Going to Water by Caroline Hughes

Crayfish underwater: Snappygoat

The crayfish dart at her splashing steps and scuttle just beyond the reach of her fingers, back to their stony refuge. She retreats, poised to strike just outside the stone. Insolent as they are, the crayfish pay her stalking no mind and stubbornly refuse to come out.

Growing tired of her chase, the child wobbles across the smooth creek stones down to other adventures, swishing the bottom of Mama’s much too big t-shirt through the water. The steady warmth of July fights off the chill of the mountain creek that has already numbed her legs and toes. “You need to keep your water shoes on,” Mama always told her. “They’ll help keep you warm, and you won’t hurt your feet on the rocks.”

But if the water shoes got wet, the little girl resolved, my feet would get just as cold anyways. Besides, the shoes trapped all the little stones and sand of the creek and grated her heels quite uncomfortably. Mama must not quite know what she’s talking about, as adults never seem to do. The girl bore the pinchy sandals for an unbearable five minutes but had dropped them on the bank the second she got the chance. So now she plodded along defiantly, tripping on the stones and scraping up the soles of her feet on every other rock she came across. And all the happier for it she was.

She and the creek meandered farther along to where the water shallowed, raising her up to meet the low hanging dogwood branches. They closed behind her as she stepped farther into the tree line—the looming front gates of a magnificent fairy glade, she decided.

AI-generated image: Alana Jordan, Pixabay, CC

Mama’s t-shirt became a gown, and she twirled it around her, marveling in her own grace. Just beyond, a knotted tree had stretched its gnarled roots into an elegantly carved throne just for her. The girl seated herself regally, resolving that she took to the trees much more kindly than the crayfish.

She shivered slightly, for the lush dogwoods that formed her steadfast gates kept out all, including the sunshine. As she surveyed her domain, she pondered what her first act as fairy queen would be. Naturally, thought the fairy queen, holding the title of royalty came with a responsibility that she was sworn to uphold. What would be responsible? Staring hard at the large, coarse rocks settled at the bottom of the creek, she recalled Dad telling Mama about the important dam his job had been building. Then that’s what I’ll do, she decided. Dams are important. My kingdom will have one.

Her elegant gown drenched and muddied, the child grappled with the rough surface of the rock, straining as she pulled. The rock, however, was settled in quite nicely and rudely ignored her efforts. The audaciousness of the rock quickly frustrated her, and so the no-longer-fairy-queen opted to trek further downstream.

Image: pxhere.com, CC

Resolving this with herself, the child turned, only to find the creek bustling around a sharp bend, off to whatever business creeks must attend to.

Mama had said, “Don’t go any farther than where the creek turns so I can see you.”

The girl perched, the hurried waters jostling her out of its way.

Mama had said, “You could slip and fall on a rock.”

She shuffled, looking for purchase on the slick stones beneath her feet. She stretched her palms out in front of her.

The creek pushed on.

She straightened, reasoning that she had better things to attend to as Mama called to her from the bank.

Image: Cheetos by Mike Mozart, flickr

She was bundled in a rough-toweled hug by Mama and sat at a picnic bench, where Dad had handed her a lovely snack to enjoy. As she munched on Cheetos, she thought about how perhaps when she came to the creek with Mama and Dad next, she would snag the wily crayfish in her hands. She would drag the stones in her fairy glade to form a dam unrivaled by any other. She would turn the corner and wander beyond the boundaries of Mama’s watch, joining the creek in its rapid pursuit of the wide world.

But for today, the old, muddied shirt hung down past her knees. And when Mama pointed her camera and said Smile, she scrunched her eyes closed and opened her Cheeto-dusted mouth in a grin of unabashed happiness.


Although raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, Caroline Hughes spent much of her time as a child in the Appalachian Mountains. She is currently a student at Appalachian State University, pursuing a degree in psychology. She enjoys reading, crocheting, thunderstorms, singing too loud in the kitchen, and hiking with her friends. She currently resides in Boone, North Carolina, and plans to stay in the mountains for many years to come.


**Featured image (AI-generated) by Ivana Tomášková from Pixabay

1 Comment

  1. Charming story that reminds me very much of a little girl that is now a lovely young lady.

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