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The Dam Builders

This was a submission to a short story competition that didn’t make the cut…

Brad peddled furiously after Mikey and Jack as they pelted down the dirt track. He glanced over his shoulder. “It’s alright guys, she’s gone,” he called out.

Mikey punched a fist in the air, before grabbing for his wobbling handlebar and skidding to a halt. “I thought we’d never lose her.” Brad pulled up beside him and they waited as Jack did a 180 and rode back to them.

“Yeh Brad,” said Jack as he reached them, “why did you let her follow you. Girls are bad enough but sisters are the pits.”

Brad hunched his shoulders. “I didn’t let her. She follows me everywhere and hasn’t got the brains to know she’s not wanted.”

“She’s a girl, stupid. They don’t have brains.” said Jack.

“Everybody has brains,” said Mikey, “otherwise their head would cave in. It’s like guts.”

Jack rocked back and forwards on his pedals, twisting his handlebars back and forwards to keep stationary without dismounting. “Uh, speaking of brainless…”

Mikey glared at his friend. “I meant, it’s like the saying that someone is gutless. It doesn’t mean they don’t have any guts inside them.”

“Ookay, not actually trying to change the subject, because of course guts are cool, but where should we go now?” asked Brad.

“How about the bridge,” said Mikey. We could check out if our dam is still holding.”

Brad and Jack looked at each other, and nodded. “Ok.”

They turned their bikes and headed down a small side track winding through the scrubby undergrowth. Brad looked back, but there was still no sign of Sarah. She rarely followed them this far and was probably back at home already, complaining to mum. His bike wobbled as he hit a rut and he peddled harder, jumping his bike over branches and dodging holes, racing to catch up with his friends.

Jack was in front by a bike length as he took the sharp corner before the descent to the creek. He braked sharply and skidded across the track. Brad was right behind him and turned left to avoid crashing into him, ending up in the bushes. Mikey wrenched to the right but lost control and stacked it, his bike sliding to a stop on its side with Mikey underneath it.

Jack jumped off his bike and dropped it against a tree. Seeing Brad was backing out of the bushes under his own steam, he rushed over to help Mikey. “Are you ok?”

“Ow.” Mikey pushed at his bike, trying to lift it off and get up at the same time. “What did you stop like that for, idiot. I could have been killed.”

Jack grabbed the front of the bike and pulled, allowing Mikey to scramble up. Bending over, Mikey inspected the impressive tear in the knee of his pants. “Oh no. I’m dead anyway when Gran sees this. He picked gingerly at some gravel embedded in his knee before turning to Jack and wacking him on the arm.

“Ow,” said Jack, grabbing his arm.

“Idiot.”

Jack wacked him back. “Wimp.”

Brad finished inspecting his bike for damage and dropped it on its side next to Jacks. He shook his head at his bickering friends and walked down the track towards the creek. “Guys, you’ve got to come see this.”

Jack grabbed Mikey and dragged him over to Brad.

“No way,” said Mikey.

“Fantastic,” said Jack.

Brad laughed. “I guess our dam is still holding then.”

The three boys stared at the pool spread out before them. The small creek they had leapt across just last weekend now spread out on either side of the original creek bed. At its widest point the boys could have stretched out end to end and still not reached both sides. In the sudden quiet, they could hear the sound of running water. They grinned at each other and dove into the scrub on the edge of their new pond, following the musical tinkle.

They slid down the small incline where they had built their dam wall and scrambled over the muddy ground to the base of a brand new waterfall. The boys danced beneath the spray, darting in and out, slipping and sliding on the wet rocks. “This is awesome, “ said Mikey, skinned knee and torn pants forgotten.

“Yeh, much better than last week,” said Brad. ”Who would have guessed the gaps would have plugged up all by themselves.” He jumped up on the rocks at the base of their makeshift construction and poked at a gap between the rocks. “What do you think got stuck behind there?”

“Well don’t poke at it, stupid,” said Mikey.

Jack leapt up beside Brad to do his own inspection, but overbalanced on the slippery rocks and grabbed at Brad. Brad wobbled backwards and forwards for a moment, arms flailing, before crashing against the waterfall with Jack. Their combined weight caused one of the rocks to shift and water began spewing out faster around it.

Mikey hopped backwards a few paces. “Um, guys…”

As one, Jack and Brad looked up as the rocks above their head began to grind and tremble. Grasping at each other, the pushed off the wall and lunged towards Mikey who was backing rapidly away. “Move it Mikey,” yelled Brad. “Get up the bank.”

Mikey turned and fled, with Brad and Jack hot on his heels, the roar of falling rocks and gushing water impelling them forward. Brad saw Mikey fly up the bank, and turn to grab Jacks hand and haul him up the last section, just as a wave of water grabbed him around the ankles and threw him to the ground, dragging him back down the bank.  He tumbled head over heels, before jerking to a stop as something snagged his shirt. He lay there panting as the water ebbed away before squirming around to see Brad and Mickey lying on the ground, each of them griping a handful of his shirt. “Next time, we should use more than one layer of rocks.”

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