Episode LXIII – Victory is a harsh mistress.

White froth sprung from the resistant water as my arms and hands moved the firm cement river. The boat wasn’t moving. Spines ached to rip free from backs. Leg muscles burned like exhausted red coals. The boat wasn’t moving. Oars pivoted and swiveled in calloused hands. Torrents of sweat fell down from un-wiped brows. The boat wasn’t moving. Vile excrement-filled words projected from them mouth of our coxswain and flowed over our collective ears in ugly hatred. Our eyes moved not from side to side, but magnetically fixated on the body in front of us. The boat wasn’t moving in relation to the river. We were moving the river in relation to the boat. We were taking each molecule and tearing it aside, and forcing our very being into its place.

It was silent. The constant roar and rumble of words that had swept over us ceased. In the silence we heard four letter syllables and vowels. It was one word and one word only. Stop. Our arms trembled, and relaxed. The invisible force that had held us orderly disappeared. We blinked and looked up. To our left, there was nothing but empty river and a shore of stunned, sparse onlookers. To our right, there was nothing but abandoned water. There were no other boats.

“I can’t believe it!” Our small, gentle, foul-mouthed coxswain roared. “You dirty bastards won the race!”

Tiny ripples lapped paint off our faded red hull. We shifted uneasily in our seats and bashfully looked upstream. Cranking down the river were the bold colors of opposing boats, manned by hulking brutes of pure muscle and iron physique that appeared never to have missed a meal. As our tired minds attempted to comprehend what our eager eyes understood completely, a cacophonous shriek echoed across the water. Back on solid land, our Coach was writhing and yelling like an old-fashioned preacher at a revival, gesticulating in our direction as if we had just entered the promised land.

We were stupefied. We were petrified. We were absolutely frozen with fright. Each fact fit neatly into its supporting sub-facts. There was nothing to mentally debate or argue, and yet we refused to accept our position. It was improbable, implausible, and down-right ridiculous. There was no explanation, either, rational, irrational, or some odd third combination of the two for what had happened. The only conceivable theory was that some quirk of cosmic fate had fixed this race in every way, shape, and form. As the shock from our miraculous luck wore off, there was nothing to do but hoot, holler, and carry on in victory gyrations as the most favored group of sinners throughout time. It was at this point, that the metaphorical rug was yanked out from under our feet.

“What the hell are you guys carrying on about!” Our coxswain roared. “You guys haven’t won anything yet! That was just the preliminary round! Now move your backs, you lazy layabouts –we have to paddle back to the starting line! Move it!”

Unfortunately, in conjunction with his words, the planet started spinning again, pigs stopped flying, and the smiles vanished from our faces to be replaced by tormented grimaces.