Treacherous Waters

Book 2: Treacherous Waters


Chapter 1


André hurried on the slushy narrow path along the French-Canadian waterfront, his feet skidding. October was early for this much snow. He lurched in the slippery mud and lost his balance, toppling into an icy puddle. Splat!

As he pushed himself up, he glanced at the swollen St. Lawrence River cascading nearby. What if I had fallen in there? The water swept by, carrying dark dead trees with shocking speed. In the twilight, the upthrust branches looked like arms beseeching the heavens.

Like Basile Roche struggling for his worthless life. He shivered—he’d mostly forgotten about his family’s enemy since Roche had drowned only half a year earlier on a dark and rushing river in the wilderness west of Lake Superior. But that’s over and done. And it’s well past supper—time to get home or Berthe and Joseph will worry.

He clambered to his feet, looking at his dripping and grimy clothes, and hurried on.

André was returning home from delivering a packet of medicinal herbs, a late-evening errand for Berthe Didier, his foster mother. Their hamlet was too small to attract a doctor—Berthe’s knowledge of herbal remedies made her an often-needed substitute.

He was worried, his mind like a caged bird flitting from place to place—proud, sad, happy, lonely, fearful, troubled—but never settling in one place for long.

What if Antoine doesn’t choose me to paddle to the rendezvous? Or to clerk at his wintering fur trade post in Ojibwe country beyond the Grand Portage? He should, because I proved myself as a clerk, even if I am only fourteen. But he has many good men to choose from.

A year and a half ago, he had left Lachine in a birch bark canoe with a voyageur brigade led by Antoine Felix, a top canoe brigade guide and leader. André sucked in a cold breath. The word “voyageur” thrilled him! Wearing the capote was badge of honor and made him proud. I was—I am one of them.

In his village he had no friends, and André felt lonely. No one else his age studied with Father Goiffon. The other boys of his village become men, and had long since left school to work, helping their families, earning money. They scorned him for wasting his time with lessons in mathematics and geography, English and Latin.

Those studies, however, had made his adventures in the New World possible. And he had gained new friends—his canoe-mates and Ojibwe natives. He glowed with warmth.

Then he frowned. He missed his brother, Denis, who had sailed to France with his new wife, Marie-Thérèse, less than a month earlier. A brother lost, then found had brought him wholeness and connection. Then lost again, so far away. Somehow he saw into me, understood me, though we had little time to learn about each other as brothers. Will I ever see Denis again?


Winter landscape with snowy trees beautiful frozen river and bushes at sunset. Winter forest. View with winter trees yellow reeds blurred water and colorful sky at dusk. Frosty snowy river. Snow

A massive limb overhead snapped and plummeted toward him with astonishing speed. Its load of heavy wet snow smacked him on the chest, hammering him backwards. The branch twisted into his capote, hooking its wide sleeves and fringed hood. He lost his balance and his feet slipped once more.

André grabbed at the tree to steady himself. But his fingernails only scraped painfully along the bark. The limb, thick as his body, knocked the air out of him, and propelled him towards the river. Suddenly he was powerless. His arms flailed in the air.

He tumbled down the slick muddy bank. His hands clawed at the sloppy mud as he tried to free himself from the heavy branch.

Head first, André toppled into the river. It enveloped him in a full-body icy grip. He choked, inhaling water.

The river, swelled with meltwater, rushed him away from the bank at a furious rate. The current twisted him, rolling him deep underwater.

André thrashed. His head popped above the surface. “M’aidez!” he gasped. “Help me!”

Time only for a single yelp before his sodden capote dragged him under, sucked down by the force of current.

André couldn’t swim. Like most of his French-Canadian neighbors.

Panicked, he fought for breath, and tried to control his terror.

The river curves. And slows. Can I get to where the current is slower?

His hands scrabbled for anything to grab onto—but came up empty.

No, this can’t be.

The churning water whirled him around—he struggled to stay right-side up. I can’t breathe! Terror struck. His face broke the surface and he coughed, gagging, drawing in the river water. The icy water felt like nails stabbing into his chest.

Like a dark beast grabbing him, his heavy wet clothing drew him deep under, spinning him so he had no sense of up or down. His mind started going black, dotted with stars.

Ow! His knee banged against a submerged boulder.

Underwater André’s eyes flew open—he saw vague blurs of light.

A rock! Could it help spring me to the surface?

He reached halfheartedly but could not find a boulder.

His lungs burned.

His brain dimmed.

He could not …

Am I going to die?

Suddenly his body jarred to a crumpled stop.

Got him.”

Crisp beautiful air washed over him. He oozed out bitter-tasting river water. His lungs wheezed—it hurt to breathe. His hands were numb, refusing to cooperate, and his arms went limp as rags. His head ached. André‘s eyelids drooped shut.

Hands latched onto his leg. He was yanked, hauled over a slippery pile of snow.

Who is it?”

Joseph and Berthe’s boy.”

The stone cottage people a league inland?”

Oui, ’tis the one.”

But, is he still alive?”


Good eyes, Sam. Now run for the priest.”

André couldn’t draw in air. He couldn’t think, speak, move. Warm fingers on his wrist probed for a pulse.
Without warning, he coughed, then shuddered violently.

Alive then. A quilt anyone? Let’s get him to shelter.”

Several men rolled a heavy blanket around him and carried him to a nearby cottage, but André remembered no more.



Book 1: Waters Like the Sky

Layout 1

Here’s how to get Waters Like the Sky:

1. Use this PayPal button.

2. For a signed copy, send $20 (which includes tax and shipping costs) to:

Nikki Rajala
P.O. Box 372
Rockville, MN 56369

3. Special pricing on classroom sets of Waters Like the  Sky can be arranged by contacting North Star Press of St. Cloud, Minnesota, at 320-558-9062 or clicking   Waters Like the Sky.

Thanks to Bob Zyskowski for this wonderful review: Bobz Book Review of “Waters Like the Sky”

“This book is delightful. It immediately took me back to the heart of John’s work as a French voyageur. You truly caught the essence and authenticity of the voyageurs’ life style. I loved the French phrases throughout which added to the truism of the story. Your narrative was so well-written and the story kept you guessing and hoping for a positive outcome.” ~ Jeanne Rivard Parrish (John Rivard, Jeanne’s former husband, was a historian who presented unique programs recalling the lives of French-Canadian voyageurs.)


“This novel —’Waters Like the Sky’— is is a wonderful story of outdoor adventure, well-researched and well-written. The story is an exciting journey, wrapped in the mystique of the early fur trade and filled with positive lessons for life.” ~ Gene Stark, author of “Tracks in the Mud:Trailing the Last Great Fur Boom,” fur trapper


“What a delightful surprise to read this book! The title caught my attention since I remember that Minnesota means “land of sky-blue waters.” As a former English teacher I enjoy the literary style, the figures of speech, the vivid descriptions. What knowledge you two accumulated  regarding every detail of the life of the voyageur, of the flora and fauna of the areas visited! What extensive research you must have done to make it so historically accurate! You surely have done well by your French-Canadian ancestors. I’m impressed by the amount of French in the text. The story is fascinating —  I’m about half-way through.” ~ Ruth Matheny, Florida

I got the book and enjoyed reading it immensely. I’d like to know what happens when Denis gets back to Paris. Will his enemies continue to try to eliminate him? Does he have friends at court? Will Andre join him? How do the long lost brothers get along?Do you have plans for another, or perhaps a series? Have you any thoughts about a tv series on a family oriented station? I think it would be perfect. Keep me on your mailing list for the Further Adventures…’ ~ Bob H.

Your book was a page-turning adventure, in a place unknown to many. What happens next? I’m waiting for the next book! Congratulations on a good read. ~ Lillian