An excerpt from a chapter of "Also Southern Tales."
The gurgle that emerged from the bow of the Gauteng could only be noted by Also as guttural; its noise entranced him with its sonic allusions to bubbles popping through mud. Also grabbed himself and approached the front of the ship, concerned; the sound slightly leaned toward that of a man gasping for air through the confines of that bubbling mud slogged down his throat, boasting an unsettling "quaaaaaaagle quaagle quagle" in efforts to alert any near by. He moved to the bow, his hands beginning to cover eyes that begged to remain cowardly despite the intentions of the rest of the working terrestrial and moving being to which they were attached. His feet allowed steps that grew slower, but as his ears heard further muddied queries, he removed his hands and studied the sight. All body parts breathed relief when their original assumptions proved correct. The bow glugged and spurted through the thick brown green waters, rummaging forward into the unknown.
Also Southern, shoulders dropped in shame at the cowardice housed in his eyes, shuffled with disappointment back to his perch near the middle of the cabin of the Gauteng. The sound of bubbled mud continued and was expected. It was Spring here, and that brought ninety degree humid heat quickly. Steam nearly rose from the thick river, sometimes confused with mosquitoes and the visuals of hope.
The boat's full name was the Gauteng MaryGrace, and how it came to have that moniker was a mystery to most, including Also, despite the fact that he had named her. He normally referred to her as simply the Gauteng for the sake of respiration, and normally did not refer to her at all, feeling her privacy was as important as his own, and that she would appreciate that concern. She was a narrowboat, uncommon in these waters, being a maiden who began her career in the canals of Southeastern England. She had a history that escaped him, and he dared not ask her, except on the latest of nights when the crickets bored him. Her means of arriving on this river at this time were not within his ability to recall, either, nor was it within his graspable knowledge of how he had come by her. But, the fact was he had, and would remain by her side until they parted, which would be at a time they both deemed desirable and necessary. This understanding and acceptance sentenced the both of them to a contentment, albeit one lined in slight contorted confusions.
The Gauteng MaryGrace was the most decent of narrowboats on the river, as far as the cowardly eyes of Also could manage to tell. This besides the notion that she may be the only British pleasure craft in this area of the world, but despite that distinction, her hull was one of chipped green and red paints, flaking into the river, and improving its colorful position in both of their opinions. Along the length of a cabin seemed depicted a scene involving a variety of gymnastic colors, accurately executing the necessary placements and structures to form a curious pattern of sun-stained artistry that had to denote, at one point in the Gauteng MaryGrace's history, a large cascade of roses creeping their ways into the stone might of an Irish castle. Also imagined the castle to be Irish, being his ancestry's heritage, and ignoring the origins of the ship's birth in England. The roses and the castle could be made glimpsed plain, simply, and unmistakably only by staring, Also found, at the side of the cabin well into the night while consuming cans and cans of warm, ugly beer, and only if that beer had been given for friendship's sake by a man anchored at a convenience market near the river some miles in the opposite direction after a rousing game of "I Spy" had been whittled into clear and predictable answers. Since these circumstances seemed only to present themselves once or twice in a man, woman, or ship's life, those roses and that castle remained, as it probably ought, elusive to other boaters and their ilk.
The brown green river that the Gauteng plunged through was a sickened one, and one out of her experience, but one she managed well and decently, never capsizing, and barely leaking its mud water into her gypsy hull, which is much as a man commanding a ship can ask, especially one who was making his own maiden voyage, never having commandeered a vessel save a canoe once with a girl in an over-sized creek in his days at the university. She had done the rowing then, too, leaving him with absolutely no reliable experience navigating the seas such as this.
This brown green river often stank of a hermit's breath, a solitary discount of sanitary care, it seemed. Also had cut the tiller in order to investigate the guttural gurglings of the bow, and had decided to let the boat drift forward down that river. That river and the Gauteng sometimes spoke, and Also knew that river's tongue, for he had grown up near, it although not on, it. And it was because of that river that Also's belly began to gyrate at the moment. He walked back to the stern, manned the tiller, and pointed straight.
"Onward, Gauteng," he spoke quietly. "We stay West on the Ohio."
It was then that Also remembered to verify the remains of the white octopus the Gauteng drug in its wake.
Despite the growing hour, and Also's scorn of it, the sun still fettered his eyesight and contempted his skin. His clothing was gummed to his hide from sweat, and not the fresh water that laid streaming beneath and about him. The tiller of the Gauteng skipped through the waves freshly, with intermittent spits of smoke sulking from it occasionally. It had only the power to trot, but its gallop was enough to surge the narrow vessel forward through the Ohio's thick coat of muddied waters. It sometimes only simpered with a chucking noise, giving out periodical whines and wheezes. However, as the heat settled goatishly over the captain (though in an outright sort of fashion he never gave consideration to such a title, nor distance from his companion the ever-respectable narrowboat, believing the relationship to be based more in the arena that siblings find themselves) of the Gauteng and his thoughts of destination (which did seem distant), this evening it hummed a large bass rumble that seemed nearly overwhelming at times to Also. In certain humid moments, it seemed to outweigh the volume of other ships' horns as they blew at him in recognition, warning or annoyance. Their meanings were sometimes elusive and elsewhere to the ears of Also.
The Ohio's banks and skies seemed birdless. One side Kentucky, one side Indiana. Traffic on the river was bluntly shallow, only a barge or pleasure boat barking by, most avoiding the colors of the Gauteng. Also cut the tiller, and perched himself against the cabin's wall, nestling in the moisture of the hot breeze. He stared to the East, and then the West, captioning the bridges that burdened his view of the horizon with thoughts of unease. There seemed an irking indecisiveness that hung in his mind, but it was one he was not willing to recognize or give credence.
A transistor AM station diseased the plunk of the boat on the dead wakes as the Gauteng drifted simply forward, ever slightly, ever sighing its own irritations. It was the "Love Theme from 'Superman'" cradling and being lost in the winds.
The white octopus seemed safe, streaming from a line following the narrowboat, and Also checked its existence every so often, offering his condolences, and breathing in the neutrality of the indecisive notch that rendered the indifference bred between the travelers. Also knew where he was to take the creature, but it was his direction that had become sordid when communicating with his drive.