The entire town lined the riverbank, waiting for the race. “Except pat,” said Pip, breaking the established convention of an omnipotent narrator.
The town’s grand Rowing Club building was situated on the riverbank, as was the River Bank: a financial institution where people could deposit large bodies of water. The local basketball stadium was also on the shoreline and each year the wall facing the river was knocked down so people could access the bleachers to watch the race. Rebuilding and demolishing the same wall each year did strike many as unnecessarily extravagant, but it kept the town’s corrupt construction industry employed.
A pontoon stage had been erected on the river for the Mayor, town dignitaries and displaced members of the basketball association. Clifton and Pip had a clear view of the stage and stood between a large screen and a small black and white television, which had been installed to appease a small number of the community who refused to acknowledge the existence of colour TV.
With a $250,000 fine hanging over his head, thanks to Pip who held it there with a stick and a piece of string, Clifton seethed at the opulence of the event. He fantasised sinking the pontoon, but decided against it fearing it may cost him another $250,000.
The final pre-race event was reaching its conclusion. It was the celebrity boat race. As the town had no celebrities, two empty boats bobbed listlessly in the water, occasionally bumping into each other. Boat 2 was declared the winner, but after the Boat 1 team contested the outcome the stewards declared the celebrity race was “stupid” and decreed it never be run or mentioned again.
Trumpets sounded and the Mayor leapt to the microphone. “Welcome, citizens, to the annual Brandon College Rowing Spectacular!” she cried.
The crowd roared, as did the lions at the Brandon College private zoo. The rowers emerged from the Rowing Club, waving to the crowd. Pip made a swooshing sound and Clifton knew she was pretending the students were flying. The school’s colours were two identical shades of red and the two teams wore one of each of the colours. “Will red or red win today?” asked Pip.
The girls and boys lowered themselves into the boats. The crowd fell silent and Pip fell over, as she’d become too animated pretending the school kids were flying. The starting gun fired and both teams were away. Red took an early lead, but red rallied quickly and closed the gap. Red continued strongly, but started to tire, allowing Red to catch Red and come out in front. As the finishing line approached, Red fought back and Red and Red were neck and neck! Red edged in front of Red, then Red edged back in front of Red. With the finishing line only metres away a huge plume of water shot skywards in front of the boats, turning them 180 degrees. A cannon emerged from the water, covered in reeds and glowing an unearthly glow. It fired at the Rowing Club. The building collapsed like the wall of a basketball stadium and the crowd screamed. The rowers paddled desperately, but were unable to move. Six soldiers in 19th century uniforms materialised on the riverbank and the river turned red.
“The river has turned to blood!” cried Pip.
Clifton studied the soldiers. Their uniforms were dishevelled and covered in mud. They emitted a yellow-green phosphorescence and each had a piece of yarn tied around their shoulders. “I like what they’ve done with the yarn,” said Pip. “Way to accessorise!”
The soldiers aimed their muskets at the rowing teams. The students jumped from their boats into the river as the soldiers opened fire. Bullets carved through the boats, sinking them in a matter of seconds. Desperately, the students swam to the shore and Pip hung her head disappointedly. “They didn’t fly,” she whispered. “They’re not upper class superheroes after all.”
The soldiers disappeared and from the rubble of the Rowing Club, a young lieutenant in a tatty uniform arose and hovered over to the cannon. “Fire!” she commanded and lowered a linstock to the cannon. The gun remained silent. The ghost tried again.
“Fire! Fire? Bloody thing!” she said.
The ghost whipped the cannon with the linstock. “Fire! Come on, I lit this before in practice. Sorry, does anyone have a match? No? Anyone? Anyone at all? Could use a little help here. Fine, never mind,” she said.
The cannon fired.
“Ah! Oh, now you fire,” complained the ghost.
Smoke billowed from the cannon, enveloping the ghost. When the smoke had dissipated, she had vanished.
Most of the crowd ran, while some helped the students from the river.
“Is my sweater ok?” asked one student.
“Their uniforms were, like, totes gross,” said another.
“I was on my phone, what did I miss?” asked another.
“Please flee in an orderly manner,” the Mayor bellowed over the public address system.
“Let’s get out of here,” said Clifton.
“OK,” said Pip. “But can we swing by the River Bank? I’ve got some H2O I need to deposit to earn compound interest.”
“No,” said Clifton.
The cannon slowly submerged back into the river.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Clifton and Pip’s folkloric adventures will continue with a new entry every week.
If anyone has any thoughts on the story, please feel free to comment. Feedback is always appreciated!