Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Change Of Mind

The boy couldn't swim. So he rented an inflated tube and used it as a float. He leaned back on the float and paddled with his hands and feet. He floated around by the beach, not daring to venture too far out. He enjoyed the rise and fall of the waves, the cool sea breeze and the warm sun. He could hear the laughter and screams of pleasure of other kids along the beach and the splashing of bathers around him. He listened to the occasional calls of seagulls. It was very relaxing. It was like sleeping in a cradle. He almost fell asleep.

His floating tube was suddenly yanked from under him and he found himself in the water. He yelled, but he heard no sound from his own mouth. Water rushed into his throat and his nose. His feet couldn't find the friendly sand at the bottom. He opened his eyes even though they were stung by the sea water. He struggled and reached out with his hands towards a pair of legs he saw in the water in front of him. The waves tossed him about and the legs kept trying to move away. He managed to grab hold of one of the legs. He didn't know who they belonged to. He didn't care. He had to get out of the water. He had to breathe. His ears were ringing, his lungs were bursting and his heart pounding against his chest.

Somehow, he did not die. Someone had grabbed him by his hair and pulled him to shore. When he came to, he kept throwing up salty water. It was a crowded beach and no one had paid much attention. They just watched quietly and went away to whatever they were doing, more immersed in looking after their own pleasure. When he got home later, nobody asked him what happened because nobody knew about the incident.

It has been forty years since then. The man was having an idle chat with one of his older neighbors at his local haunt. He didn't know why, but something the other man said prompted him to talk about the past and he mentioned to his neighbor that he once almost drowned when he was a kid. He recounted all the little details that he remembered. He then said that even if he found the guy who had saved him, he would not thank him for it. He should have let him drown and spare him a life of misery and suffering.

The older man sat and listened quietly while he complained. When he'd finished telling his story, the older man nodded knowingly and said he knew what happened. He was the one who had rushed into the water and pulled him out. He was a life-guard. He saw how it happened. He knew who the other kid was who pulled the float from under him and caused him to fall in the water. The other kid was a big sized half-wit who didn't understand rules. He was watching him and he thought maybe this kid could do something nasty. And as if on cue, he did just that. He was in time to save him because he was running and diving into the water even before the kid went down.

The older man also added that on that same day, at that same moment, somewhere on that beach another boy drowned and nobody saw what happened.

The Angel of Death had a change of mind at the last moment.


  1. "He then said that even if he found the guy who had saved him, he would not thank him for it. He should have let him drown and spare him a life of misery and suffering."

    I saw something similar in the movie The Pianist set in the Nazi era. A Jew, saved from a train filled with Jews heading to the gas ovens was told, "They're the lucky ones. It'll be over for them quickly. You on the other hand have to live." Not an exciting prospect in a place that was crawling with German soldiers.

  2. The lucky ones went to the gas ovens. The unlucky ones went to the experiment labs...