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We ran for the river, the sounds of yelling and screaming and sirens behind us.
When we got to the boat, I tore the stocking from my head and started pulling off my shirt.
"C'mon, we've got to change clothes! People have seen these!"
But Minerva just pulled the stocking off her head and stood there, white-faced and tight-lipped, in that soggy blue dress.
"Hurry!" I said. Already I was down to my swimsuit.
Minerva sadly shook her head. "I can't."
"Whaddaya mean you can't? Didn't you wear your swimsuit?"
"I can't get in the boat," she said.
"What if it sinks?"
"What are you? Crazy? It's our only way out!" I fumbled to untie the boat.
"What if it sinks?" she said again.
"We'll swim for it!" I said. "C'mon!"
"I can't swim," Minerva said.
"But … but … it's not gonna sink," I stammered.
"Go on!" she said. "Don't worry about me."
"Go on!" she said. "No, wait!" And before I knew what was happening, she had thrown her arms around me and kissed my mouth. Then she turned and ran down the shore until she vanished in the shadows.
"But ... " I said as she disappeared. "But ... " It wasn't supposed to end this way. Sirens wailed down the street toward me.
I leaped into the boat and started rowing. I heard the screech of tires, saw the red and blue lights flashing. I pulled at the oars with all my strength. The seals bobbed up in the water beside me, looking at me with their strange sad faces.
"Get!" I gasped. "Get out of here!"
They dove, and when their shiny heads bobbed up again, they were downriver, swimming toward the Sound.
I was halfway across the river when a brilliant white spotlight blinded me. "Stop!" boomed a voice. "You're under arrest!" But I kept rowing, my heart wild in my chest. If only I could make it to the other side.
I heard the sound of tires squealing and sirens racing up the river. They were heading for the bridge. They were going to try to cut me off! Row! Row!
The boat stopped dead in the water.
Oh no! The tide! I forgot about the tide! The tide had gone out. I was stuck on the big mud flat. I jumped from the boat and sank to my knees in the cold black mud. I heard the sirens coming down this side of the river. Run! Run!
I tried to run, but the mud sucked at my legs. Twice I fell on my face in the muck. It stank like a million dead clams. But I picked myself up and staggered and fell and crawled to get to the woods and safety.
Just as I reached the shore, two cruisers screamed to a stop in front of me, and four cops leaped out waving their arms.
I dodged them and darted across the road, their heavy feet pounding after me.
A hand snagged the back of my swimsuit. I was tackled, fell - "Umph!" - and the cop fell with a thud behind me. My bandaged glasses flew off my face.
I kicked and twisted and wriggled free, leaving my swimsuit behind. Another hand snatched at me, tripped me, then slipped off my slime-covered legs.
I blindly plunged into the blackness of the woods, branches whipping at my legs and face. I heard the cops crashing and cursing in the brush behind me.
But even without my glasses, I knew these woods, and they didn't. Soon I had left them far behind.
I ran until I reached the big oak in the middle of the woods, and I shimmied up, climbing, climbing until I was in the very top, shivering and panting on a scratchy branch in the moonlight.