When I was a boy, this creek was like a river. It was wide and rolling and impossible to resist. I tried. Me and Freddie and Mitch, we used to wade in its shallows to feel the icy tug at our calves while our toes negotiated the rocky bed. Even in the summer, it was like pure liquid cold running over my skin drawing the warmth from deep in my scrawny legs.I was such a shrimp back then. I didn’t dare go far from the river’s edge. The current had dragged Mrs. Genovese’s niece for nearly three miles last fall before a rescue team pulled her out at Potter’s Bridge. Mitch would say it was because she wasn’t strong enough. Then he would plow his thick frame through the water until his chest was submerged and eddies swirled and bubbled at his back.
Freddie was more scared than not but we convinced him every time. He was close to six feet tall by the time we turned thirteen but he couldn’t swim. Freak that he was, me and Mitch were the only people he called friends. So he would stand just where his ankles could get wet but no further. We teased him, of course, big wimpy weasel that he was. Freddie couldn’t be budged no matter how hard I pulled. He shouldn’t have worried so much because even if he got into trouble, Mitch would be ready to just dive in after him.
Only Mitch’s not here now. He moved off to the city before we graduated from high school. Probably has a real good job somewhere and maybe even someone to love. Not like Freddie. He’s got no one to miss him now that he’s gone, no one to care if he ever paid off what he’d gambled away. I’m bigger now and got new friends and they don’t like losing their investments. So Freddie’s exploring new depths of the creek now. At least until the next thaw.