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Alice Munro

The Found Boat


1974
At the end of Bell Street, McKay Street, Mayo Street, there was the Flood. It was the awanash !i"er, which e"ery
s#rin$ o"erflowed its %an&s. So'e s#rin$s, say one in e"ery fi"e, it co"ered the roads on that side of town and washed
o"er the fields, creatin$ a shallow cho##y ta&e. (i$ht reflected off the water 'ade e"ery) thin$ %ri$ht and cold, as it is
in a la&eside town, and wo&e or re"i"ed in #eo#le certain "a$ue ho#es of disaster. Mostly durin$ the late afternoon and
early e"enin$, there were #eo#le stra$$lin$ out to too& at it, and discuss whether it was still risin$, and whether this
ti'e it 'i$ht in"ade the town. In $eneral, those under fifteen and o"er si*ty)fi"e were 'ost certain that it would.
+"a and ,arol rode out on their %icycles. They left the road)it was the end of Mayo Street, #ast any houses) and rode
ri$ht into a field, o"er a wire fence entirely flattened %y the wei$ht of the winter-s snow. They coasted a little way
%efore the lon$ $rass sto##ed the', then left their %icycles lyin$ down and went to the water.
-e ha"e to find a lo$ and ride on it,. +"a said. -/esus, we-ll free0e our le$s off.-
-/esus, we-ll free0e our le$s off- said one of the %oys who were there too at the water-s ed$e. 1e s#o&e in a sour whine,
the way %oys i'itated $irls althou$h it was nothin$ li&e the way $irls tal&ed. These %oys)there were three of the') were
all in the sa'e class as +"a and ,arol at school and were &nown to the' %y na'e 2their na'es %ein$ Fran&, Bud and
,layton3, %ut +"a and ,arol, who had seen and reco$ni0ed the' fro' the road, had not s#o&en to the' or loo&ed at
the' or, e"en yet, $i"en any si$n of &nowin$ they were there. The %oys see'ed to %e tryin$ to 'a&e a raft, fro'
lu'%er they had sal"a$ed fro' the water.
+"a and ,arol too& off their shoes and soc&s and waded in. The water was so cold it sent #ain u# their le$s, li&e %lue
electric s#ar&s shootin$ throu$h their "eins, %ut they went on, #uttin$ their s&irts hi$h, ti$ht %ehind and %unched so
they could hold the' in front.
-(oo& at the fat)assed duc&s in wadin$.- -Fat)assed f4444..
+"a and ,arol, of course, $a"e no si$n of hearin$ this. They laid hold of a lo$ and cli'%ed on, ta&in$ a cou#le of
%oards floatin$ in the water for #addles. There were always thin$s floatin$ around in the Flood)%ranches, fence)rails,
lo$s, road si$ns, old lu'%er5 so'eti'es %oilers, washtu%s, #ots and #ans, or e"en a car seat or stuffed chair, as if
so'ewhere the Flood had $ot into a du'#.
They #addled away fro' shore, headin$ out into the cold ta&e. The water was #erfectly clear, they could see the %rown
$rass swi''in$ alon$ the %otto'. Su##ose it was the sea, thou$ht +"a. She thou$ht of drowned cities and countries.
Atlantis. Su##ose they were ridin$ in a 6i&in$ %oat)6i&in$ %oats on the Atlantic were 'ore frail and narrow than this
lo$ on the Flood)and they had 'iles of clear sea %eneath the', then a s#ired city, intact as a 7ewel irretrie"a%le on the
ocean floor.
This is a 6i&in$ %oat,. she said. -I a' the car"in$ on the front.. She stuc& her chest out and stretched her nec&, tryin$
to 'a&e a cur"e, and she 'ade a face, #uttin$ out her ton$ue. Then she turned and for the first ti'e too& notice of the
%oys.
-1ey, you suc&s8. she yelled at the'. -9ou:d %e scared to co'e out here, this water is ten feet dee#8-
.(iar,- they answered without interest, and she was.
They steered the lo$ around a row of trees, a"oidin$ floatin$ %ar%ed wire, and $ot into a little %ay created %y a natural
hollow of the land. here the %ay was now, there would %e a #ond full of fro$s later in the s#rin$, and %y the 'iddle of
su''er there would %e no water "isi%le at all, 7ust a low tan$le of reeds and %ushes, $reen, to show that 'ud was still
wet around their roots. (ar$er %ushes, willows, $rew around the stee# %an& of this #ond and were still #artly out of the
water. +"a and ,arol let the lo$ ride in. They saw a #lace where so'ethin$ was cau$ht.
It was a %oat, or #art of one. An old row%oat with 'ost of one side ri##ed out, the %oard that had %een the seat 7ust
dan$lin$. It was #ushed u# a'on$ the %ranches, lyin$ on what would ha"e %een its side, if it had a side, the #row
cau$ht hi$h.
Their idea ca'e to the' without consultation, at the sa'e ti'e; -9ou $uys8 1ey, you $uys8. -e found you a %oat8.
.Sto# %uildin$ your stu#id raft and co'e and too& at the %oat8-
hat sur#rised the' in the first #lace was that the %oys really did co'e, scra'%lin$ o"erland, half runnin$, half slidin$
down the %an&, wantin$ to see.
-1ey, where<- -here is it, I don-t see no %oat..
hat sur#rised the' in the second #lace was that when the %oys did actually see what %oat was 'eant, this old flood)
s'ashed wrec& held u# in the %ranches, they did not understand that they had %een footed, that a 7o&e had %een #layed
on the'. They did not show a 'o'ent-s disa##oint'ent, %ut see'ed as #leased at the disco"ery as if the %oat had %een
whole and new. They were already %arefoot, %ecause they had %een wadin$ in the water to $et lu'%er, and they waded
in here without a sto#, surroundin$ the %oat and a##raisin$ it and #ayin$ no attention e"en of an insultin$ &ind to +"a
and ,arol who %o%%ed u# and down on their lo$. +"a and ,arol had to call to the'.
-1ow do you thin& you:re $oin$ to $et it off.<- .It won-t float anyway.-
-hat 'a&es you thin& it will float<- -It-ll sin&. =lu%)%lu%)%lu%, you:ll all %e drownded..
The %oys did not answer, %ecause they were too %usy wal&in$ around the %oat, #ullin$ at it in a testin$ way to see how
it could %e $ot off with the least #ossi%le da'a$e. Fran&, who was the 'ost literate, tal&ati"e and ine#t of the three,
%e$an referrin$ to the %oat as she, an affectation which +"a and ,arol ac&nowled$ed with fish)'ouths of conte'#t.
-She-s cau$ht two #laces. 9ou $ot to %e careful not to tear a hole in her %otto'. She-s hea"ier than you-d thin&.-
It was ,layton who cli'%ed u# and freed the %oat, and Bud, a tall fat %oy, who $ot the wei$ht of it on his %ac& to turn
it into the water so that they could half float, half carry it to shore. All this too& so'e ti'e. +"a and ,arol a%andoned
their lo$ and waded out of the water. They wal&ed o"erland to $et their shoes and soc&s and %icycles. They did not
need to co'e %ac& this way %ut they ca'e. They stood at the to# of the hill, leanin$ on their %icycles. They did not $o
on ho'e, %ut they did not sit down and fran&ly watch, either. They stood 'ore or less facin$ each other, %ut $lancin$
down at the water and at the %oys stru$$lin$ with the %oat, as if they had 7ust halted for a 'o'ent out of curiosity, and
stayin$ lon$er than they intended, to see what ca'e of this un#ro'isin$ #ro7ect.
A%out nine o-cloc&, or when it was nearly dar&)dar& to #eo#le inside the houses, %ut not >uite dar& outside)they all
returned to town, $oin$ alon$ Mayo Street in a sort of #rocession. Fran& and Bud and ,layton ca'e carryin$ the %oat,
u#side)down, and +"a and ,arol wal&ed %ehind, wheelin$ their %icycles. The %oys: heads were al'ost hidden in the
dar&ness of the o"erturned %oat, with its s'ell of soa&ed wood, cold swa'#y water. The $irls could too& ahead and see
the street li$hts in their tin reflectors, a nec&lace of li$hts cli'%in$ Mayo Street, reachin$ all the way u# to the
stand#i#e. They turned onto Burns Street headin$ for ,layton:s house, the nearest house %elon$in$ to any of the'. nis
was not the way ho'e for +"a or for ,arol either, %ut they followed alon$. The %oys were #erha#s too %usy carryin$
the %oat to tell the' to $o away. So'e youn$er children were still out #layin$, #layin$ ho#scotch on the sidewal&
thou$h they could hardly see. At this ti'e of year the %are sidewal& was still such a no"elty and deli$ht. These children
cleared out of the way and watched the %oat 9? %y with unwillin$ res#ect5 they shouted >uestions after it, wantin$ to
&now where it ca'e fro' and what was $oin$ to %e done with it. @o one answered the'. +"a and ,arol as well as the
%oys refused to answer or e"en too& at the'.
The fi"e of the' entered ,layton:s yard. -Me %oys shifted wei$ht, as if they were $oin$ to #ut the %oat down.
-9ou %etter ta&e it round to the %ac& where no%ody can see it,- ,arol said. That was the first thin$ any of the' had said
since they ca'e into town.
The %oys said nothin$ %ut went on, followin$ a 'ud #ath %etween ,layton:s house and a leanin$ %oard fence. They let
the %oat down in the %ac& yard.
.It-s a stolen %oat, you &now,. said +"a, 'ainly for the effect. -It 'ust-"e %elon$ed to so'e%ody. 9ou stole it..
-9ou was the ones who stole it then,. Bud said, short of %reath. -It was you seen it first..
)It was you too& it..
-It was all of us then. If one of us $ets in trou%le then all of us does..
-Are you $oin$ to tell any%ody on the'<. said ,arol as she and +"a rode ho'e, alon$ the streets which were dar&
%etween the li$hts now and #otholed fro' winter.
AIt:s u# to you. I won:t if you won:t.B
AI won:t if you won:tB
They rode in silence, relin>uishin$ so'ethin$, %ut not discontented. The %oard fence in ,layton:s %ac& yard had e"ery
so often a #ost which su#, #orted it, or tried to, and it was on these #osts that +"a and ,arol s#ent se"eral e"enin$s
sittin$, 7auntily %ut not "ery co'forta%ly. Cr else they 7ust leaned a$ainst the fence while the %oys wor&ed on the %oat.
Durin$ the first cou#le of e"enin$s nei$h%orhood children attracted %y the sound of ha''erin$ tried to $et into the
yard to see what was $oin$ on, %ut +"a and ,arol %loc&ed their way.
.ho said you could co'e in here<. -/ust us can co'e in this yard..
These e"enin$s were $ettin$ lon$er, the air 'ilder. S&i##in$ was startin$ on the sidewal&s. Further alon$ the street
there was a row of hard 'a#les that had %een ta##ed. ,hildren dran& the sa# as fast as it could dri# into the %uc&ets.
The old 'an and wo'an who owned the trees, and who ho#ed to 'a&e syru#, ca'e runnin$ out of the house 'a&in$
noises as if they were tryin$ to scare away crows. Finally, e"ery s#rin$, the old 'an would co'e out on his #orch and
fire his shot) $un into the air, and then the thie"in$ would sto#.
@one of those wor&in$ on the %oat %othered a%out stealin$ sa#, thou$h all had done so last year.
The lu'%er to re#air the %oat was #ic&ed u# here and there, alon$ %ac& lanes. At this ti'e of year thin$s were lyin$
around)old %oards and %ranches, sodden 'itts, s#oons 1un$ out with the dishwater, lids of #uddin$ #ots that had %een
set in the snow to cool, all the de%ris that can sift throu$h and sur"i"e winter. The tools ca'e fro' ,layton:s cellar)left
o"er, #resu'a%ly, fro' the ti'e when his father was ali"e) and thou$h they had no%ody to ad"ise the' the %oys
see'ed to fi$ure out 'ore or less the 'anner in which %oats are %uilt, or re%uilt. Fran& was the one who showed u#
with dia$ra's fro' %oo&s and Eo#ular Mechanics 'a$a0ines. ,layton loo&ed at these dia$ra's and listened to Fran&
read the instructions and then went ahead and decided in his own way what was to %e done. Bud was %est at sawin$.
+"a and ,arol watched e"erythin$ fro' the fence and offered criticis' and thou$ht u# na'es. -Me na'es for the %oat
that they thou$ht of were; ater (ily, Sea 1orse, Flood Fueen, and ,aro)+"e, after the' %ecause they had found it.
The %oys did not say which, if any, of these na'es they found satisfactory.
The %oat had to %e tarred. ,layton heated u# a #ot of tar on the &itchen sto"e and %rou$ht it out and #ainted slowly, his
thorou$h way, sittin$ astride the o"erturned %oat. The other %oys were sawin$ a %oard to 'a&e a new seat. As ,layton
wor&ed, the tar cooled and thic&ened so that finally he could not 'o"e the %rush any 'ore. 1e turned to +"a and held
out the #ot and said, -9ou ran $o in and heat this on the sto"e.-
+"a too& the #ot and went u# the %ac& ste#s. The &itchen see'ed %lac& after outside, %ut it 'ust %e li$ht enou$h to see
in, %ecause there was ,layton-s 'other standin$ at the ironin$ %oard, ironin$. She did that for a li"in$, too& in wash and
ironin$.
-Elease 'ay I #ut the tar #ot on the sto"e<. said +"a, who had %een %rou$ht u# to tal& #olitely to #arents, e"en wash)
and)iron ladies, and who for so'e reason es#ecially wanted to 'a&e a $ood i'#ression on ,layton-s 'other.
-9ou:ll ha"e to #o&e u# the fire then,- said ,layton:s 'other, as if she dou%ted whether +"a would &now how to do that.
But +"a could see now, and she #ic&ed u# the lid with the sto"e)lifter, and too& the #o&er and #o&ed u# a fla'e. She
stirred the tar as it softened. She felt #ri"ile$ed. Then and later. Before she went to slee# a #icture of ,layton ca'e to
her 'ind5 she saw hi' sittin$ astride the %oat, tar #aintin$, with such concentration, delicacy, a%sor#tion. She thou$ht
of hi' s#ea&in$ to her, out of his isolation, in such an ordinary #eaceful ta&in$)for) $ranted "oice.
Cn the twenty)fourth of May, a school holiday in the 'iddle of the wee&, the %oat was carried out of town, a lon$ way
now, off the road o"er fields and fences that had %een re#aired, to where the ri"er flowed %etween its nor'al %an&s.
+"a and ,arol, as well as the %oys, too& turns carryin$ it. It was launched in the water fro' a cow)tra'#led s#ot
%etween willow %ushes that were fresh out in leaf. The %oys went first. They yelled with triu'#h when the %oat did
float, when it rode a'a0in$ly down the ri"er current. The %oat was #ainted %lac&, and $reen inside, with yellow seats,
and a stri# of yellow all the way around the outside. There was no na'e on it, after all. The %oys could not i'a$ine that
it needed any na'e to &ee# it se#arate fro' the other %oats in the world.
+"a and ,arol ran alon$ the %an&, carryin$ %a$s full of #eanut %utter)and) 7a' sandwiches, #ic&les, %ananas, chocolate
ca&e, #otato chi#s, $raha' crac&ers stuc& to$ether with corn syru# and fi"e %ottles of #o# to %e cooled in the ri"er
water. The %ottles %u'#ed a$ainst their le$s. They yelled for a turn.
-If they don-t let us they-re %astards,. ,arol said, and they yelled to$ether,
-e found it8 e found it8-
The %oys did not answer, %ut after a while they %rou$ht the %oat in, and ,arol and +"a ca'e crashin$, #antin$ down the
%an&.
-Does it lea&<-
-It don-t lea& yet..
-e for$ot a %ailin$ can,- waited ,arol, %ut ne"ertheless she $ot in, with +"a, and Fran& #ushed the' off, cryin$,
-1ere-s to a atery =ra"e8-
And the thin$ a%out %ein$ in a %oat was that it was not solidly %o%%in$, li&e a lo$, %ut was cu##ed in the water, so that
ridin$ in it was not li&e %ein$ on so'e) thin$ in the water, %ut li&e %ein$ in the water itself. Soon they were all $oin$
out in the %oat in 'i*ed)u# turns, two %oys and a $irt, two $irls and a %oy, a $irl and a %oy, until thin$s were so
confused it was i'#ossi%le to tell whose turn ca'e ne*t, and no%ody cared anyway. They went down the ri"er)those
who weren-t ridin$, runnin$ alon$ the %an& to &ee# u#. They #assed under two %rid$es, one iron, one ce'ent. Cnce
they saw a %i$ car# 7ust restin$, it see'ed to s'ile at the', in the %rid$e)shaded water. They did not &now how far they
had $one on the ri"er, %ut thin$s had chan$ed) the water had $ot shallower, and the land flatter. Across an o#en field
they saw a %uildin$ that loo&ed li&e a house, a%andoned. They dra$$ed the %oat u# on the %an& and tied it and set out
across the field.
-That-s the old station,- Fran& said. -That-s Eedder Station.- The others had heard this na'e %ut he was the one who
&new, %ecause his father was the station a$ent in town. 1e said that this was a station on a %ranch line that had %een
to' u#, and that there had %een a saw'ill here, %ut a lon$ ti'e a$o.
Inside the station it was dar&, cool. All the windows were %ro&en. =lass lay in shards and in fairly %i$ #ieces on the
door. They wal&ed around findin$ the lar$er #ieces of $lass and tra'#in$ on the', s'ashin$ the', it was li&e crac&in$
ice on #uddles. So'e #artitions were still in #lace, you could see where the tic&et window had %een. There was a %ench
lyin$ on its side. Eeo#le had %een here, it loo&ed as if #eo#le ca'e here all the ti'e, thou$h it was so far fro'
anywhere. Beer %ottles and #o# %ottles were lyin$ around, also ci$arette #ac&a$es, $u' and candy wra##ers, the #a#er
fro' a loaf of %read. The walls were co"ered with di' and fresh #encil and chal& writin$s and car"ed with &ni"es.
I (C6+ !C@@I+ ,C(+S
KI(!C9 AS 1+EF
1AT A!+ 9CG DCI@= 1+!+<
AITI@= FC! A T!AI@
DA@A MA!9)(CG BA!BA!A /CA@@+
It was e*citin$ to %e inside this lar$e, dar&, e'#ty #lace, with the loud noise of %rea&in$ $lass and their "oices rin$in$
%ac& fro' the underside of the roof, They ti##ed the old %eer %ottles a$ainst their 'ouths. That re'inded the' that
they were hun$ry and thirsty and they cleared a #lace in the 'iddle of the floor and sat down and ate the lunch. They
dran& the #o# 7ust as it was, lu&ewar'. They ate e"erythin$ there was and lic&ed the s'ears of #eanut %utter and 7a'
off the %read)#a#er in which the sandwiches had %een wra##ed. They #layed Truth or Date.
-I dare you to write on the wall, I a' a Stu#id Ass, and si$n your na'e.-
-Tell the truth)what is the worst fie you e"er told<-
-Did you e"er wet the %ed<-
-Did you e"er drea' you were wal&in$ down the street without any clothes on<. -I dare you to $o outside and #ee on
the railway si$n..
It was Fran& who had to do that. They could not see hi', e"en his %ac&, %ut they &new he did it, they heard the hissin$
sound of his #ee. They all sat still, a'a0ed, una%le to thin& of what the ne*t dare would %e.
-I dare e"ery%ody,- said Fran& fro' the door)way, .I dare)+"ery%ody.-
hat<-
-Ta&e off all our clothes.- +"a and ,arol screa'ed.
-Any%ody who won-t do it has to wal&)has to crawl)around this floor on their hands and &nees.)
They were all >uiet, till +"a said, al'ost co'#lacently,
.hat first<- -Shoes and soc&s.-
-Men we ha"e to $o outside, there-s too 'uch $lass here.-
They #ulled off their shoes and soc&s in the doorway, in the sudden %lindin$ sun. The field %efore the' was %ri$ht as
water. They ran across where the trac&s used to $o.
That-s enou$h, that-s enou$h,- said ,arol. -atch out for thistles8.
.To#s8 +"ery%ody ta&e off their to#s8-
-I won-t8 e won:t, will we, +"a<-
But +"a was whirlin$ round and round in the sun where the trac& used to %e. -I don:t care, I don-t care8 Truth or Dare8
Truth or Dare8.
She un%uttoned her %louse as she whirled, as if she didn-t &now what her hand was doin$, she flun$ it off.
,arol too& off hers. -I wouldn:t ha"e done it, if you hadn-t8-
-Botto's8.
@o%ody said a word this ti'e, they all %ent and stri##ed the'sel"es. +"a, na&ed first, started runnin$ across the field,
and then all the others ran, all fi"e of the' runnin$ %are throu$h the &nee)hi$h hot $rass, runnin$ towards the ri"er. @ot
carin$ now a%out %ein$ cau$ht %ut in fact lea#in$ and yellin$ to call attention to the'sel"es, if there was any%ody to
hear or see. They felt as if they were $oin$ to 7u'# off a cliff and fly. They felt that so'ethin$ was ha##enin$ to the'
different fro' anythin$ that had ha##ened %efore, and it had to do with the %oat, the water, the sunli$ht, the dar& ruined
station, and each other. They thou$ht of each other now hardly as na'es or #eo#le, %ut as echoin$ shrie&s, reflectionsH
all %old and white and loud and scandalous, and as fast as arrows. They went runnin$ without a %rea& into the cold
water and when it ca'e al'ost to the to#s of their le$s they fell on it and swa'. It sto##ed their noise. Silence,
a'a0e'ent, ca'e o"er the' in a rush. They di##ed and floated and se#arated, slee& as 'in&.
+"a stood u# in the water her hair dri##in$, water runnin$ down her face. She was waist dee#. She stood on s'ooth
stones, her feet fairly wide a#art, water flowin$ %etween her le$s. A%out a yard away fro' her ,layton also stood u#,
and they were %lin&in$ the water out of their eyes, loo&in$ at each other. +"a did not turn or try to hide5 she was
>ui"erin$ fro' the cold of the water, %ut also with #ride, sha'e, %oldness, and e*hilaration.
,layton shoo& his head "iolently, as if he wanted to %an$ so'ethin$ out of it, then %ent o"er and too& a 'outhful of
ri"er water. 1e stood u# with his chee&s
full and 'ade a ti$ht hole of his 'outh and shot the water at her as if it was co'in$ out of a hose, hittin$ her e*actly,
first one %reast and then the other. ater fro' his 'outh ran down her %ody. 1e hooted to see it, a loud self)conscious
sound that no%ody would ha"e e*#ected, fro' hi'. The others loo&ed u# fro' where"er they were in the water and
closed in to see.
+"a crouched down and slid into the water, lettin$ her head $o ri$ht under. She swa', and when she let her head out
downstrea', ,arol was co'in$ after her and the %oys were already on the %an&, already runnin$ into the $rass,
showin$ their s&inny %ac&s, their white, flat %uttoc&s. They were lau$hin$ and sayin$ thin$s to each other %ut she
couldn-t hear, for the water in her ears.
-hat did he do<- said ,arol.
-@othin$.-
-They cre#t in to shore. -(et-s stay in the %ushes till they $o,- said +"a. -I hate the' anyway. I really do. Don:t you hate
the'<-
-Sure,. said ,arol, and they waited, not "ery lon$, until they heard the %oys still noisy and e*cited co'in$ down to the
#lace a %it u#ri"er where they had left the %oat. They heard the' 7u'# in and start rowin$.
-They-"e $ot all the had #art, $oin$ %ac&,. said +"a, hu$$in$ herself and shi"erin$ "iolently. -ho cares< Anyway. It
ne"er was our %oat.-
-hat if they tell<- said ,arol.
-e-ll say it:s all a lie..
+"a hadn:t thou$ht of this solution until she said it, %ut as soon as she did she felt al'ost li$ht)hearted a$ain. The ease
and scornfulness of it did 'a&e the' %oth $i$$le, and sla##in$ the'sel"es and s#lashin$ out of the water they set a%out
de"elo#in$ one of those fits of lau$hter in which, as soon as one showed si$ns Cf e*haustion, the other would snort and
start u# a$ain, and they would 'a&e hel#less)soon $enuinely hel#less)faces at each other and %end o"er and $ra%
the'sel"es as if they had the worst #ain.

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