It’s always a summertime cruise and we’re sweatin’ on the deck, leaning back on white chairs and telling tall tales. A hot river breeze is floating by with a cool shade clinging loose to the banks. We’re drinking ice teas with lemons like were Kings of that place. We’re high rollers and barking like we own the place. We sail by the entire world rolling down that river, our big wheel turning up and up the wake’s white froth. At twilight we‘re dancing and leaning over the edges as the lights came up all along the boat. Isn’t it always this way: before the end someone takes a mind to duck out early, always the life of the party, always in a coattails and a big hat. They’ll tip their brims and give you a wink as they step off the south side ramp, twirling canes and umbrellas, depending upon the rain. The party crowd always tries to lure them back but it’s never any use. And the last you see them they’re sauntering up the hill and then they hit that crest without even so much as a wave or a shout of see you soon. The boat slows down to kind of a melancholy float, everyone looking back but they’re already gone.
My Aunt Merle passed away last night. My biggest memory of her is a Mississippi day-cruise I took in the late-1970s with her and my Uncle George who were down visiting from Alaska.