When we were girls, she says, we built a barrel out of burnished aluminum in the shape of a cigar case or a pupa, just small enough to lay in.

Is it lie or lay?

It was a casket, a seed, a penis.

The top fit closely like a spun sugar Easter egg burnished silver. We would caulk it with beeswax and take turns sailing down the river through the rapids and over the Falls. As you floated through the last rush of hesitating water, you could hear a distant collective shriek rise among the horrified tourists along the esplanade above the roar of the Falls, then feel the hurrying water take you over like lovemaking. The crash came like dreams, dark first then settling into the calm of the whirlpool.

She recites: "There's fennel for you and columbines. There's rue for you and here's some for me. I would give you some violets but they withered all away when my father died."

He knows she's acting crazy.

Sometimes there were great moths the color of straw flowers, like tattered blue cotton. "We were never arrested," she said. "Because, unlike daredevils, virgin girls have an ancient right to go over the falls. There is nothing the authorities can do to stop you."

He asks. "How old were you when your father died."