden, or hoarded. That love, in its purest and most universal form can be shared among more than two people and that therefore we can, and should, all simply love each other unhindered in the here and now.
Then each new generation gradually learns how real life involves loyalty and jealousy, sexual loyalty, and the intimacy that can only grow up between two people, and other deeply human traits.
The story is my own. The characters are mine own as well. But, both the plot and the people lived once, in a time of tenderness, rebellious music, and long hair that was quite different from our own.
Do not worry, I will not go on and on about how great it was back then. I will simply say that, knowing you as I do, dear reader, that you might very well have enjoyed living back then. Yes. I feel certain that you would have liked it very much.
Brian Francis Heffron
March 1st 2013
A canyon; long and slim with fluted columns of red sandstone and
brickish dented walls. Yellow cinquefoils blooming from niches bob in the noon day breeze. Within the canyon is a fast stream so filled with rocks and boulders that the water can hardly find a path. The bank is clay and shrunk back with the burden of spring run-off. Along the southern shore is a roadbed; beside it a flock of brewer’s blackbirds feed on tics and water spiders. Their hollow white eyes
snap to at the first rumble of an approaching vehicle.
Brown dust; clouds of it rose like a plume from the back of the jeep. Michael Boyd Atman was lying on one side of the open tailgate with the kid on the other. Between them lay the pup, Strider, on his side, panting. They had to keep their eyes closed tight against the dust, but occasionally Michael would open his for a quick glance across the stream. We were just entering the canyon and here the far bank sloped up steeply covered with thin bristlecone pines.
I didn’t know where I was going, but that really didn’t matter. The rutted roadbed was unyielding to my steering, and the dried mud creases held the wheels like a slot car. Driving was more like being a switchman, choosing the route by the ruts at all points of decision. Beside me sat Michael’s girlfriend, Sarah. She was also the kid’s mother. We came around a bend and the canyon was suddenly filled with Cub Scouts. Dozens of them on both sides of the road, carrying plastic garbage bags and running around cleaning the place up. On the bank near the water was a mountain of filled sacks. The scouts were all grinning at us and giving us the peace sign.
“They look like little beavers building a dam,” said Sarah.
The pines began to yield to rock, tall speckled cliffs, seventy feet up and overhanging. We were now in the South Platte River Canyon. Ahead, three fishermen, all in tall olive waders, splashed around in the stream like bird dogs. They looked up as we passed, frowning at the noise of our jeep, as if their own commotion hadn’t already scared every trout for thirty miles. One of them, the smallest, gave us the finger; the kid thought it was a new kind of peace sign so he flashed, it right back. The guy must have felt great getting the finger from a ten year-old kid. Michael sat up between the front seats and looked out.
“The river is a lot lower than when I was here last year. It was right up to the roadbed then. You can see where it carried off that shack and left it in the sand.”
“In the middle of the stream on a high sandbar was a grey wood shack on its side, roofless. The parallel walls leaned far to one side.
I had never been here before. It was a wide, dusty canyon. Michael had told us about it the night before, at the Loop Lounge.
“How did you hear about this place?” asked Sarah.
“Alan and I came up here last spring and jumped off the cliffs trying to go through an inner tube; for accuracy.” Said Michael, “Too low for that this year, though. Bad luck.”
“Yeah, bad luck,” I said.
“This is it. We’re almost there.”
The stream went down and the cliffs rose on both sides. On our left we looked down steep red rocks to the water. On the far shore, the cliff rose sheer from the foaming rapids. The stream thinned and accelerated through the alley-like narrows. I tried to estimate the depth of the water, to see if there could ever be a safe jump from the top. No, it seemed much too shallow, perhaps from halfway up.
“This is it,” said Michael. “Right there, see the white water? Well, it spills out into a slow pool and then you can ride it all the way down.”
I slowed down and pulled off the road. We parked in the shade of the forest lip. The kid, whose name was Stuart, took off as soon as I stopped. He was only ten, and hadn’t said one word on the whole trip up, but just sat smiling. I figured he was just shy.
Michael and I were in long pants and had to change. Sarah followed Strider down to the stream. After we changed, we got the truck tire inner tube and walked upstream high above the water. On a huge boulder along the water were about ten Denver teenagers. Almost all of them were wearing sailor’s watch-caps. A few were playing guitars, all were drunk and loud.
We left the road down into a crack in the cliff. It became a loose shale path leading steeply down to the stream. Michael hurried down, jumping from rock to smooth rock, rolling the wide inner tube in front of him. He stopped short of rushing in and slowly dipped his foot.
“Ahhh,” he said, “it’s freezing!”
Michael isn’t very big, about five foot six, I guess. He has a high hairline with twirling blond hair hanging off both sides of his head to his shoulders. His eyes are small, but shine out from young crow’s feet and over a long drooping mustache. He jumped on the inner tube and paddled out into the fast current. He soon left my sight, bouncing down over a roller coaster of water, yelling.
The shore was thick dust that clung to my feet and itched. I waded in to my knees; the water was chilling cold and shimmering. The bottom was covered with worry stone pebble and sloped away into a V. The stream was about thirty feet across. In the center the current was the slowest, although still fairly fast. The water rushed along both sides and around my numb, whitening legs. It felt good and purged whatever was left of my hangover. I squatted down and splashed my face.
Presently, I heard and saw Stuart coming swiftly from the road. He slid like a skier in the loose rock.
“Paul, Michael says it’s great. He says wait till you get past this first narrow part, the next one is even better.”
He rolled me the inner tube nod I jumped on. I kicked my way out into the current and it picked me up like a mailbag.
I was lying on my chest with my arms overhanging. I tried to keep head first but I was soon spinning out of control, up and down over unseen rocks, my head and shoulders buried in the water. The stream’s first pass went up over a rock and then down ten feet over two more. I could see the rich green moss leaning taut on the faces of the submerged stone. Then the current slowed down into a short slow pool. I drifted serenely towards the downstream exit. Just before I reached the edge, feet first, I heard something that sounded like loud applause. I gradually recognized it as the roar of falling water.
I fell free-fall for about twenty-five feet, landed partially in the water and partially on a rock. My back stung, tearing as the rock bit in. The inner tube took the worst of the jolt, but I lost my grip and went under.
When I came up, spitting like a whale, the inner tube was only about ten feet away. I swam to it and slowly worked my way on. My legs and arms were bloody though numb from the cold water. Once on, I floated towards the red bank nearby. I gradually perceived the sound of voices yelling over the load roar of the water. I looked up and could see Michael high above me on the cliff; laughing and dancing around, and pointing down at me, and laughing.
(end of chapter one)
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