Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Blue, Man's Best Friend

Huh? Jason was just there a minute ago. (kjhosein. Wiki.)

Tiffany Lambert watched Jason Parker wade into the lake.

“God, they grow so fast at that age.” 

Meg Parker lay on the blanket beside her, propped up on two elbows.

She took an appraising glance at her shoulders, judging whether to apply more goop just yet.

“He won’t want to go anywhere with his mother before long.”

“No. I suppose you’re right.” Meg watched as Jason plunged into the blue sandy depths. 

The water was calm and clear as glass.

Multicoloured rocks along the shoreline, white gulls standing fifty feet away and watching them speculatively, the water, the clouds rolling past on the Michigan side, the somnolent heat of the day, it all combined to give a feeling of comfortable timelessness.

She was tempted to look at her watch, but tried to properly appreciate a pair of white sailboats cruising east a half-mile offshore. What had she been thinking of? Meg wasn’t exactly young anymore, and the beach was just plain boring. Several hours of relaxation sounded so good over the phone, unfortunately it gave a person time to think of all the important things being left undone.

Two hundred yards out, there was a lone swimmer, just a black dot for a head and an arm coming up out of the water in measured pace. Light glinted off his goggles and he was wearing some kind of wetsuit.

Jason’s older brother Tom and Tiffany's son Mark were both fifteen. Strong swimmers with years of lessons, and all the life-saving badges to prove it, they were paddling strongly for a big yellow ball in the water that she thought was for sailboats. It was one end of a triangular course. Meg had read it in the paper.

Tiffany sat up, shading her eyes and looking out at the water.

“Jason!” The boy kept stroking, head down in the water and he probably couldn’t hear his mother.

“Tell him to come back.”

Jason was trying to catch up with the older boys. Meg realized that her own limited swimming skills would be of no use in a real emergency.

“Jason!” Tiffany got up and walked down to the water’s edge as Blue, curled up in the sand with his nose stuck in his behind, lifted his big head and gave a gruff little bark as he stared at Tiffany.

“Jason!” The tone was high and strident, and for a moment, it seemed he looked back at her and waved. 

Meg couldn’t quite be sure.

Then he soldiered on, heedlessly.

“Shit!” Meg looked around.

The lifeguard was half a mile up the public beach, where the city had placed volleyball nets, and there was a chip truck and plenty of parking under the lights. This part of the beach was unpatrolled.

Lips moving silently in heartfelt prayer, Meg Parker watched as the two older boys seemed to meet up with the first swimmer. They treaded water fifty yards from the buoy, but she could catch no sound from this distance, with the waves and the light breeze and the sound of boat motors and airplanes hanging in the air.

Jason was in trouble.

Tiffany screamed and Meg leapt to her feet, running to the water’s edge and screaming and crying before thinking of her cell phone.

Meg moaned and cried and tried to dash into the lake, but Jason was too far out and she just stood there, yelling and screaming as the three swimmers already in the water remained oblivious to the fact that Jason was drowning right before his horrified mother’s eyes.

With a lunge out of nowhere, the dog raced for the water’s edge, legs a blur as it emitted one short, sharp back and Tiffany turned, tears falling down her cheeks and spit flying from her open mouth as the dog splashed into Lake Huron and struck out in a strong manner for where Jason had just gone down for the third time.

“Oh, God, oh God, oh God.” Tiffany was hysterical, shrieking at the people out there, and they just weren’t listening.

The dog left a wake behind it, head held high and eyes riveted on the widening ripples where Jason was last seen.

Meg’s shaking fingers finally managed to get her phone out of her bag, and dial 911. She shouted into the phone and the dispatcher tried to calm her down and get some sense of what was happening.

“Jason’s drowning! Jason’s drowning!” Meg yelled the name of the beach and then ran to the water’s edge. 

“Don’t go in! Don’t go in! Please, Tiff, don’t go in there!”

She put the phone up to her head again as the dog approached Jason’s watery grave.

Finally, Mark and Tom were looking this way and yet they still didn’t move or swim.

Meg waved frantically at them, trying to get the urgency across and finally one moved off and the other two began swimming back to shore.

Meg dropped to her knees in the sand and cried. From the south, behind the beach and somewhere in the city proper, the faint wail of sirens began. They gradually got louder and then the strong voice of a male in a bathing suit was right there at her shoulder.

“Jason’s drowning!” Tiffany pointed, but it was futile as there was nothing to see.

Meg didn’t even see the dog out there anymore, just the one swimmer at the buoy and the other two almost halfway back. The noise and the action on shore had caught their attention, as they put their heads down and struck out more strongly.

“Oh, please, please, please come back to me.” Meg watched her son in anguish.

They must still be in eight or ten feet of water.

The police were arriving, striding calmly through the deep sand with notebooks and radios and one hand always on their holster.

The male in the bathing suit, a muscular young fellow, was in the water, trying to pull Tiffany back in, and her hysteria was making the job very difficult as he pleaded with her.

“What’s going on here, Ma’am?” The two cops, male and female, eyed her and Tiffany.

“Her son went down and never came up.” They reached for the microphones clipped to their lapels.

“And what’s the mother’s name?”

“Tiffany.” The female cop moved to intercept her as she came up out of the water.

Tiffany threw herself into the sand and moaned in her anguish.

Meg pointed urgently. People had been resuscitated before, even after ten or fifteen minutes.

“Right out there…God, maybe two hundred yards.”

Of course the cop had no idea of just exactly what that meant, and they would need to get boats and divers and things…a sob overcame her.

That’s when she saw the dog.

Its head popped up out of the water.

“There! Right there!”

The officer’s head spun to look as he fingered his microphone and began talking into it.

Men dressed in firefighting equipment raced past, four of them carrying a rubber dingy with a motor already on the back and another man followed in scuba gear, plodding along on his huge flippers and with only the mask pushed back, revealing a face and the humanity within.

“God. God. Please. No.” The cop restrained Tiffany from tearing at her hair and two more figures, bearing a backboard, knelt down to talk to her and take charge of her as the cop straightened up.

The officer, a pleasant-looking blonde woman of no petite dimensions, turned and looked out to the water.

“He’s got him!” Meg shouted and jumped for joy, clapping her hands and trying to whistle at the dog but her mouth was all twisted up and it wouldn’t work right anymore. “Blue! Blue! Oh, fuck, what a beautiful dog! Bring him here, boy!”

The officer beside her was speechless, but then he threw his notebook down and began shouting at the dog, the men in the boat and the boys still in the water.

“You! In the water! Get out of the water!” He cupped his hands around his mouth and made it carry.

Everyone, the crowd, other bathers and people from the adjacent picnic area, were all shouting at once, rooting for the boy and his dog.

Meg and the assembled crowd watched in horror and wonder as the dog, who was making painfully slow progress as the boat raced on paddles alone to meet them.

She watched, unable to tear herself away, as Tiff, sedated quickly and strapped to the board, rolled her eyes and gnashed her teeth in low, feral, incoherent moans.

They were transferring Jason into the boat, rocking gently on its own swells.

“Yes! Yes!” Meg couldn’t stop crying and sobbing, but she got it out.

With a gargantuan effort, the dog half-jumped in and willing hands dragged him aboard.

His titanium joints, blue plastic shell and opalescent eyes gleamed in triumph even from this distance. Meg stood with her hands over her mouth and waited.

Blue sat on the prow of the boat with tongue hanging out and a canine grin that was unmistakable.

The men on board had Jason face-down and were pumping water out of him…the bow touched the shore and they leapt out. The dog raced up, tail wagging and face alight with the boundless joy of all dogs everywhere, and Meg fell to her knees and embraced him.

“Good dog! Good dog! Oh, Blue, you’re such a good dog.” His neoprene shoulder and hip pads were almost dry already and he was almost more than she could handle in his excitement.

She clung to him, giving way to her own tears again and she could barely see through the haze.

Another board was right there at the shoreline, and the attendants quickly loaded Jason up and whisked him away up the beach to the parking lot and a waiting ambulance. Other attendants picked up Tiff and in a more relaxed pace, took her off as well.

Meg followed, hoping against hope, and praying that God would intervene and give Jason a miracle.

He was a good boy and too young to die. Please, God.


It made all the papers and got a brief spot on the television evening news. There was a half-page photo of Jason in his hospital bed with one arm around the dog, proudly displaying the bite marks on his right bicep, the dog with front paws up on the bed and head turned towards the camera with that irrepressible grin. His mom and dad leaned in on each side of Blue and Jason, pure pride and love and heartfelt thanks just beaming out of them.

The headline was simple enough: Man’s best friend saves drowning child.


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