Part 7

I realize you’ve probably been wondering how I can afford to do all this. I can’t. Not usually. In the past I’ve been far closer to home, with only a few excursions overseas (and only once in the States, for good reason), or the few times I was teaching English in other places and fell into a few side jobs. The useful talent I’ve mentioned, it only works when someone really values whoever or whatever they’re missing, and I don’t ask for much until I have solid prove of being on the right trail. That, and I live fairly simply. Most of the time the world is its own reward.

No, how I really can afford to do it is a small inheritance converted into a slightly larger savings by some wise adults when I was younger. That, and the wonderful flexibility that comes from writing anywhere on the globe through the web.

That was partly on my mind as we went to go check on our boat hire. The kindly but cagey old river man insisted he come along for the duration of our time on the water (and pay for his way back), or if we wanted, to buy the craft outright.

As we arrived, however, he was chatting with a middle-aged, bearded white man sporting a southern England accent (not that I’m good with accents).

He introduced himself as Jennings and that he had some information for us. I was surprised he went to the effort of tracking us down. I realize I’ve made it seem like these have all been small, rugged places I’ve been to so far. They’re not, they’re cities as big as anything, teeming and breathing and bigger than our relatively simple Canadian holdouts.

Regardless, Jennings said he was an epidemiologist, and that some colleagues had pointed a lone young woman towards some outfits based downriver that were observing and recording tribal groupings to the north. I’m not sure, he said, when I showed him the photo of Ava. It could very well be, but they said she had bright, bright red hair like the punks. With that, he gave us the names of the doctors running things and their last coordinates.

I said thank you, and why it mattered to him.

I was young and foolish once too, he said, and took his leave.

Things with the river man went well enough, once Graham played his stern negotiator to my bumbling one. The toothy coot would get paid more than fairly and since Graham let slip that I was a decent cook (wish I hadn’t told him), I would be doing the meals for all of us, too.

We said we’d leave before sunrise.

Riding back, I checked the GPS. Three days or so downriver and up a feeder system. After that, I hoped there wasn’t a longer trek in store.

Finally, as I tried to pass out under the mosquito netting for the night, I heard more music. Between cars driving by blasting electro and hard house, someone was striking what I swore was a marimba inbetween the twangy hits of a berimbau. An unintentional voice of the city serenading me to sleep.