Hubcap

I blazed down miles of rock and dirt to Sculpture Falls. It’s a feature of just a few feet that feeds a swimming hole on the opal waters of Barton Creek. A few others hung sipping spirits but it wasn’t crowded. I laid my musty towel on a rocky ledge that topped itself at five feet above the creek. For hours I soaked in sun. Let hot rock heat bare skin.

I slipped into the flow by crawling down and anchoring my weight with thick roots. The water touched shins but I knew the middle sunk lower than my six foot frame by at least a third. In most parts you can see to the sandy, gravel bottom, some areas swept clean. This soft floor of sediment kicks to clouds as you step and swim. Little fish flee at your presence. Once I looked over to see a black snake swimming the surface just feet away.

Sometimes the current’s so strong it even outmatches strong dogs. Others it comes gentle. This day it held little power. I waded out then dove to acclimate myself to the temp. Up above, past the trail, thick green trees rose on hills like broccoli grown for gods. The sun stood above those and would shine for hours more. Then like a dimmer it’d dip below the earthen rises. Sap heat and light concurrent.

I drifted off from others, letting the water work for me. Under a hot shot of sun I swam with eyes dipped to river. Peered at its bed of limestone substrate. The orb above formed yellow-green spots at the bottom. As I fanned my arms a faint shadow beneath did the same. I thought of it as a shard of me separated then sewn into nature. With each stroke I manipulated this figure in amusement. Swam deeper to grab at it. Fists found no purchase but gravel.

On a corner beach shore a hundred yards from where I entered I spotted what looked to be a hubcap. I didn’t have contacts so couldn’t unfuzz it into focus. Light glinted off its surface. I thought of what an asshole you’d need to be to dump that here. The effort it’d take. I often brought bags to pick up beer cans and old underwear. But a hubcap was a new low.

With each stroke I drew closer. As I neared shore the hubcap sprung to life. Plunged to water. Transformed itself to a turtle. I kept still and scanned ’til I tracked it. Caught sight in the creek bed as it glided by a root system. This thing was big. More tire than hub. One whose tread turned warped and worn. A shell shaded in scorched hues of green. I admired the creature. Treaded deep flow as it cruised above bottom just feet away.

As it headed upstream I swam astride for more than a minute. It didn’t flee but we each kept distance. Formed an imperfect tandem. The bastard was fast and I worked hard to keep even. Then I lost sight as it paddled to an area sans sunlight. After coming up empty on multiple dives I made way back to where the people were. One called out that there was a big turtle by me. I couldn’t find it but they said it was right beneath my body, shaded by the shadow I cast.


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