I waded knee-deep in that brown Indiana river, feeling with my feet for the knobbly spheres most likely to be geodes. I had not seen my feet in hours, but over the course of the morning I had grown to love their absence. With the fearlessness of young years, I almost immediately forgot everything I had ever known about things that live in rivers: leeches that suck, snakes of all sorts. The other children from the bus dangled their red mesh bags behind them in the current. I tried to hold mine aloft even when trying to reach into the water all the way to my shoulder--at which moments the bulk of my body seemed to have disappeared into the river's muddy pull, and what had not gone under had come close enough to kiss.
When the morning ended, we waited in line for our turns with the hammer, waited to see what those rock eggs would yield. The preliminary test was the gurgly rattle: if you palmed the rock, shook it beside your ear, heard the sound of music class percussion instruments, then that one you kept. But that didn't mean it would give up beauty, once cracked open. And when we grew tired of waiting, we simply started throwing our geodes at the ground, cracking them any which way. Most of them cracked into jigsaw pieces, muddy grey rock against sulfurous gold crystal. One of mine cracked almost neatly but was dark like blood inside. Its glitters were tiny and fierce. It swiftly became my favorite, in the ranking and sorting I could never bring myself to stop doing.
I have wondered about that river's whereabouts for more than twenty years. I wonder now about the red mesh bag's location. It haunted my time in my parents' house, because finding it would mean finding the year I was eight, finding it boxed and buried somewhere in the closet under the basement stairs. So I made only tentative forays, half-effortful finding missions, feeling around with my feet in the dark, bending over the old tent, the old punching bag, the old model railway table, legs and arms submerged in familial stuff, the rest of my body bent close enough to kiss and scrape and gather it all before backing out again.