“Mine!” He yelled and walked into the water, not anticipating the next wave which knocked him down and took him under. He remembered flailing, the burning of water going into this nose and throat. His head had bobbed up for a moment and he saw his mother running into the ocean too, arms slapping into the chilly water.
“My baby!” She screamed and the boy could do nothing. He kept going further and further away.
The little boy, now an old man, remembered the strong hands grabbing his skinny arms, pulling and pulling and pulling until he could feel the gritty sand on his legs. The lifeguard patted his back as he spit out salty water. His father knelt beside him, sandwiching his face between his hands.
“Are you ok? Are you ok?” The boy nodded but his father wasn’t looking at him anymore but past him, above his head, at the ocean.
“Maura? Maura?” He whipped his head to look all around but none in the small crowd was Maura, the boy’s mother.
His father had scrambled up and ran towards the ocean screaming. A few of the men had to restrain him from swimming after her. The boy looked out at the ocean as his father sat down on the sand, grabbing his hair, rocking back and forth, sobbing loudly. In the distance, the boy could make out his birthday gift, his red beach ball, bobbing in the waves.
Boom! The lights went off in the diner.
“Oh! Freakin’ fantastic!” the waitress said as she stood up and went to the kitchen without addressing the old man. “Ted!” she yelled.
One more sip of his coffee and the old man pulled a few dollar bills from his wallet and placed them on the counter. The rain pelted him at a slant as he walked towards his truck. He looked to the right at the ocean and stopped in his tracks. In the middle of the road, amidst the chaotic weather, was a red beach ball. He blinked and there it remained. The old man walked towards it and bent down to pick it up. The ball was perfectly inflated and shiny like new. He had had no time to react or to even comprehend the headlights of the semi-truck, speeding towards him.
The waitress heard the loud squeal of the truck tires as the driver braked suddenly, too late. She ran out and knelt beside the old man on the wet ground, his eyes were closed and blood trailed out of the corner of his mouth, mixing with the rain. There was no red beach ball in sight. The EMT’s said that he likely died on impact.
“Crazy old man,” the police office said to the waitress as they watched the body being bagged.
“Crazy old man,” she repeated. “Crazy old man.