The Cattail

The summer in between 4th grade and 5th grade was a rather uneventful summer, but there is one event that stands out in my memory. I visited my friend, Victoria (name changed) at her parents’ home in the country.

Victoria lived in a large house near the local fish hatchery, and her parents had a not insignificant portion of land. As my mother drove us slowly up the steep driveway, I surveyed the softly burbling creek that meandered alongside the rolling green lawn and lush floral garden. A pair of well-loved swings dangled from an outlying branch of a large oak tree, and I eyed them with delight.

My attention was soon captured by the large pond dominating the foot of the hill upon which the house was set. Sumac and cattails surrounded the mirrored waters, creating a pleasant bower of foliage. A flash of color caught my eye, and I watched a water snake wind its way across the lawn toward the pond.

When I rang the doorbell, Victoria and her parents came out to greet me and invite me into their home. I was enchanted by her two cats, but I loved her golden retriever, Molly as soon as I met her. Victoria and I romped with Molly outside, exploring the aged trees surrounding the property and dipping our toes in the refreshing waters of the creek.

The sunshine and water invigorated us, and we found our energy to be boundless. Aimlessly engaging our surroundings in whatever imaginative play we could, we whittled away the noon hours. As we idly plucked emerald blades of grass, I mentioned to Victoria that I wanted to pull up a cattail from the banks of the pond. The mysterious hot dog-shaped ends intrigued me, and I desired to feel one for myself.

Victoria gave me a dubious look as she told me that it wouldn’t be as exciting as I apparently thought it would be. However, she decided to humor me, and we stirred from our repose in the grass. We set across the lawn on a mission, Molly’s tail waving like a banner of gold as she galloped alongside us.

When we came to the pond, I scouted out a likely candidate for my endeavors. The cattails swayed gently above my head as I squinted against the sun. Only the most perfect specimen would be selected. After I had mentally made my choice, I stepped onto the muddy banks of the pond. I wrapped my small hands around the green blade of the cattail and pulled.

The blade of the cattail dug into my hands and resisted my insistence that it relinquish the earth. I tugged harder, the flesh of my right hand giving way to the knife-like edge of the plant. The cattail flew free from the soil, a single clump of mud splattering my yellow dress like a badge of honor. I was victorious! Victoria laughed as Molly pranced around us, reflecting our delight. I reveled in my own success and grasped the brown bud of the cattail for the first time.

Like any child, I soon tired of my achievement and decided to cast the cattail back into the waters from whence it came. The cattail arced across the water and landed in the middle of the natural pool. Victoria gave a small shriek and stared at me, delight giving way to alarm. She gasped one word at me before she bolted up the hill toward the house.

“Molly!”

A splash echoed her cry, and my mind slowly began piecing things together.

“Run, Jordan, run! She’s going to fetch it!” Victoria yelled over her shoulder at me as she raced away from the pond. I bolted into action, understanding that as soon as Molly retrieved the wet, muddy cattail, she would return covered in pond muck which she would inevitably share with us.

Our impending doom made us giddy with hysteria, and our pace slowed as laughter demanded the majority of our lung capacity. Molly bounded up the hill behind us, the cattail dangling from her mouth and dragging on both sides of her. Our legs gave way, and we fell to the ground as Molly shook giant splatters of algae and mud directly onto our clothes.

Victoria’s mother was understanding, and she gave me a clean set of clothing to wear while she washed my dress. Victoria carefully applied Neosporin to my cut hand while our clothes dried, and we ended the day happily if much muddier than we had started it.

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