Rising Tide on Plum Island
Plum Island was deserted except for a slightly offbeat mother, her twelve-year-old daughter and four young sons, including five-year-old twins. I was that mother. If there were another whose children were running wild and free on the island that Easter Sunday, she was nowhere in sight.
A winter chill hung on the breeze. Ripples furrowed the sandy flats into hard ridges. The distant surf glistened under intermittent sunbeams. While his sister and brothers leaped off the dunes, nine-year-old Allan wandered off to the jetty. He skipped from rock to rock, scattering hermit crabs, dodging salt spray. Half way to the end of the breakwater, happy in his dream world, he lost his balance. One foot jammed deep into a crevice. For a few minutes, he struggled to free himself, but to no avail.
“Mommy, Billy, I’m stuck!” he shouted as he thrashed about. “I’m going to drown. Mommy, I’m going to drown!” Then he laid across the rocks and succumbed to his tears.
“We’re coming, Allan!” seven-year-old Billy cried out as he raced towards his big brother, the rest of us running as fast as we could.
Allan sniffled and wiped his nose on his sleeve, pulling himself erect as if to show his courage, not let on that he was terrified.
“I’ll get you out…don’t worry,” Billy said, short of breath and long on encouragement.
I clenched my teeth to control my anxiety as I knelt beside my eldest son. Clearly, his foot was wedged tight between the rocks. I scanned the Atlantic, trying to determine if the tide was coming in and then realized, in near hysteria, sooner or later it always comes in! There was no time to run for fire engines or ambulances or bulldozers. Besides, I couldn’t leave the kids alone and drive miles in an old Chevy that was far less than reliable. Where could I go for help on Easter? I asked myself and drew a blank. The family had to extricate Allan.
I tried to keep my senses about me as Allan shuddered with watery chills and mounting fear. Leslie and Billy knelt beside me and tugged Allan under his arms.
“Son, grab Billy around his waist and twist your foot while he tries to pull you up. Hang on tight!”
What if we can’t free him? Do we all drown in this God-forsaken place? My God, must we cut off Allan’s leg to save his life? With what? Where is everybody? In church, of course. What in God’s name am I going to do?
“He’s not budging,” Billy said, as I cursed our beloved Plum Island from deep in my soul.
“OK, kids, let’s all push together and try to loosen this rock.”
Attempting to move a huge block of granite would be a vain endeavor but I had to say something while hoping against hope for an inspired solution.
“We need a tank.”
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