NOT IF MY LIFE DEPENDED ON IT
Last week’s story about fishing and hauling in quite a catch didn’t seem to spark much interest. Let’s see if this week’s does any better. It’s still about water, which makes me wonder why I’m fixated on it. Maybe it’s just because one memory ticks off another. Yeah, let’s go with that one.
|Courtesy of Pixabay.com|
NOT IF MY LIFE DEPENDED ON IT
“Go on, Chuck. Jump,”A dare hung in Bert’s voice.
After peering over the scary forty-foot cliff at the pool of green seawater constantly roiled by waves breaking over ugly, jagged rocks, I backed away before my falling stomach dragged me along with it. “No way.”
“They say old man Peterson down at the scuba shop will give us five dollars if we do.”
“Uh-uh. Not for five dollars. Not for five million. Not if my life depended on it.”
“You’re scared, aren’t you?”
“Scared like a girl.”
“Like a sane person.”
Some of the older guys did it all the time. You know, eighteen- or nineteen-year-olds who were stronger and could jump farther. Bert and I were just fourteen. If a guy just hopped off the cliff edge, he’d end up a gruesome smear on the rocks at the base.
He bent over the edge and studied the pool below. My stomach, which came back when I wasn’t watching, dropped down the precipice again… and I wasn’t anywhere near the edge. I felt sweat on my upper lip, but that coulda been the hot July day. We were both barefoot and in khaki walking shorts.
He straightened. “I’m gonna do it. Five dollars will buy me the new tire I need for my bike.”
“You jump over that cliff, and you won’t need a tire. Old man Peterson will have to donate the five dollars to your funeral.” Bert paced off a stretch of ground. That’s when I took him seriously. “Man, you don’t wanna do that.”
Before I had time to figure what was happening, he started running hard right straight for the edge of the cliff.
I yelled “No!” before taking off after him.
And then he ran out of ground and was sailing in the air. Forgetting my terror of heights, I made it to the edge in time to see him hit the water. Looked like he’d cleared the rocks okay. Son of a gun, maybe he did it. I waited and watched. Waited and watched. He didn’t come up.
“Hey, man, what’s up?”
I turned to see Dicky, the third member of our gang, walk up holding three melting double-dip ice cream cones. He worked in his old man’s malt shop, which was why he was late.
“It’s Bert. He went over the edge.”
“No shit? Man I didn’t believe he’d do it. He okay?”
“He hasn’t come up.”
Then it hit me. My buddy hadn’t surfaced. He was down there in the water.
I raced back from the edge, yelling for Dicky to go for help.
“What you gonna do?”
I didn’t answer. I just took off running toward the edge of the cliff. When I got there, I shut my eyes as tight as they would go and felt myself floating like a bird. Except I wasn’t a bird. I didn’t have wings, although I was flapping my arms like a pair. I had time to scream like a banshee and smell the briny sea air and hear the roar of the surf before I hit the water without any air in my lungs. As I plunged to the bottom of the pool, something scraped me painfully on the back. When my bare feet hit a tumble of big rocks, I pushed off and clawed to the surface before my lungs burned up from lack of oxygen. As soon as I broke the water, I grabbed a couple of lungs full of air and upended, heading back to the bottom.
Bert wasn’t hard to find. He was off to my left weakly flailing away, his right foot caught between some rocks. I swam over to him and grabbed his head. Planting my lips hard on his, I emptied my lungs into him. Didn’t know if it would do any good, but I did it anyway. Then I fought my way back to the surface to load up with air before heading down again.
Bert was in a bad way by the time I managed to move one of the two rocks gripping his ankle enough for him to slip free. But he didn’t do anything except just float away. I grabbed him under the arms and headed upward. I gasped for air when we broke the surface, but Bert didn’t seem to do anything. Keeping his head out of the water the best I could as waves crashed over us, I made for a stretch of beach between the rocks.
I was plumb exhausted by the time I dragged both of us out of the water. I put a lifeless Bert on his belly and started pumping on his back. Not sure, but I think I was crying when he suddenly belched a lot of water and stuff onto the damp sand.
That was good, but I didn’t know what to do next. So I just kept on pumping until somebody pulled me off. Mr. Halverson from the grocery store, I think. Then the beach was full of people. My dad was there, and Bert’s, too.
My father grabbed my arms. “Hold still, son. You’ve got a piece of rock sticking out of your back.”
They patched me up down at the local clinic and shot me full of stuff for germs and microbes and tetanus gremlins. That hurt more than taking out the sliver of rock. Guess I’d just barely cleared the big ones that made a gruesome mess outa you.
Even when they finished with me, I wouldn’t leave until I saw Bert. And I couldn’t do that because they were still working on him. The nurse said he’d mangled his foot pretty good trying to jerk free of the two rocks imprisoning him.
My dad, who’s not a patient man, sat silently beside me in the clinic’s waiting room until a doctor came out and escorted us to my friend. But when I caught sight of him lying pale and weak on the bed, I froze up. We stared at one another until my dad gave me a gentle nudge toward the side of the bed.
Bert looked me fully in the eye and sort of wheezed. “Not if your life… depended on it. You said you wouldn’t….”
Then the world turned right side up again. “I know. But it wasn’t my life. It was yours.”
Hope you found this one more interesting.
Gonna leave the links to me and my writing and plus the DSP Publications buy links I included last week.
DSP Pub paperback: https://www.dsppublications.com/books/the-bisti-business-by-don-travis-361-b
As always, thanks for being readers.
New blogs are posted at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.