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An excerpt from my novella RIFF AND RAFF STOP THE WAR

She ain’t right for you

As the kids made their way to the swimming hole, which was a couple miles from their fort, they discussed their thoroughly wretched morning showdowns with their parental units. Riff told his story, then Raff hers. After a short silence, Riff asked, “Did you tell him?”

“About what we’re doing?” Riff nodded. “No! No way! What’s the point? He’s all down with President Pudd’n’head and his stupid war. If he knew what we’re up to, he’d probably call the cops and this time they would arrest us” said Raff. “Have you told your mom?”

“I think you know the answer to that one,” sighed Riff.

“Are we really going to leave them behind?” Raff asked Riff, meaning her father, and his mother.

“My mom would lose it the minute she ran out of her happy pills,” said Riff. “Actually, she’d lose it the minute she realized she was going to run out of them. As for your dad, like you say, he’d probably try to stop what we’re doing.” Riff knew that Raff loved her dad, despite their ongoing conflicts, so he tried to reassure her, “But this will work. You’ll see. They’ll finally get it, and no one will have to go anywhere.”

“I hope you’re right. I really, really hope you’re right, Riff.”

By the time they got to the swimming hole the lazy afternoon sun was dipping on the horizon. Riff and Raff had taken their time getting to the river, stopping along the way to chase butterflies and eat berries. The idyllic spot was strangely without children. Riff and Raff found this curious but not to their dissatisfaction.

They quickly made their way to the top of a twenty foot cliff that jutted out over a pool at the bottom of a waterfall and proceeded to hurl themselves into the river, again and again and again, screaming like banshees and laughing like lunatics. They did cannonballs and depth charges. Riff did front flips and back flips. Raff accused him of being a “show off” and Riff responded by doing a double back flip.

Riff encouraged Raff to try a flip, but she said it was too high to try a flip for the first time. She then raised her arms until they were parallel with the ground and prepared to do a swan dive. Just as she pushed off the cliff, Riff yelled, “NO! Raff, NO!” But it was too late. She was already in the air, as was a big log that was coming over the waterfall.

Raff spotted the log in the water, right where she was going to land. She got her arms out in front of her but she cracked her head on the log anyway.

Riff was only halfway up the cliff when Raff hit the log. It took him close to ten seconds to get to a safe jumping-off point, dive in and swim to where Raff’s unconscious body was floating. A half minute had passed by the time Riff got Raff to the shore. She wasn’t bleeding, but she wasn’t breathing, either.

Riff placed Raff on her back, opened her mouth and found there was nothing obstructing the airway. He tilted her head back, pinched her nose closed with his thumb and forefinger, locked his mouth over hers and blew two quick breaths into her. Riff removed his mouth, released Raff’s nose and watched her chest to see if she exhaled. She did not. No air had reached Raff’s lungs. Riff repeated the procedure. Nothing. Again and again Riff attempted to blow air into Raff’s lungs and finally, mercifully, he felt her breath on his cheek as her chest rose and fell.

Raff had no recollection of what had happened. The last thing she remembered was standing on the cliff with her arms spread wide. And now here she was, with Riff, the boy she was not-so-secretly in love with, kneeling over her crying tears of joy.

Riff choked back his tears long enough to explain what had happened. “You saved my life!” Raff said. “You saved my life! Oh, Riff,” she swooned, reaching up to pull his mouth back to hers and kissing him passionately.

Riff and Raff kissed each other again and again, passion rising. Riff had never kissed a girl before and while he was thrilled, he was also confused. He broke their embrace and said, “Maybe we should get you to the hospital. You banged your head pretty bad.”

“No,” answered Raff. “I’m okay. Really, I am. Let’s go to the fort. I just need to lie down and maybe be snuggled for a while.”

Still confused about the hurricane of emotions that he was trapped in, Riff said, “Are you sure? Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure, Riff.” Riff was stunned into silence, another first in his short life.

Back at the fort, Riff and Raff held each other tight, saying nothing. Raff wanted to kiss Riff again but she didn’t feel the same energy coming from him, so she could not muster the courage to make the first move. Neither of them knowing what to do or say next, both were relieved to hear the shrill voice of Taffy. “Riff? Raff? Are you in there?” Taffy yelled, running up the path just as night descended .

“Yes, we’re here,” answered Riff.

Taffy climbed up the outside ladder, opened the fort’s roof door, and climbed down the ladder into the fort where she found Riff and Raff sitting five feet apart from each other. “Have you two been here all day?” Taffy asked. “I couldn’t scope you and my phone has been cut off again.” Taffy was filled with excitement and she was oblivious to the silence of her friends. “Your STOP THE WAR group has more than a hundred million members,” she enthused. “It’s crazy!”

“A hundred million?” said an astonished Raff. “Riff, we’re going to do it! We’re going to stop the war!”

When Riff looked at Taffy and asked, “Do you know if Mimi joined yet?” Raff winced. Her head and shoulders slouched. Her heart sank. She was filled with a pain she could not have imagined possible.

“I don’t think so,” answered Taffy. “I scoped her this afternoon. I’m getting really good at it.. She was at the mall all day. She was buying friends again. Had a purse full of hundred dollar bills and a mob of kids who were happy to help her spend it all.” When Raff started crying hysterically, Taffy asked, “What’s wrong?”

“Raff’s hurt. She smashed her head on a log at the swimming hole and almost drowned. I saved her life,” said Riff.

Climbing the ladder to the roof door, Raff sobbed, “It’s not my head that hurts, you idiot. You should have let me die.”

Still sobbing, Raff plopped herself down on a bench at a bus stop underneath a sputtering street light and pulled out her iPad. She waded through hundreds of pictures of her and Riff before coming across an old one of her and Riff and Mimi. She put the pic into photoshop and slowly erased Mimi’s head, singing:

“She ain’t right for you, she don’t know you like I do, no matter what she do, she ain’t right for you. Don’t you wanna be happy, baby you should be with me ‘cause, she ain’t right for you, she don’t love you like I do.

“You know baby I’ve been trying to tell you for a mighty long time now that you can keep looking, you can keep searching, all over the world, trying to find a find a love like mine but the real thing is right here, baby and no matter what she say, no matter what she do, she don’t love you like I do.”

Raff’s tears rained down. Through her sobs she could not hear the very large, very black SUV that pulled up and stopped in front of her.


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