The hardest decision I ever made, a short story by GriZa. Date added: 2009-06-14. Times viewed: 1408.
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- Intro: Very short story about a man and how his day goes from bad, to worse. actually written as an english essay so constructive crtisism welcome if possible
The hardest decision I ever made...
I never wanted to be a hero.
I awoke to the sobering humdrum of 5am radio, the recent sport results, some rubbish about the state of the economy and some dubious statistics about global warming and how it was responsible for the recent spate of sudden and tremendous thunder storms that had started to plague the country over the last few months. Interesting as it wasn't, I forced myself out of bed and sat up rubbing the sleep from my eyes. Blearily I reached for a drink off the bedside table. BANG, in the distance Thor hammered and bolts of lightning ripped the skies apart. Although the distant sound of the storms had become a sort of background noise over the recent spring, it was still enough to send a pulse through your body if you had just awoken. "Shit!" I started from the shock and knocked my drink over. I jumped up and in my dreamy delirium and began my search for something to soak up the mess, which in my morning logic meant searching for 5 minutes around the bedroom instead of walking down the hall to get a towel from the bathroom. By the time I had found an old t-shirt, from the day before, the drink had already soaked into the carpet and I stood there staring at the damp patch for a few seconds and muttered "so this is how its gonna be today is it?". It was a rhetorical question but found a reply anyway.
"What are you doing, Rich?". Said a female voice.
I looked to the bed and attempted to make an explanation but was cut off abruptly.
"If you have knocked the drink over again..." she said, extenuating the again as if to say that it happened all the time, its not like I did it every morning anyway. She turned over under the duvet to face me. "Don't use a t-shirt! Use a towel, rich".
It was amazing sometimes how quickly she could change from a peaceful dreamy tone into a sharp stabbing one. I sighed and the room, evidently a little to loudly as I could hear the mocking scorn of her voice.
"How dare thou sigh at me mere mortal, come hither and kiss my feet" She said in her best grandiose voice, a metaphor in itself (if you imagine a ten year old girl doing her best Barry white impression you would more or less have the tone and pitch). I half imagined her settling back into the bed pillows with a self satisfied smirk on her face as she had done a thousand times before. I grinned to myself, this was why I loved her so much, not that I would ever tell her. Deep down I always felt that she had ulterior motives for being with me. She was of oriental ancestry, a petite 5ft 4 frame and a smile that warmed the coldest of hearts. I was always weary of other men around her as I was no prize myself, standing at 6ft 2 with a badly broken nose being my better physical feature, I wouldn't shave for a few days at a time and had completely discarded my vanity many years previously. Apparently I made her laugh, I had no idea how. I never considered myself a funny man, as I had always aspired to be somebody to be taken seriously, I even told her this once, she laughed at me. I was fully aware of what people would say when they found out that we were a couple, talk about beauty and the beast, or one I found particularly amusing was to check to see if he has got big hands or feet. These days I focused more on my fitness and strength, I despised weakness in all its forms, and in a way I felt that I should try and make certain efforts to stay healthy for her, as she was always droning on about how I would die before her because of the cigarettes, and how she would be left alone to fend for herself, a target for conmen and thugs alike. Against all my better judgment this always provoked a gut wrenching pathos within me and I had tried to kick the habit several times, just to end up sulking around snapping at her, then have her put me in my place with one of her ‘I wont take this shit' looks; then sulking around some more. On occasions I would stub my toe or bang my leg on a table then shout at the table for being there, even though it had always been there, and then stare at it daring it to move, or to creak in some sort of defiance, so that I could throw it across the room. It never did.
I came back into the bedroom with a towel and proceeded to dry the carpet, the water had spilt onto my phone, and by the looks of it the phone was ruined. I looked up to see if my liege had seen, as this was the third phone in as many months, and right now I couldn't stand another ‘I told you so' or a ‘I'm not angry just disappointed‘. Sometimes she would say things, not because it needed to be said, but because she had heard people say them in other similar scenarios with great effect, or that by using words like ‘laborious' or ‘Quintessential', even though she wasn't quite sure as to their meaning, would make her appear elegant, I suppose anyway, I never pretended to understand what made her tick, she was an enigma, but she was my enigma. She had not seen the mobile phone and so I proceeded to get dressed in a pair of old stone washed jeans and an old t-shirt, then with a quick glance out of the window, thought it prudent to take my waterproof overalls just in case the storm changed direction. I slipped out the bedroom, as I did the thought crossed my mind to give her a quick kiss goodbye as she hated me leaving for these early morning fishing trips with the guys. I would come back soaking wet and leave all my fishing gear in the hall, whilst I took a bath. Once she tried clearing it away and took a hook to the leg, I heard her scream and came thundering down the stairs to find her sitting on the floor holding her leg with a scornful look and a tear in her eye. I cut the hook with a pair of pliers and then took her to the hospital where she received several shots for one thing and another. We were at the hospital for 6 hours and she didn't speak to me once.
I proceeded down the stairs and saw that my housemate was just preparing for his early morning swim at the local leisure centre.
"Where you off too in these wee hours mate?" I asked him, another rhetorical question I realised as I knew full well he was going swimming.
I felt that he revelled in the fact he was a great swimmer something I had failed to master and he was constantly asking me to come with him, something I would never do again, I hated the fact I swam like an injured wildebeest. I would jump in the pool full of confidence then proceed to swim, sending spray everywhere before reaching the other side and grabbing at the poolside for a much needed rest. When in school I only attained my 50m swim badge, and that was only in backstroke, it was embarrassing and as I grew older I made a half hearted attempt to teach myself the front crawl but I was like a rock, in the end I resigned myself to the fact.
"just going swimming, Rich. You wanna come" he said knowing the answer before he had even finished.
"No thanks, maybe next time" We exited the house together making small talk and I jumped into my car, a Landrover sport, black and glinting in the morning sun, it was going to be a fine day and I wondered why I had bothered bringing my waterproofs at all. I turned the ignition and listened to my baby purr, today might not be such a bad day after all, I thought to myself as I rolled out of the drive and on towards the coast.
It was a long drive around half an hour, but I didn't mind, the sun was shining and the birds singing and thoughts of the legendary ‘big one' filled my head and excited my gut. The location of the beach I had tried to keep secret from as many people as possible, however, when I pulled up there was already an old Fiesta pulled in against the bushes.
"Damn" I said to myself, as I parked up the Landrover, as I realised that none of the guys cars were there. I jumped out of the car and scanned around, there was no sign of them anywhere. I reached to my pocket for my mobile.
"Goddamit" I screamed.
I stood for a second wondering whether or not to go back home, or maybe even drive to a payphone. High tide was an hour away so I decided to just get down to the beach, setup, and if the guys were late that was their problem. I could feel the annoyance boiling inside of me like a mint in a bottle of coke, frothing and fizzing until... BAAAANNG. Another thunderous bolt went off in the distance.
I trundled off down the cliff path towards the little cove with thoughts of the big one swimming around in my head. As I reached the beach I took in a deep breath of saline rot and decay, the deposited wood and plastic and polystyrene starkly contrasting with the boldness of the surrounding natural beauty was something I had grown up with, this is where I belonged. It was a deserted stretch of about 100m or so with harsh rugged cliffs either side of it, and jagged ruinous rocks at the bottom. The rocks were dark and lichen stained, a captains nightmare, and I half fancied that there could be a few smugglers caves around as well, although I had never really bothered to look. To my dismay there was a father and son at the waters edge with a small row boat moored upon the pebbles. They were wearing shorts and a life vest each and the farther was just checking that his sons lifejacket was strapped tightly enough. The father was a large rotund man that I guessed to be in his early forties, he had long scraggily dark hair and reminded me slightly of an orange, whereas his son, a meek lad of around ten years young, was of a very slight build and bouncing around with excitement, much to the annoyance of his farther. The man completed his check of his sons vest and proceeded into a spluttering coughing fit before clearing his throat and pushing the boat into the non-existent surf.
"Do you need a hand?" I shouted out from atop the pebbles, happy that they wouldn't be frolicking around the beach.
"If you wouldn't mind" he shouted back in a gruff voice.
I thought to myself that the art of rhetoric was lost on this idiot. I proceeded down the pebbles and lay my rods and tackle box on a large boulder, I then proceeded towards the father and son and noticed that the father was already wheezing from his exertions.
"Nice day for a swim" I said jovially.
"Ay! O no we are going fishing. Aren't we kiddo" he patted the lad on the shoulder.
"I'm gonna help gramps catch a shark, like the one on jaws, only bigger, and then I'm gonna punch it in the head an kill it, and then eat it" said the kid all in one gasp.
"O yeah" I said, crouching down to eye level with the kid, "can I have some as well"
"Nope, there will only be enough for me and maybe some left for gramps".
At this the man burst out laughing which concluded with another coughing fit.
"C'mon then mate lets get this baby into the water" I said a little taken aback.
"Heeeeeeaaaaave" Yapped the kid, "heeeeeeeaaaaaave Hoooooo"
With the boat in the water and the man rowing out I waved them a goodbye and then when I was positive neither were looking flipped them the finger. "Orrible little kid" I thought to myself. I could hear the man coughing and spluttering and the kid yelping like an excited dog. I walked back over to my gear and began setting it all up.
With everything set up I sat down and lit up a cigarette. I inhaled deeply, there is nothing quite like the fresh sea air to make you appreciate a cigarette. I took the opportunity to scan the water, "goddamit", That idiot and his delinquent grandkid had anchored up about 40 metres out ,smack bang in the middle of the beach, right where I always cast out to, at least the wind was picking up a bit as not to make them have a thoroughly enjoyable day. I glanced at my watch, it was 6:03, the guys should have been here by now. O well they were probably still in bed. I was beginning to wish that I had stayed there as well, I was beginning to feel a little world weary and so took another deep drag on my smoke, then flicked it into the flotsam and jetsam of mother nature. I stood upright for a second, hands on hips looking directly out at the boat to try and intimidate them with my stare into anchoring somewhere else. The old man caught my gaze and waved. I waved back cursing under my breath. The old man in the boat started having a coughing fit again, at that moment it occurred to me that maybe I should quit smoking. Better to be a miserable git than to be coughing and spluttering like an old car engine.
After around five minutes of staring at the pair I decided the old man was too much of an idiot to take my hint, and besides I was beginning to feel a little rain start to fall. I decided to run back to the Landrover and grab my waterproofs in case it got worse. As I looked up at the sky some imposing looking clouds had started to block out the sun and it showed no signs of abating. "Jesus Christ" I said to the world at large, the guys had better have a good explanation as to why they aren't here suffering with me. I unlocked the car to grab my waterproofs when a huge flash lit up the dark clouds, it was beautiful in its scale and raw power, a few seconds later came an almighty crashing boom, it was unlike anything I had ever heard before, I likened it to a cliff being split apart by a huge sledge hammer. The echo's dissipated after a few seconds and the following silence was deafening. There was definite signs of a storm approaching, apart from the thunder the rain was getting worse and the wind had picked up, I could hear the waves getting louder as they crashed into the rocks. A Grim feeling came over me that I couldn't shake. As I walked back down to the beach. I looked out and low and behold, over the wind and rain I could still hear that idiot coughing away like a tractor, only when I reached the top of the beach could I see that the kid was fussing over the old man, and made no attempt when his fishing rod fell over board to grab it. I sniggered to myself like a little school kid, they would have to come back in now, as how can they fish with no rod. BANG, BOOOOM, CRACKLE, the thunder and lightning was so suddenly so close that I actually began to think seriously about packing up and going home. I glanced back at the boat, when a pang of concern for the kid and his gramps suddenly filled my stomach, as the waves were large now and the small boat rocked from side to side. I tried to make eye contact with him so as to wave them in, but the rain was torrential, the sound of crashing waves made it impossible to shout out at them. I suddenly stopped waving and thought that maybe I was over reacting, that maybe the weather wasn't that bad, and that he would row his way back in and curse the fact he lost his rod and grudgingly trundle off home. How embarrassed would I be that I had shown that I cared whether they were capsized or not, they had life vests on any way. So what if they capsized, they would swim ashore and then we would all laugh about it. I laughed, I was ashamed at how meek and nervous I sounded and by how positively self doubting I had become at the slightest hint of a situation appertaining to these two strangers.
I walked down to where my gear was and felt jealous; jealous that they carried my concerns; that a stranger was worried about them; that these people I had never met before and didn't even like were worthy of my worry. My own mates didn't even care enough to let me know that they weren't coming, only one person cared for me and that was myself... and maybe my girl... maybe. I glanced again at the marooned pair. Wait, are they waving, in this weather, waving hello. No, wait,
"oh god", a surge of water.
A black unforgiving wall of gluttonous sea was rolling its way towards the side of the boat. I jumped up and down pointing screaming at them. I slipped, fell, and twisted my ankle on the rocks. I jumped back up, my ankle sprained, I stared as the wave crashed down. The old man looked to see it coming, then looked through the rain directly at me, he was clutching his chest his face white as a ghost as he grabbed for his grand kid, his mouth wide open. I could neither hear him nor make out what he said. The wave crashed over the tiny boat and swallowed it up. A wave of adrenaline hit me like a brick wall, without even realising it I was at the waters edge stripping out of my waterproofs. I paused, in a moment of pure clarity, everything had turned black and white and it felt as though time itself had stopped. Do I jump in, try to save the boy, I knew somehow that the man was dead already, do I run for help with an injured ankle and risk the boy being taken by the rip tide whilst I'm gone, help could be seconds or minutes away. On the other hand death could be only seconds away for the boy, how would I live with myself, I must act now, I must. I might drown, I cant swim properly then we would both die, O my god I could die. He could die, we could both die.
An indecipherable screech came through the wind and waves, and the hairs on my back stood on end.
As if by magic, time suddenly caught up with itself. I made the conscious decision to try and save the boy, I was scared, and angry at being put in this situation, but the overriding feeling was a primal fear that I was very possibly about to die and nobody would ever know how or why. The feeling that one day someone would find my Landrover parked up next to an old Ford Fiesta and say ' hmm! that's odd', and then carry on with their meaningless existence and never find out about what had happened here on one stormy morning in the height of summer.
BANG, BANG, CRASH, BANG, another flurry of thunder and lightning awoke me from my thoughts and bestowed a second adrenaline rush. I felt super human and jumped into the water fully clothed and still wearing my boots.
Another cry for help.
CRASH, it sounded as though the lightning was hitting the beach. I could hear it even under the waves which were crashing and piling onto me every few seconds. I tried to look up over the waves to see the boy, then back where I thought the beach was, I could barely make out the cliffs, as a black mist had shrouded the coast. It could be night time now for the darkness that had engulfed the place. The rain was torrential and it was hard to breath even when I managed to get my head above the waves. Each time that it seemed the wind and waves had reached a crescendo they would increase in their ferocity yet further, enveloping me within them allowing me only half a breath before pushing me down, down under the sea that I had loved so much and was now fighting against to save the life of a boy I neither cared for, nor liked.
"h e e e e lllp" came a voice behind me.
I had found him, he was clutching a life jacket that contained no body. His head momentarily breaking the surface then going back under again and again. I struggled toward him, feeling my clothes dragging me, sapping at my strength, they were pulling me down, I fought my way back up to the surface and took a mouthful of air and seawater, choking and gagging, I vomited, my gut wrenched and I tried to wretch only to find myself back under water. I fought my way again to the surface, this time I was next to the boy. "its going to be all right" I yelled.
" Gramps, he just fell out the boat over by there you have to get him, he will save us."
I grimaced at the boy and all at once it felt as though I had been plucked out of a dream and placed here, the adrenaline had worn off and was now taking its toll. My muscles had started to cramp and I vomited again. I looked toward the coastline, it was a long way off, too far off. I looked back at the boy, a great pity inside took hold. But to do that to a ten year old boy was not in me. I looked at him and he looked at me. This is the end...
"No" I screamed. A grim determination swept over me along with another wave, I grabbed the boy, he was my reason to survive, but as I swam my legs would entangle into his and I would have to stop. Whenever I rose to the top of a swell the coast seemed further and further away I looked around for passing boats, I looked up for helicopters, I even prayed for a passing submarine that somehow had lost course to rise from the black depths and rescue us. No help came. I looked again at the lad, wait, where is he?
"Hey kid!" There was no reply. He must have slipped out of the life jacket when one of the waves had pushed us under.
"HEEEEEE EEEEEEE ELLP" I yelled as I intermittently bobbed back to the surface.
I tried to put the life jacket on but to no avail, it was a child's one and I couldn't even get both my arms into it. I held on tight and looked about me. CRASH, BANG, CRASH, again the thunder banged, this time lighting up the cliffs far into the distance. I was getting further and further from the shore, and was being swept out by the currents, I was doomed. Again the waves crashed over me, this time I made a half hearted effort to return to the surface. I thought about my father laughing, my mother talking, my brothers and me playing football aged ten or eleven, and when one of them grazed their knee and we thought he might die because he was bleeding so much. I began to think about her, how I wish I had kissed her goodbye, I thought about the letters I still hadn't posted for her. I thought how she was going to kill me when she found out I had broke my phone. I thought of my gym teachers disappointment, at how I let an old man and a young boy die. I wondered if I had locked the car. I wondered if at any second I would wake up in a cold sweat and breath a sigh of relief. I didn't.
I inhaled, I choked and spluttered and inhaled some more. I thought, at least it wasn't the smoking that did me in, that's not funny I thought .I struggled and vomited, and then, everything faded into sepia and I was peaceful, slowly, very slowly, losing consciousness. I realised that something was coming. It was death, but, it was not the end. I never wanted to be a hero.
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