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The Price of Life

It was a hot summer night when I first noticed him watching us. It was the usual chaotic neighborhood get together; adults drank and talked while the kids played in the pool. Everybody was had a good time, except for him. All night he’d venture closer and closer to us, reaching his hand down into the water and being tugged away by his mother. I was curious about the boy. Why couldn’t he play with us? Who was he? I’d never seen him around before yet, tonight, he became the center of my attention.

All night he snuck away from his mother and came closer to us kids in the pool. Particularly attracted to all the pool toys, he reached in for them, pushing himself too far and continuously almost falling in the water. As the night went on people came and went and when I noticed the boy wasn’t around anymore I figured him and his mother had gone. It began to get late; my brother and I stayed later than ever and my parents showed no sign of leaving anytime soon. As our parents talked and danced to Jimmy Buffet while we kids decided to night swim.
As other kids got out I decided to take one last glance around the pool. In the deep end I noticed something that looked vaguely like a person. I looked around and counted my neighbors, my brother, and I outside, 4 kids, as there were when we got in earlier. Who was that 5th person? I kept counting and recounting, confusing myself. I soon convinced myself it was only a pool toy, but decided to swim out to the deep just to be sure. As I got closer to the deep end I realized it most certainly was not a pool toy, but instead the little boy I’d seen all night.
The boy floated face down in the water. Panic struck. I began to call for help but nobody could hear me over Cheeseburger in Paradise. I knew I had to flip him over onto his back so he could breathe; I struggled with it, but eventually got him flipped over. I knew I had to have to save him on my own since nobody could hear me. I tried to push him to the side but found it too difficult with all the pool toys and rafts in my way so I decided I’d have to lift him up out of the water and swim him to the side. I did the only thing I could do, I swam underneath of him and lifted him up with my arms and tried treading water to the side. I ran out of energy quick, and my head slowly fell beneath the water. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t call for help. I started to panic but slowly forced myself to calm down. I knew that I needed to push my head out of the water to call for help or we were both going to drown. I used all the power I had to push my head up and attempt to scream; unfortunately it came out as a cough, but not loud enough to be heard. No response. Once again I plunged under the water. I calmed myself down, and decided to try one last attempt to get help. I kicked my legs as hard as I could, got my head above the water, and yelled, “Mommy there is a boy in the pool who can’t swim!”

In that moment I felt body after body jump into the pool to help. My neighbors grabbed the boy and took him out of the pool to safety as I swam on my own back to the shallow end. I will never forget the look of terror on my father’s face as I approached him. I watched that boy throw up water like a fountain for what felt like the longest time. His mother came rushing outside and began to yell at him in front of everybody. I was shocked. At the end of the night she approached me and gave me $5 for saving him. It shocked me that she gave me a reward, but it was even more shocking that $5 was the value she place on her son’s life.

It has been 10 years and I still don’t know the boy’s name or what he went on to do with his life. As scary as that experience was, I would do it all over again today. I was seven years old when I saved a stranger’s life.




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