The Park

by Clark Graham

George Rivas sat watching the river. Every once in awhile, he would focus on his wife, Cindy, who was sitting on the park bench next to him. He had a habit of tuning her out, so he had to make sure she wasn’t talking. He hated it when she asked him what he thought about this or that and he didn’t have a clue what this or that she was asking about. This time she was quiet. Since he retired a decade ago, they spent more time together. It wasn’t long trips, like to Europe. His fixed income wouldn’t allow that. So, they settled for long walks in the park instead.

“Did you hear that?” George asked.

“Hear what?” Cindy replied.

George looked around. “I heard someone talking.”

“What were they talking about?”

“Well, me.”

She shook her head. “Who would be talking about you?”

He sighed, then leaned back on the bench.

Bill Scott looks like the perfect father as he pushes his young daughter on the swing. The truth is, he’s a workaholic who never makes time for his family. The only reason he has come to the park today is because his company closed for the holiday and he was bored sitting around the house.

Bill stopped pushing. “Who said that?”

George stood up and walked over. “I heard that. You’re Bill?”

“You must be George. I hear a voice, but don’t know who’s talking.” 

Wayne Jennings walks his dog every day. It’s less like a walk and more like he’s dragging the lazy beast two blocks to the park so Wayne can get out of his stale apartment for some fresh air. He even purchased a retractable leash. He shouldn’t have done it for the dog’s sake. When the dog arrives at the park, it sits down and goes to sleep.

 Wayne walked up to the other two men. “What’s going on?”

“You must be Wayne.” 

George was going to introduce himself but Wayne said, “And you two are George and Bill.”

The three men stood in the middle of the park not knowing they would soon be heroes.

“What?” they said in unison.

“George! There’s something in the water!” Cindy jumped up and pointed. “George! There, in the water!”

The three men turned to see what she pointed at. A boy, face down, floated near them.

George raced to the water’s edge, followed by the other two.

“The current is too strong George, you’ll get swept away,” Bill said.

“Here,” Wayne detached the dog from the leash and strapped it around George’s belt. “It’s thirty feet long, you should have plenty of slack.”

Wasting no time, George jumped in. The cold water took his breath away, but he powered through. Swimming to the boy, he flipped him over. A blue face with a blank stare greeted him.

“No, you don’t. You’re not dying on my watch.” He cradled the boy in his arms and began rescue breathing.

“Pull him in!” Wayne yanked on the line. George was now in the current and heading downriver. Bill grabbed the line too and both men tugged and pulled with all their might.

Slowly, George neared the shore. He took no thought of trying to swim, his whole focus was on keeping the boy alive.

George’s toes touched the river bottom. He struggled to get ashore. With the help of Wayne and Bill, he managed. Laying the boy on the river’s edge he continued the rescue breathing.

The boy coughed, then vomited, then coughed again. River water came out. He took a ragged breath, then coughed up some more water.

By now a crowd had gathered. The onlookers cheered when the boy sat up.

“Are you okay son?” George asked.

The boy nodded.

Cindy helped him to the bench and sat him down. “Just rest here for a minute.”

Sirens heard in the distance became louder as fire trucks and police cars neared. Soon the park was awash in rescue teams, police officers, and firefighters running up and down the riverbank frantically.

A Sheriff’s boat in the river rushed past. One firetruck took up position on a downstream bridge.

An out of breath fireman passed George but stopped to ask Carol, “Did you see a boy in the water?”

“Yes,” she smiled. “He’s right here.”

“No, there was a boy who was swept away upriver.”

“Yes, as I said. He’s right here.”

The fireman’s eyes widened. He scanned the boy, then Carol. After examining George’s wet clothes his attention turned back to the boy. “What’s your name?”

“Jacob Phillips.”

The fireman’s jaw dropped. “Are you okay?” He picked up the boy and hugged him. “Are you really okay?”

“I want my mom.”

The fireman shouted in his radio, “We have him. I repeat we have Jacob. He’s alive! He wants his mother.”

The rescuers in the park all stopped to look around. They spotted the fireman holding the boy and rushed to see for themselves. The Sheriff’s boat beached at the riverbank and several of the men ran ashore also.

Soon a patrol car screeched to a stop nearby. A woman threw open the door and ran out.

“Mommy, mommy.” The fireman set Jacob down and he rushed into his mother’s arms.

“This is Susan Rey with action news. I’m at a local park where three men risked their lives in a swollen river to rescue little Jacob Phillips from certain death. George, you were the one that jumped into the river. What was going through your head when you did?”

“Um.” George looked at the other two. Bill shrugged and Wayne shook his head.

Susan creased her brows but went on anyway. “Were you worried about getting swept away in the current?” 

“No, I had Wayne and Bill at the other end of the leash pulling me in. I trusted them.”

“I just have to say you three are heroes.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

 After the news truck pulled away and the crowds thinned the three men were left to their own devices. They would become fast friends and spend many Saturdays in the park together surrounded by family and friends. Except sometimes Bill tried to work instead of coming to the park, but Wayne and George never let him get away with that.

“You’d rather work than spend time with us?” Wayne put his hands on his hips.

“That’s not how you treat friends,” George added.

“I didn’t say that.” Bill’s face flushed red.

George put his arms around the shoulders of both men. “Here’s to my new best friends. Life is good, except, how do we get that annoying voice out of our heads?”

Clark Graham is a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and the author of thirty-eight books.

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