Danny Hicks buttoned down the Lifeguard Tower flaps where he had just finished the final shift of the season. This summer job position had been perfect for him, allowing him to combine his love of beach life with his passion for service.
Fastening padlocks to the clamped awnings, Danny took one last look around the beach for stragglers, securing the door behind him. Scrambling down the ladder, he sprinted across to his dilapidated second-hand jeep, stowing away his gear in the back before staking the “Closed For The Summer” sign in front of the entrance post. Fortunately, his car started up after only three attempts!
Rap music blaring, Danny took the short-cut across Nemesis Bridge, which spanned a turbulent river of various depths and unusual rock formations that he always intended to investigate. On a sudden whim, he stopped and parked off the shoulder of the dirt road. Observing no traffic, he meandered down the side shoulder lane, peering over the railing at the water below. Throwing back his head, he shouted “I’M FREE-E-E-E”, hoping for an echo. Laughing aloud at his childish behavior, and turning to leave, he experienced a strange feeling that he wasn’t alone—a kind of “masculine intuition”, as his mother would occasionally comment she recognized in him. He crossed to the opposite rail and carefully examined the water below, seeing nothing out of the ordinary. Turning and shrugging his shoulders, a splash of color caught the corner of his eye and he swung back around to investigate. There was a red scarf wrapped around one of the ceiling beams underneath the bridge.
Bending over as far as possible without loosing his balance, Danny was able to see someone draped over a cross beam who appeared to be preparing a suicide noose! Adrenalin kicking in, he climbed over the rail and began descending to the underside of the bridge, when the stranger discovered him.
“Don’t come any closer, or I’ll jump”, a female voice shrieked at him, and Danny momentarily stopped his progress toward the victim.
“I just wanted to talk to you, that’s all”, Danny assured her.
“Just go away—you can’t help me”, she retorted.
Mentally seeking past training instructions, he remembered that he should talk only about himself to relax the person in trouble.
“I was just here to enjoy the wonderful view and I thought I heard a baby cry”, he frantically grappled with a plausible story for his presence into the lady’s private anguish.
“Did you hear it, too? It sounded like it was from this direction”, he said as he inched his way forward.
The middle-aged woman, who had paused briefly in her effort to knot the scarf securely, looked warily confused as Danny began a one-sided conversation with her. He matter-of-factly told her of his summer job, his evening school classes, and his future dreams, interspersing these thoughts with requests for her advise. Wanting her to stop thinking of herself, he attempted to redirect her concentration to him and his problems.
Eventually, she stopped her labor altogether and just sat there, listening to him.
Failing to perceive a rotted board as he kept eye contact with the victim, Danny’s next move sent him crashing through the wood and down into the river below. Shocked at this sudden turn of events, the lady wildly scanned the surface of the water for her new friend. Catching sight of his Yankee cap bobbing up and down in the turbulent waves below her and correctly thinking he might have struck his head on an exposed rock, she dove into the river close to where she had last seen Danny.
Clutching the edge of a nearby protruding rock, she surface dove all around it, searching for him. As she submerged the fourth time, her foot scraped across soft clothing. She was then able to grasp Danny’s belt, and wrestle him to the surface. Immediately, they were tossed by a high wave close to the river’s bank where an outcropping of tree roots was exposed. Clasping her free arm around them, she laboriously secured Danny’s belt about another. Abruptly, he regained consciousness, coughing and gasping for air as he struggled up the craggy mire onto the bank. The woman, spent, lost her own grip and quietly slipped into the currents, floating into death’s oblivion. Ironically, her last thought had been that finally she had accomplished something worthwhile to live for, only to die.
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