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“Let’s move out,” said Reynolds. “If we walk straight east, we’re bound to hit the Tigris, and from there we can get our bearings.”
“If we can find some shoal water, we can cross over to some higher ground and get out of this infernal swamp,” said Jenkins.
“Shoal water?” asked Reynolds. “What in the hell is shoal water?”
“Ain’t you ever heard of Muscle Shoals, Alabama?” demanded Jenkins. “Shoal water is shallow water where you can cross over to the good fishing hole.”
Reynolds stared at Jenkins. “And you know how to find shoal water.”
“Sure I do,” said Jenkins. “I grew up on the bluffs.”
“Bluffs? Do you see any bluffs around here? And what do bluffs have to do with shoal water?”
Jenkins spat. “Down in Alabama, growing up on the bluffs meant you growed up on a river that had lots of holes in it for fishing, but you had to find the shoal water to get to it. Don’t you know any of this stuff? But you can’t just cross at any shallow spot; the current might be too strong. It’s got to be shoal water, where the river is whoa’d up a little, you understand.”
In this way they walked eastward in the swamps of southern Iraq, talking about Alabama shoal water, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the Confederacy, completely lost somewhere between Basra and Baghdad and somewhere between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. At last they found themselves on the banks of a river, and presuming it was the mighty Tigris River, they turned left. Reynolds kept an eye open for what he thought might be shoal water, to prove to the hick that he could spot shoal water without the experience of being raised apart from civilization.