A Fearless Jump

October 29, 2017
By , Franklin Lakes, NJ

         Sweat drips down my forehead as Roger hands me yet another barley bag.  With the sun relentlessly pounding down on our backs, I want to take the burley bag and crawl underneath it.  I think to myself that any rest from these hours of work would be welcome.  Suddenly, as if my thoughts were heard aloud, a man shouts out, “Boss said we could finish early today!  We’re going to the river for a swim!”  This is exactly what I had wished for!  I shout out in glee and drop the bag right where I am standing.  As soon as I begin to sprint in the direction of the river, Roger tugs me back by my shoulder.  “Whoa there Pete!  You’ll get lost running ahead of all the guys,” he points ahead and declares, “See, you weren’t even going in the right direction.”
         “Sorry, Roger.  I-I really tried to remember, I did.”  My voice stammers as Roger regards me with a confusing look in his eyes.
         He murmurs, “I bet you did Pete.  C’mon, let’s go cool off.”  Roger and I walk along the trail to the river, listening to the men shout to one another up ahead.  The leaves are still a vibrant green and hurt my eyes when I stare at them for too long, yet they still offer shade from the sun.  Roger reassures me that my favorite time of the year is coming soon though, when the leaves turn all different sorts of reds, yellows, and oranges.
     The image of these colors fade as we walk near the river.  The pounding water that resonates through the ground acknowledges our arrival, yet does not slow.  We amble up onto an overhanging rock placed precariously over the running water.  I’ve always been jealous of the fearless men that would jump off of it as if they had nothing to lose.  Roger confirmed to me one night that they do, in fact, have absolutely nothing to lose.  Without thinking, I step close to the rock and try peering over the lip of it.  The guys take notice and start cheering me on.  I don’t know why, for all I am doing is looking at the distance from where we are to the bottom.  Some of the guys I’ve seen around the ranch roughly push me to the border of the rock and start chanting, “Peter!  Peter!  PETER!”
     The realization hits me that they are pressuring me to jump off the rock.
     Overwhelmed, I yell, “N-no, I don’t, I can’t jump.  I have to stay up here and stay safe, I have Roger, and we need each other.  I can’t lose him!”  Looking back fearfully to Roger, he considers me with his steely blue eyes.  With no reaction from him, I turn back.  Breathing in deeply, standing at the slippery edge, I can feel the cool, gray rock on my bare feet.  The sound of rushing water drowns out all the clamoring of the men, yet the suddenness of Roger’s cool, clear voice is completely audible.
     “Jump in.”  My head whips around once more in shock.  I know Roger has always been nice to me; of course he wouldn’t mean any harm.  So, after only a moment to register the surprise of Roger’s command, I turn back around and jump.  The wind tears me apart from all sides and I can smell the damp shirt that has been pushed over my nose, nearly covering my face.  I see a blur of green, what I think should be trees.  It is hard to focus on any image with my stomach up in my throat.  Suddenly, I feel an impact.  Landing in the river feels like hitting concrete.  Immediately, my face begins to burn.  My mouth, nose, and eyes are on fire.  All these new feelings I’ve never experienced.  My instinct is to scream, but all that does is make the fire worse.  My arms flail and my legs kick helplessly.  I’m not used to this vulnerability and silently plead for an end.  After what feels like hours, a powerful arm wraps around my waist.  My body is tugged through the water.  Then, I hit solid ground.  Water rushes from my face and with a cough, I can breathe again.  The yellow sun shines around my savior like a halo.  I squint and recognize the person as Roger.  His brown hair sticks to his head and neck.  His arms are on his knees and his breath violently rack his whole body.  Delighted to see him again, I smile.  I knew Roger would protect me.






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