Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: River (08/31/06)
TITLE: A Time to Live, Not Die
By Wendy Ragan
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The night sky was crystal clear and the air biting cold. Ron was on the nightshift as a deckhand on the river tugs. His thoughts drifted to his wife who had just brought their fourth child into the world. It would be an especially great Christmas with a new baby girl. He was feeling as anxious as the kids about all the gifts and treats of the holidays.
He turned back to his duties and secured the log boom behind the tug. Rubbing his hands together for warmth he went back into the cabin where the skipper, Frank manned the wheel. Frank was an elderly man who had worked many years on the tugs and now looked forward to his coming retirement. They talked for a few moments and then Frank radioed their position to a nearby tug.
Frank then began explaining potential hazards and moved the tug and its log boom down river. He pulled the tug in closer to the shoreline to point out a place of strong under currents called ‘back-eddies'. Slowly Frank inched toward the current for Ron to see. Then without warning the current like a black hole began to suck them in. Frank gripped the wheel in an effort to correct their position…but it was of no use. The river became a watery monster grabbing hold of the tug and flipping it over. Within seconds the propeller cut the towline and the tug was thrust to the bottom of the river. A thick blackness wrapped around the tug and stole their sight.
Ron froze for a moment in the screaming silence. “This can’t be happening,’ he heard the words pound in his ears as he wrestled with disbelief .Reaching blindly he found the sliding door and pulled with all his strength, but the door was as immovable as the walls. Then it hit him; the pressure inside the cabin would have to equalize before there was any chance of the door opening. That meant the cabin would have to fill with water. Only moments ago the cabin had been a warm retreat and now it was a watery tomb.
Water began gushing in around his feet. His heart racing Ron drove his fist into the cabin window. Desperation made him unaware of the pain as he pounded the glass again and again. The frigid water relentlessly rushed into the cabin and bit at his waist. He flinched as it pushed under his lifejacket. “I can’t die here!” his heart shouted, as the air space closed in. Time and time again he pulled on the door with everything he had and yet it would not budge.
Searching the water for something to smash against the windows was futile and the cabin was filling fast. The ice water pushing on his chest and climbing to his neck labored his breathing. Then the faces of his children and his precious wife stilled him for a moment. His heart aching for them he pushed his face into the few inches of air that was left and carefully drew in his last breath.
His efforts slowed by the water he reached out for the door and pulled with all the strength he had. At first nothing…. then suddenly a strength not his own jolted the door open half way. He lunged but his lifejacket caught. Quickly he slipped out of it and squeezed through the narrow opening and blindly pushed toward the top of the tug only to find the river’s floor. “No!” he thought turning around. Finally in the open water he pushed upward. His lungs in agony begged him to take a breath; still he forced himself to take one more stroke toward the surface; and then one more. His clothes pulled against his every push, but the glow of surface light beckoned him the last few strokes. The still night quiet of the river was then shattered as Ron crashed through the surface groaning and gasping for air. He had made it. He would see his family again
The next morning that he was told that Frank didn’t make it. The news tore at his heart.
Ten years later while working the tugs as a skipper that Ron had an encounter with the Lord on that same rive that led to his salvation and acceptance of Jesus as his Savior. He often looked back and realized He had been saved from death twice on the river.
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