Oswald Sattle is out of money and out of options. After more than eight months of sleeping in his car, when an acquaintance from his past offers him a job opportunity in the middle of nowhere, he can’t turn it down. No matter how much he’d like to.
Joshua Roth moved to Nortown four years ago, and he has everything he needs – a job, friends, peace and quiet. He’s not interested in a relationship, or anything else that would upset the life he’s built for himself.
But sometimes fate has other plans, and a single glimpse can completely change the course of a life.
In a small town, where everyone knows everyone else’s business, reaching for what you want can feel like a risk. But some risks are worth taking.
A quick shower and then Joshua was out the door. Having breathed in sawdust all week, he needed some fresh air, and the river was calling him.
Throwing his fly-fishing rod in the car, he drove off into the forest. The gravel roads on his land snaked their way to the river, and then, when he couldn’t drive any farther, it was about a thirty-minute walk before he was at his fishing place.
It took longer for him to get there than it normally did so he couldn’t stay long. The nights were getting darker fast, but he needed the quiet, needed to breathe the fresh air, hear the water. Soon, the leaves would fall off the trees, but it only made it more beautiful. Nature was clinging onto life for as long as it could, the abundance of colour as it went out like fireworks only to wake up in a few months again. He loved autumn. All seasons had their charm, but not like autumn.
He sighed and let the week go. The knowledge that he’d go home soon, have a beer, and then sleep for as long as he wanted did wonders for his sanity.
And then an empty canoe came floating down the river.
The shock of hitting the water had stolen Oswald’s breath, then fear had kicked in. So fucking clumsy. He’d steered the canoe towards the portage; there had been signs pointing to where he should go, and the man he’d rented the canoe from had talked him through it.
Wasn’t standing up in a boat the first thing you learnt not to do? Oswald didn’t know, but when he’d begun swaying and wobbling those were the words ringing in his head.
It had been colder than he’d thought it’d be, but the pull of the current was what had panic roaring in his ears. Funny how when he realised he might die if he went down the waterfall he wanted to live. Invisible hands had dragged him down under the surface, and he’d fought them until his muscles ached, until his lungs burned, until a numbness had all but immobilised him.
He’d hit a rock. The pain in his hip as he’d crashed into the solid shape was jarring, but he’d managed to cling to it. Frothy whitewater washed over him as he tore his hands to shreds on the stones—crawling, pulling, dragging. When he’d finally managed to haul himself onto a rock a couple of metres from the riverbank, he’d collapsed there.
Where the canoe had gone, he didn’t know, and he didn’t have the energy to move. He lay there panting until his eyes drifted closed. He’d just rest for a little bit, just a few minutes; then he’d go the last bit till he was up on dry land.
A few seconds later he began chuckling. So fucking pathetic.
You’ll find Once Around Seven here: