Drifting Down the Lazy River

This story is a sequel to The One Who Got Away

A frustrated young orphan colt with a talent for painting is determined to run away from his dead-end rural village for the distant cultural haven of Baltimare. All he needs to do is slip aboard a raft and drift down the river Fen until he reaches his destination. It’s a simple plan, and would have worked just fine except for one thing.




1. Marooned by Fate

"It was kind of solemn, drifting down the big, still river, laying on our backs looking up at the stars, and we didn't ever feel like talking loud, and it warn't often that we laughed — only a little kind of a low chuckle. We had mighty good weather as a general thing, and nothing ever happened to us at all — that night, nor the next, nor the next."

— The Adventures of Buck Fin

It was one thing to consider floating down the river on a raft in search of adventure while reading a book and marveling at the wonderful time the young pony in the story was having. Once the shadows began to gather and the night birds emerged, it was a far different thing for Turpentine to consider when belly-deep in wet sand, trying to shove a huge collection of logs off a sandbar and back into the river.

For the first few days after he had left the orphanage, his trip had been an adventure worthy of the book. It had been fun hiding under the collection of loose brush and branches in the middle of the raft whenever a pegasus flew by, then prodding for the riverbed below with a pole at random times afterwards, pretending that he had some sort of influence over the course of his gallant ship. Well, raft.

There were at least a dozen logs making up the raft with four or five ropes weaving them together. They were not as big as most of the logs which occasionally slipped away from the lumber mill upstream of Tidewater, and which the local farmers tied up against the riverbank whenever they could be easily caught. These were long and straight, well worth the five bits a log he could have gotten when the chuffing steam tug would come every week or two to gather up their lost wooden sheep and tow them back upriver to the mill.

At the time, he thought an adventuresome raft was a far better use for the lost logs. After all, boards and timbers held no interest for Turpentine, much like his home town considered the negligible value of a small earth pony colt who had no interest in growing turnips or beans.

Instead, he was a painter, but not the way his home village preferred. Painting was something they did with a broad brush dunked in thick white paint, using long straight strokes to give as perfect a surface to the house or barn as possible. Of course, not everypony in the village preferred a plain white house. Some of them were adventurous excitement-seeking rebels, who actually painted the trim… red.

Right now, Turpentine would have given good bits he did not have for a few of those lumbering art-impaired ponies to be pushing on his stuck raft instead of himself. He had his earth pony strength, but there was nothing to push against but wet sand. Without a shovel or a winch, he had heaved and dug as much as possible, leaving a muddy mess at the front end of his raft where it had plowed into the sandbar at the pokey top speed the river had permitted. What was worse, Turpentine had seen the collision coming, and had tried with every bit of his strength to pole the raft to one side or the other of the sandbar, which was large enough to have trees of its own.

Well, now it had a dozen more, only horizontal and naked instead of vertical and covered in leaves. He was well and truly stuck, and since the sandbar/island was in the middle of the river, it would take a strong swimmer to make it to either bank. He really did not think he was that strong of a swimmer, particularly since he had never swam anywhere he could not reach down with a hoof and touch bottom.

“Buck!” he declared in somewhat less than his full volume, despite the complete lack of anypony within hearing distance to criticize him on his language. It was probably not as bad as Waterhorse Crusoe being abandoned on some Ponyneighsian island far away from civilization, because if he squinted, he could see a tugboat pushing a barge upriver a good distance away. There was enough driftwood scattered around to make a fire, some thin sandgrass that should not be too bitter to eat, and the bushes on the island certainly should have some berries or tender leaves. It could be an adventure, even though he was rapidly losing interest in the appeal of adventure and really starting to long for his plain and simple bed in the orphanage.

About the time his fifth damp match spluttered to death in the pile of damp driftwood, that keening sense of longing for his previous life was getting difficult to ignore.

Nights on the river were dark, but here on the island with the long moonlit shadows of the sandbar’s trees reaching out across the glittering sand like waving tentacles, his muddy and sand-packed hide trembled despite the relative warmth of the fall air. “Buck” he muttered again before placing the remainder of his matches back into his somewhat damp collection of gear. Matches were supposed to be magic. You struck a match, applied it to the wood, and a campfire would start. It had worked that way in his books, but Turpentine was beginning to lose track of how many corrections he was going to discuss with the authors if he ever got a chance. With an additional shudder of his mud and sand packed hide, Turpentine turned instead to a problem he could at least do something about, and there was plenty of water around to for that solution.

He had never liked taking a bath at the orphanage, but the claw-footed tub and the stringent brushing of Mother Windrow would have been welcome compared to the trouble he had wading into the river and squatting down to rinse out the worst of the sand. A brush would have been nice, and he even would not have turned down a bar of lilac soap if it had miraculously appeared next to him, but at least he could get out the worst of the embedded grime before wading back onto the sandy beach of the sandbar and promptly picking up even more sand on his hooves.

The lukewarm water of his river bath only sucked the warmth out of his skin, making Turpentine shiver in the cool night breeze when he emerged from the water. After a brisk shake to dry himself as much as possible, he picked his way gingerly over to the camp and the small crackling fire which was beginning to eat its way up through the driftwood he had optimistically piled up for the night. He had gotten nearly all of the water toweled out of his mane before a disquieting realization swept over him, and he stared at the campfire.

Maybe one of the matches was less extinguished than I thought. Or not.

Turpentine took a long look around his campsite, seeing nothing in the darkness except the scrubby trees waving in the night breeze, the ripples across the river surrounding him, and the unspeaking stars looking down.

“Hello?” he called out, trying to look in all directions at once. “Is anypony out there?”

There was no response.

Author's Note:

Disclaimer: Quotes for this story are out of Mark Twain’s, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. As the author plainly stated in his book:


PERSONS⁽*⁾ attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot⁽¹⁾.

BY ORDER OF THE AUTHOR, Per G.G., Chief of Ordnance.

(*) or ponies
(1) in a metaphorical context only, or if physical force is needed, lemon meringue pies

This author takes no responsibility for any youth of any age who attempt to emulate the activities in this story, not limited to snuggling, swimming in unchlorinated water, spending time relaxing in the sun instead of doing work, roasting marshmallows over a campfire, or other such activities frowned upon by their elders who don’t remember what it is like to be young anymore.

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