Day 181: The Dam

The Dam
Matt Zurbo

Dam 2.jpg
There’s a small dam in the plains. It is made of concrete and stretches forever across the river.
(Dark skinned girl with towel over shoulder walking along South American Street, with food vendors, motorbikes passing, kids playing barefoot in the street.)

The dam was meant for electricity, but was never finished. It has two drops.
(Girl on dirt ledge, overlooking construction across a wide river. First, a cement slope is creating a fifteen-foot drop that travels the width of the river. That drop leads to a 30 feet long concrete flow, which is almost flat, but tilted just enough for the water to run. Then there is another four foot drop before the river continues. Some kids lazily walking along the concrete between the two drops, getting feet wet. Others beneath them, playing in the water. To the side is the overflow drain, where the water turbine should have been. It is pumping/churning huge volume of water, that falls with gravity, then lands below and to the side of the main river, creating a deep pool at the river’s edge. Either side of the dam are BIG, sightly sunken/crooked, concrete retainer walls, to keep the wet season rain from eroding the banks beside the dam.)   

The first drop is big!
(Girl walking through ankle-deep water, spread across the concrete between the drops. Behind her, other kids chase and laugh, splashing as they go. Behind them all, is a wall of falling water.)

The other is small…
(Girl jumping off water flowing ledge of man-made mini fall, that stretches across the river. Other kids, chest deep in water beneath her/river, are standing under the falling water as it splashes about their heads.)  

The river comes down from the mountains.
(Girl looking up past river, which is wide, at snow-capped mountains in the distance.)

It is formed by glaciers.
Its water is older than time.

Our Dad takes us to the dam every weekend. Everybody is there. That’s what’s good about it.
(Girl waving to Dad, Mum and kid brother, on water’s rocky edge, surrounded by other families. But hers are waving back.)

We swim,


learn to fish,
(Men, with boys watching, wading hip deep through water, with nets, watching for fish. In background, other men throwing nets.)

Cook, listen to music.
(Man cutting branch with machete, others staring small fire under metal wok over rocks at river’s edge. Big 4-wheel utes backed onto banks with speakers blaring music. The odd dog here and there.)

It’s a family thing.
(Everybody sitting, laughing, standing, eating, going for another swim, etc…)

They say if you bring someone here who’s not from the plains, in their soul they now will be from the plains.
(Double page view of river bank, full of people, and smoke and fires, and life. Girl walking in water’s edge, in front of it all, upstream.)
They say steals hearts – the river, the old dam, the people and noise.

But all I know is I’m frightened.
(Girl climbing bank.)

The dam has a retainer wall
(As described at start, stand-alone, a bit crooked, 20 feet high, coming out from the bank at side, running with water flow, between the bank and the main river. Girl looking up at it. Two boys sitting on its ledge, dangling feet over edge.)

Some of the boys climb up the banks, then walk along it.
(Girl climbing up bank, while one of two boys is jumping off top, to water below. Everybody watching.)
They jump off. Everybody watches.

Your friends and family. Your enemies and strangers. Their friends and family.
(Other boy jumping off as girl walks along it. From up there, there is a view of trees and roofs.)

Now I’m old enough, it’s my turn.
It looks bigger from up here.
(From behind and above girl, we see what she does. A LONG drop to the water.)

Everybody knows it’s my first time. I can feel it.
(Girl standing, toes over edge, looking down.)

Once a kid backed down. People teased him, then said it was no big deal.
(Boy hugging the top of the retainer wall.)

He didn’t believe us.
(Boy, head low, in clothes, walking through every other kid in bathers. Girl has arm on his back.)

I don’t know any girls that have jumped…
(Girl, closing her eyes as she starts to jump.)

I don’t want to die…
(Girl, eyes shut, nothing but air.)

But don’t want to be scared of life, either!
(Girl, smiling, arms and legs everywhere, as she falls towards water, with kid or two in it, looking up, watching her.)

(Girl, huge, content grin, landing in water with a splash that boys pull back from.)

(Girl underwater, smiling, surrounded by bubbles.)

After, we go for ice-sticks.
(Girl, brother, another girl, and a handful of boys, walking, eating ice-sticks.)

We learn so much at the dam.
(Girl and boy throwing fishing net. Adults coaching.)

When to be brave, what really scares us.
(Girl, relaxed, in queue of kids on retainer wall, taking turns art jumping. Back of queue is next, nervous girl.)

We’re free when we’re here. This is our place, our land.
(View from water, of girl looking up and across at bird flying, trees and sky around her.)

The size of the river makes us all taller.
(Bird’s view of mighty river.)



The End

Dam 1.jpg

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