“Hey Mark, let’s go over to the lake and take some swings off the tree.”
“Yeah, c’mon let’s go. It’ll be fun.”
Mark Piccolo ducked underwater as his two friends splashed him in Donny Nevin’s above ground pool. “Are you crazy?” Mark said popping his head back up. “There’s still a shark in the lake.”
“There’s no shark. It’s dead stupid. Let’s go off the tree,” his friend Brian said.
Down the street was a large elm with a branch that hung out over the water. Years ago someone had tied a thick rope on the overhang so kids could grab it and swing out. If they did it right, they could swing pretty high up then dive into the water.
“But my dad says the lake’s still closed. The shark might still be in it,” Mark insisted, figuring that his father being the sheriff held some weight with his friends.
“So what! You’re not afraid are you?” Donny said taunting him.
“Not afraid of the big bad shark that’s dead anyway?” Brian persisted. “Let’s go!”
“What are you going to tell your mom?” Mark asked. This was his last way out of going to the lake. He was sure Donny’s mother wouldn’t let him go.
“I’ll tell her we’re going over to Stevie’s house for awhile.”
Steve Ryan lived two doors away closer to the lake. They had no intention of stopping there though. Steve was covered with poison ivy and couldn’t come out.
Mark waited near the pool while Donny went inside to ask his mother for permission to go to Stevie’s. He hoped she would say no. But after a minute or two he came back outside.
“Let’s go,” he said.
Donny and Brian grabbed their towels and headed out to the street. “You comin’?” Donny asked.
Mark got out of the pool and picked up his towel. It was another hour before his mother was due to pick him up. She had specifically told him that he was to go nowhere else but Donny’s pool.
“C’mon scaredy cat. Let’s go.”
The tree was only minutes away. Mark knew he could be back in the pool before his mother got there. Boy she and his dad would kill him if they found out.
“Are you comin’ or not?”
“Yeah, I’m comin’” Mark said grabbing his towel.
“Okay, last one down there’s a rotten egg.”
The boys took off running down the dirt road to the lake. Donny got there first, threw his towel on the ground and grabbed the rope. He got a good running start, then swung out over the water.
“Yaaaaahooo,” he yelled, letting go of the rope. His straightened his legs, raised his hands high over his head and fell with a splash into the water. As soon as he was clear from under the rope, Brian grabbed it and swung out. “Tarzan-nnnnn,” he yelled swinging out even farther than Donny.
It was Mark’s turn. He stared at the water looking for signs of the shark. But there were only ripples around where Donny and Brian had landed. There wasn’t any shark. His friends were right, it was dead. Hadn’t been seen for a month now. He grabbed the rope and swung out high in the air where he let go and came down perfectly straight into the water.
“Nice dive Mark,” Brian said treading water nearby. “Let’s go again.”
The three boys ran out of the water and scrambled for the rope. Donny got there first and took his swing, landing farther out in the water than before.
“Let’s see you guys beat this!” he shouted while treading water.
Mark was next. He took the rope and pulled it back as far as it would go to get a longer swing. He got a good running start and swung high in the air. At the top of the swing, he let go and landed about six feet farther than Donny.
“Beat you,” he said after popping back up on the surface.
But Donny wasn’t looking at him. He was looking at Brian who was waving his hands frantically on the shore.
“The shark!” he screamed. “It’s coming right behind you!”
Both boys turned around and saw the shark’s dorsal fin moving toward them. Without saying a word they started swimming for the shore about twenty yards away.
Mark swam as fast as he could, taking long strokes and kicking his feet wildly. He didn’t dare look back. He knew he wouldn’t feel the shore under him until he was practically on the beach. The reason they were able to swing off the tree was because there was deep water right beneath it.
His heart was beating wildly and he tried to make the most of every stroke. The water thrashed around him and he didn’t know whether it was the shark or Donny swimming beside him. With each kick he thought the shark would grab his leg with its sharp teeth and tear into it. He looked up and saw the shore was just ahead. A few more feet and he would feel rocks and sand under him. He swam faster, using every ounce of energy left in his body.
Why did he listen to his friends? His father and mother had told him a thousand times, “don’t go into the lake. Don’t even go near it.”
Just when he thought he couldn’t swim any farther his hand hit a rock on the down stroke. He quickly got his feet under him and slipped on the same rock falling into shallow water. He got back up and scrambled ashore catching his breath. He looked up at the tree and saw Brian still screaming.
“The shark is almost on top of Donny. It’s going to get him!”
Mark turned around and saw Donny was almost to the shore but the shark was right behind him. Mark thought quickly. “Throw down the stick!” he yelled to Brian.
There was long tree branch they used to get the rope back when it swung too far out. Brian threw it down to Mark.
Mark went a few feet into the water and stretched out the tree branch. Donny was just a foot or two away from it. With one more stroke he’d be able to reach it. The shark was diving underwater.
Mark went another two steps into the water almost falling again on a rock. But Donny had the end of the branch now. He grabbed it tight and Mark began pulling. He pulled with all his might while Donny held on until he was in shallow water. Then Mark dropped the branch and he and Donny stumbled up onto the rocky beach. They fell to the ground gasping for breath.
Seconds later Mark looked back and saw the dorsal fin turn in the opposite direction as the shark headed away towards Vaughn’s Neck. It had come very close to getting Donny, within just a few feet.
Donny lay on the beach and tried to hold back tears but couldn’t. He started to sob and Mark knelt down beside him. “It’s okay,” he said. “He didn’t get you. You’re okay.”
Brian scrambled down the rocks and joined them.
“Man, you saved him,” he said to Mark. “If you didn’t pull him in with the branch the shark would’ve got him.”
They stood over Donny who was wiping tears from his eyes. He had considered himself the toughest of the three and their leader. Now he was not only humbled but owed his life to Mark who he had often hit on as being afraid of everything.
“Thanks,” he said to Mark as he got to his feet. “Thanks for helping me.”
“It’s okay,” Mark replied. The only thing he wanted now was to get back to Donny’s house where he was supposed to be. But first he realized that he was in a position now to insure that nobody ever found out they had gone into the lake.
“We have to make a pact right here, right now,” he said in as firm a voice as he could. “We have to promise that we won’t tell anyone we were at the lake. And most of all that we didn’t see a shark. I know my parents would kill me if they found out and I’ll bet yours would too.”
“So what do we say?” Brian asked.
Mark thought quickly and then said. “Donny told his mom we were going over to Stevie’s house. That’s where we went. We hung around with him for awhile and then came back.”
“What about our wet bathing suits?” Donny said looking down at his dripping suit.
“That’s why we have to get back right now. We’ll go right back into your pool before your mother sees us.”
The two other boys nodded.
“Okay,” Mark said. “We gotta agree now that nobody says nuthin’ about being down at the lake and nuthin’ about the shark. Deal?” He held out his hand to the others. Both boys slapped it in agreement. “Let’s get back to Donny’s,” Mark said already on the run.
When they got near Donny’s they ran in back of some pine trees to be hidden from the house. Then they jumped in the pool. They weren’t in there five minutes when Donny’s mother came out of the house. The three boys held their breath hoping she hadn’t found out they had been at the lake.
“I thought you said you were going to Stevie’s,” she said looking at them curiously.
“Stevie couldn’t come out,” Donny said.
“So we came right back here,” Brian added.
“Oh,” she said. “Well have fun.” She was about to go back in the house, but then added, “Mark, your mother just called and said she’ll be coming to pick you up in about ten minutes.”
“Thank Mrs. Nevins,” Mark said innocently.
“You’re welcome,” she said. “And Donny, I want you out of the pool when she comes. You’ve got to get changed. We’re going out to dinner when your father gets home.”
She went back inside and the boys breathed a sigh of relief. Nobody would know they had been at the lake and almost got bitten by the shark. Their secret was safe.
Other ebooks by Bob Neidhardt are
Kill The Author, Mr. Best Selling Author and Tarnished Bronze.
All are available on Amazon.com