Dragons in the Water

by J. H. Wear

When Harry accepted an invitation to join a dragon boat racing team by the eccentric Sheldon, he was plunged into the world of paddling, festivals and romance. But with Sheldon there is always a mystery and unknown forces involved as well.

Also includes: At The Edge Of Darkness
Can Rodney, a claustrophobic suffering vampire find romance? Rodney wants Irene. Her friend Shelly feels uneasy about him. And meet Sheldon, a whole other mystery.


Chapter One

I peered between the trees, straining my back as I stood on a clump of weeds that scratched at my bare legs. There couldn’t be any mistaking that booming voice of Sheldon. I had been enjoying a peaceful stroll along the walking path by the river when I heard that hardy voice. I wasn’t certain I wanted to see what he was up to, but morbid curiosity drove me forward.

Sheldon is a loudmouth, a know it all, and aggravating to be around. Annoying to a fault. To say Sheldon is eccentric might be too mild a term to describe him. Lots of white hair. His face, like his personality, is large, with sky-blue eyes and a big hooked nose that stands over a mouth full of white teeth. He’s clean-shaven to show off his strong jaw and, for some odd reason, women find Sheldon handsome. What belies his elderly facial features is a body of an athletic thirty-year-old. Like I say, he’s annoying.

My name is Harry Webster. I’m thirty-plus years old and I’m on the tall side of six feet. I guess I’m slightly on the heavy side, but I keep pretty active so the pounds are reasonably distributed. So far I’ve kept most of my black hair, though I have a few grey hairs sneaking in.

I write a column in the local paper about community events to keep readers abreast of the social calendar. That may sound boring work for a journalist, but I also write under the name of Edwin Drood. My alter ego writes about the supernatural, ghosts, vampires, aliens and other assorted mysteries. Some are hard to believe, but I always try to make sure there is a grain of truth in the story. No one but my editor is supposed to know who Edwin Drood is; it makes my column more interesting having that mystery. Well, almost no one else besides my editor. During a follow up on a vampire story, Sheldon casually mentioned to me he knew Edwin Drood’s identity was me. How he found out I don’t have a clue, but Sheldon is a mysterious man. More about him later, but suffice to say that his nephew claims Sheldon is a warlock, and it’s as good an explanation as any.

Thus curiosity, and a lead to a possible story, compelled me to seek an opening among the white bark birch trees, the thistles and sprawling elms to find out what he may be up to. By the way, thistles and bare legs are a bad combination.

“Nice job pulling water. Timing was a bit off, but that’s what practice is for.” The speaker was a woman with her blonde hair tied in a ponytail. She was sitting backward at the front of an oversized canoe, a canoe that held two rows of ten paddlers. Besides the blonde speaker, there was a steersman at the back who held an oversized paddle to guide the boat.

“Can we do another race piece?” This was from Sheldon, who was sitting in the middle of the boat and held a black paddle. His voice carried across the river, causing several ducks to take flight. The other paddlers agreed to his request, though a few dropped their heads forward, looking exhausted.

It fascinated me. I had never seen such a huge canoe before and never heard Sheldon mention his interest in paddling. I watched as they maneuvered the boat toward the middle of the river, and the paddlers stopped, allowing the boat to drift backward from the flow of the river.

The blonde woman yelled, “Attention, please!”

The paddlers in unison held their paddles vertically just above the water.


The paddles plunged deep into water and pulled backward. Water was plowed upward as each paddler frantically repeated another stroke. To my surprise, the huge boat appeared to lift partially out of the water, as if it was trying to leap upward.

“Lengthen now!”

The paddlers, in harmony, reached forward with their paddles and slowed down their stroke.

“Timing, timing.”

Some paddlers adjusted their stroke, trying to pace with the lead paddlers better.

I watched Sheldon twisting in his seat with each stroke, his enormous arms pulling his paddle with force.

“Power on three. Three, two, one. Power now!” the blonde woman shouted.

The boat, even though it was travelling at a good clip already, surged forward. It raced through the water as each paddler looked like they were trying to dig a hole in the river.

The steersperson, a tall, olive skinned man, stood easily on the rocking boat and moved his body with the strokes of the paddlers. He shouted out instructions to the paddlers close to him and they responded to his encouragement.

“Finish it now!”

The paddlers somehow increased their efforts. The boat raced down the river, creating a wake behind it.

“Let it ride.”

The paddlers stopped, allowing the boat to glide. Some paddlers slumped forward, others reached for their bottled water. Sheldon’s chest was heaving, but he remained sitting up straight and patted the back of the paddler in front of him. “Good job, Steven. You really pulled water that time.”

His pat on the back caused the smaller paddler to almost fall forward.

Damn show off. I turned away from my vantage point and promptly tripped and fell. I coughed out a mouthful of a green weed and stood, brushing dirt and plants off me. I soon lost my interest in the trees and bushes as I wondered what Sheldon could be up to. I followed the river path to where I knew a dock was used to launch small boats. I wasn’t surprised to hear Sheldon’s voice carry through the trees.

“Atta boy, Denny! You did a fine job of paddling there.”

I heard Denny’s reply, a deep voice but not near the volume of Sheldon’s. Sheldon claims to have had training as an opera singer, one of his many claims, and he talks like a drill sergeant in front of a company of soldiers.

A group of the paddlers emerged from the small path that disappeared to the dock. A mixture of men and women, most wearing waterproof sandals and clothing. All of them looked to be in good shape as they carried their paddles to a grassy area to discuss whatever paddlers discuss when not in a boat. I’m guessing beer and pizza. Sheldon emerged, talking to two young women who were smiling away as they eagerly looked up at him. One would think he was telling them how to make a million dollars overnight the way they were hanging on to his every word.

“Harry!” He boomed out my name.

I cringed. There was Sheldon wearing bright red shorts, yellow sandals, and a blue T-shirt under a black life vest. “Hello, Sheldon. I see you’re doing some canoeing.”

“Canoeing?” He laughed aloud, bringing out grins from his companions. “No, no, no, Harry. We most certainly do not call it canoeing. Dragon boating has an entirely different paddling technique and is a very difficult sport to master.”

One lady objected. “Oh, Sheldon, you make it look so easy. You’re just a natural dragon boater.”

He gave one of his broad smiles, teeth sparkling. “I just have some excellent instructors.” Both of the women next to him blushed.

Lord, give me strength. “I see. Well, it looks you’re enjoying dragon boating.” Especially with those two women by your side.

“Why don’t you hang around here for a few minutes, Harry? We can go for a drink afterward.”

“Sure.” I wasn’t sure at all to be sure. First, he can dominate any conversation, and afterward you feel you had just completed a university lecture. Second, somehow I always end up paying.

I listened to a lady with red hair address the group surrounding her.

“Now remember to focus in the boat. Practice is twice a week, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be doing workouts during the other days. Now let’s get together.”

The entire group huddled together and extended their hands toward the centre.

“Okay, on three. Who are we?”

“River Rodents!”

They repeated the chant three times, each time louder. Sheldon’s calling was the loudest, causing a noticeable air draft.

“So, Harry, do you have your car nearby? I jogged here for today’s practice.”

I nodded as I looked at his damp shirt and shorts. “Do you need to change first?”

“Na, I feel fine the way I am. Come on, I need a cold drink.” He stomped toward the parking lot, not giving me an opportunity to argue.

I put down my window as I drove. The combination of Sheldon’s sweat and the river water filled the car with an aroma I hoped air freshener and Lysol could cure afterward.

We went into the lounge side of Devon Pizza and there were several members of the dragon boat team already enjoying a drink. They shouted Sheldon’s name and waved us over.

I was introduced as Sheldon’s “old” friend and soon was sharing a pitcher of beer with them. I have to admit they were a friendly group.

Allison, a lady of around thirty, asked if I’d ever been on a dragon boat and I shook my head. “I have paddled in a rowboat a few times.” I smiled, but they didn’t look impressed. It seemed rowboats were not held in high esteem and not worthy of a comment.

Danielle, a red head with freckles, leaned toward me. “We could use one or two more men. We’re going to Kelowna for a festival and could use some extras just in case some can’t make the trip.”

I thought about it for a few seconds. I’m in pretty good shape. I run and bicycle a fair bit and I’m no stranger to rowboats either, thanks to being invited to Sheldon’s cottage to go fishing a few times. How difficult could it be to paddle in a dragon boat? I was to learn that lesson a few days later. “Sure, I can give it a try.”

Sheldon beamed. “To our newest member, Harry.” He raised his glass and took a drink, emptied its contents and refilled it. He called the waitress over.

“Jill, could you bring us another round of shooters? Harry has agreed to join our club and we should celebrate. Put it on my tab.”

“Sure, Sheldon.” She gave him a warm smile as she traced her fingertips across his shoulders.

The shooter wasn’t bad, a brownish, sour tasting concoction. The beer and food was great. Service was good and my new team mates friendly. It was too good to be true, and I would soon learn I was right.

Sheldon clapped me on my back and announced he had to start back home.

“I have a social engagement I have to get ready for, so I shall bid farewell for now.”

One young lady, a short hair brunette named Stephanie, piped up, “Social engagement, Sheldon? Would that be a date?”

He smiled broadly. “Only if I get a kiss from her at the end of the night.”

Stephanie grinned. “Well, don’t stay out too late. Save your energy for paddling.”

“No worries there.” Sheldon had a glint in his eye. “We can’t stay out late because she has a photo shoot in the morning.”

Trust Sheldon to get a date with a model. There’s no justice. I started to rise, figuring I had to drive him home, wherever that was. He stalled me by placing his hand on my shoulder and pressed me back down.

“No need to drive me, Harry. I need to run off these calories.”

He walked off to the waves of his teammates.

I thought that at least my car would have a chance to air out when Jill placed a bill in front of me. “Sheldon said you would take care of this.” She giggled. “He said he left his wallet at home.” She smiled happily. “He’s such a nice man.”

I looked at the bill. Two pitchers of beer. One order of nachos. And eight shooters. I closed my eyes. Death for Sheldon, “such a nice man”, would be too kind.

JH Wear "Dragons in the Water"


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Contemporary Romance

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