Rose could hear the searchers calling her name as they hunted the woods for any signs of her. The voices were moving away from the lake shore. Perhaps they feared finding her bloated body floating facedown in the water.
Instead, they seemed to be moving back up the hill toward the house. She imagined them inside looking behind furniture and in closets, calling out, “home free,” as if this was just a childish game of Hide and Seek.
Lying in the bottom of the johnboat, the lapping waves, created by motor boats racing across the water, rocked her, making her drowsy. Heavy rains had flooded the lake, threatening to cast off the boat, where normally it would be pulled far enough ashore to keep it grounded.
Soon the only sounds she heard were the water whooshing against the hull of the boat, and her own soft breathing.
Rose fell into a troubled dream, where her hiding place drifted away from shore, bumping along the edge of the lake until being caught in the current of one of the many feeder creeks. Floating along the river, deep into the delta, where she eventually was pulled out to sea.
More violent waves threatened to capsize her little vessels, and angry gulls swooped on her, pecking at her exposed arms and legs.
She woke with a jolt, her small squeak disturbing a squirrel that was watching her from his perch on the rim of the boat. The sun was sinking, casting a golden shimmer over the lake surface. Stretching out her legs, Rose yawned loudly, and brushed acorn crumbs from her shirt.
Rising on one elbow, Rose peeked over the edge of the boat. The house was brightly lit, every window glowing from within. Lying back down, she began concocting a story to explain her disappearance. The grownups would be upset, and want to put her in time out. The children would understand.
Sitting up again, she slowing climbed out of the boat, and made her way up the hill.
The grownups all ran down the slope, gathering around Rose, taking her elbow, or putting an arm around her shoulders.
“Oh, stop it,” Rose said. “I’m not an invalid.”
“Where have you been? We’ve been looking for you for hours.”
The grandchildren, lined up along the porch railing, watched the fuss over their matriarch. They giggled and whispered to each other, knowing Rose was really just one of them.
“If I tell you that, when I want to get away from all of your grumps again, you’ll know where to look.”
Moving away from her fawning brood, Rose held out her arms for the youngsters. Swarmed by her grandchildren, they moved as one big mass into the house, leaving the adults dumbfounded and confused about where their elderly mother had been hiding half the day.