In the summertime, when she wasn't in school, Darlinn ran around all day at the river. She was there most days, running on the hot tarmac, barefoot; catching, throwing and fetching frisbees, with the guys, dodging the cars and pickup trucks. Darlinn hung out a lot with those guys. They liked her company. She liked drinking their beer and smoking their pot. It was a match.

"...never saw the good side of a city,
'til I hitched a ride on a river boat queen.
Big wheel keep on turnin'
Proud Mary keep on burnin'
Rollin', rollin', rollin' on the river..."

Darlinn was, like, a nut. She was tanned brown like a nut. She was tall, with long, brown, unkempt hair hanging over her brown eyes. She was always laughing, and smiling, that gorgeous, nutty, smile.

When she wasn't around, the guys occasionally argued about whose girl she was. One or two of them might have had her, but probably not; She could have laid claim to any of them, but she had a strong independent streak.

Most of the river hang-abouts would swim in the river to cool off, and get sober. Darlinn liked swimming in the river as much as anyone. She liked to wander off into the river with Joe.

The bank into the river was steep in many places, but there were some easy paths, too. The shoal has a lot of flat rocks and shallow areas. Most people wore old sneakers into the river. They knew idiots took in beer bottles, which sometimes broke on the rocks. The real river people always took cans. Darlinn and Joe knew the safer places to walk, wade and swim, barefoot.

Many days they waded across to the island, to the rope swing, for some swinging and diving. The tree hung out over a fairly deep spot. There was a dangerous rock near the bank that most people would warn you about, if they hadn't seen you there before. The rope was rigged by who knows who-- and who knows whether it was safe. It looked like big old navy cable rope, tied to the tree, with a big knot an the bottom providing weight to swing it back to the bank.

"If you come down to the river,
bet ya gonna find some people who live,
but you don't have to worry,
if you have no money,
people on the river are happy to give."

Darlinn swam for the rope and swung it back to Joe, who caught it and waited for Darlinn to get back to the bank. Joe took a swing out, and a dive, sending the rope back to shore as he released it. Darlinn grabbed it, waited for Joe to get back, then took her turn.

After a few dives they were both in the river, kissing. Then they swam over toward the toilet bowl swimming hole. When they got to the shoal at the top of the bowl, they laid there a while on that hot rock in the sun. Darlinn took off her T-shirt and shorts, revealing her red bikini. They warmed up, laying together, on the rock, in the sunshine.

After that, Joe dived into the bowl. Darlinn followed suit and they floated down the current and swam back a few times. Then they swam, waded and walked, back to the hot tarmac, and threw frisbees with the guys again, as the sun started to set.

Later, Joe said to Darlinn, "You've got an interesting name". Darlinn told him, "Mama said, when she first laid eyes on me, she knew I was a darling, and, she said, when ya' grow up and those boys start staring, and burnin' their eyes on you, you tell 'em you're a darlin', and you're takin' care-- you be sure to take care, Darlinn. You know you're a special one".

"Mama said to make sure they know to take care of me."

She asked Joe, "Hey sweetie, will you take care of me?"

LoveQuest 2011: Chocolates, Sonnets, and Alcohol

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