It was a sweltering day in southwest Missouri under a relentless sun, as hot and humid as sin. The boy couldn’t wait to cool off. His brothers were busy plowing a field nearby, the old mule was crabbier than usual and he knew before long they’d be looking for him. He slipped out of his britches, carefully rolled them up and stashed them in the crook of a gnarled root along the banks of the creek. Under the lush arms of the trees lining Center Creek it was more like a deep green living cave the sun could only peek into.
The boy’s nut-brown skin revealed a tendency to shed his clothes whenever the opportunity arose and his jade green eyes twinkled with mischief. He splashed noisily into the cool spring-fed water, submerged in familiar territory. He swam happily in the cool shadows until judging it was about time to get back to his brothers. The boy climbed onto a large rock that hung over the water in dappled sunlight and sat for a moment, dripping dry and dangling his feet in the water. Half-drowsy and deep in his own thoughts, he nearly fell back into the water when a hand suddenly grabbed his foot.
His eyes followed the hand from his foot down into the water and found it attached to a woman with hair gently floating around her in the water. She thrust her face above the surface and smiled slightly at him.
“You’re not frightened of me, are you boy?” It was said like a statement, not really a question.
The boy shook his head quickly. He wasn’t afraid, just awfully curious.
“You have a foot in both worlds, you know: Yours and ours. You swim like a fish and see better underwater than any of your brothers. Never forget that you will always have friends under the surface of the waters of this world.”
Then suddenly she just wasn’t there. And just as suddenly he realized that he hadn’t seen her mouth move despite clearly hearing her words.