Some people said he was just showing off, but Sam didn't think that was it. He genuinely seemed to want to share his fun with as many people as he could. The attitude was infectious. He'd invited as many girls as guys, and one or two of them even acted like Sam was a human being. All in all, it was a pretty good day, even if he was missing a chance to set down a few more pages of his next book.
They were running up the middle of the channel right now, and the banks were at least a hundred yards away on either side of them. He shaded his eyes, studying a magnificent stone castle someone had built back when such things were still possible. He leaned further out to get a good look. Just then, he heard someone shout, and the boat jerked sharply.
As he flew over the railing and splashed into the chilly current his first thought was that the boat must have hit something. His second thought was that perhaps it would have been a good idea to tell Dave he was a terrible swimmer and ask for a life vest or something. The water closed over his head, and dimly he could hear people shouting. He thrashed around, but he kept on sinking.
The water around him was moving pretty fast, dragging him along with it as he descended. Far too late, he remembered that if you fell into the water, you were supposed to kick off your shoes and shed most of your clothes so they wouldn't weigh you down. Frantically, he flipped his feet back and forth, but he couldn't seem to dislodge his fancy new boat shoes.
He fumbled for his shirt, but the water tugged at his hands and he kept letting it slip away. He got it part way over his head, but then it stuck there and he was worse off than before. He wanted the chance to finish his book, to write the other books inside him, but it was starting to look like that wasn't going to happen. He felt an overwhelming regret that he hadn't worked harder at getting the words inside him down on paper.
They must be trying to find him. Maybe it wasn't too late. But then he remembered that the current was taking him further and further away from where he'd fallen in. And he didn't even know if anyone else had fallen overboard at the same time. His lungs burned, and the last spark of hope in his mind faded. Slowly, everything seemed to go black.
Sam coughed and opened his eyes. A man was bending over him, and he remembered falling in the river and thinking all was lost.
"Are you all right now?"
"I... I think so. Thank you."
The stranger looked at him a little oddly. "You're welcome. You can make yourself at home there." He gestured at a little cabin set well back in the woods.
Sam glanced around him, and saw he was lying on the grass in a little clearing by the riverbank. A narrow path led from that clearing to the larger one that housed the cabin, which must be all but hidden from the river. Done inspecting his surroundings, he noticed his rescuer was striding briskly away, already nearly out of sight.
Sam nearly called after him, then considered that he was probably going for help. A rustic cabin like this wouldn't have a phone, and if the man's cell phone had got wet when he jumped in to save Sam, he'd have no other choice. Sam lay back in the grass for a moment, then got to his feet. He felt good, better than he'd expected after nearly drowning.
His rescuer had told him to make himself at home, so he went into the cabin, looked around until he found towels and a pair of worn jeans and a faded shirt he thought would fit him, and shed his soaking clothes. He dried himself, then put on the clothes he'd found, which fit as well as his favourite old clothes at home.
Sam walked out to the main room and sat down, looking at all the books. Every wall was lined with shelves, and every shelf was stuffed with books. Some were titles he'd read and loved, others were by authors he'd never heard of. He was trying to make up his mind which one to start reading when a faint meow made him look down.
There, starting to rub his feet, was a black and white cat who looked just like Mousetrap, who'd died two years before. He reached down, gently, and the cat began to purr as he turned his head to one side so he could scratch its chin, just as Mousetrap used to do. Another meow, and a ginger female who looked just like his Lucy hopped into his lap and settled in the exact position Lucy always preferred.
He stroked Lucy's head and thought. All the regrets he'd felt while under water seemed so distant now. Here he was, back together with his old friends, and if he just waited a while, he was sure the cats he had now would turn up. He couldn't even remember why he'd struggled. Here was Mousetrap, and Lucy, and, yes, Snowball, who'd been a kitten when he was six, was sleeping in the corner. Once Rusty and Tiger and Callie came home, life would be perfect.