Without a Nightlight

Without a Nightlight

From Chicken Soup for the Kid's Soul

Without a Nightlight

Whatever failures I have known, whatever errors I have committed . . . have been the consequence of action without thought.

Bernard M. Baruch

The moon shone down on the lake like a spotlight. It was a warm summer evening, and I found the night sky, with its glistening stars, relaxing to watch. Five of us were sitting on the dock, wishing we could go for a swim. Paul asked Chelsea and me if we wanted to get on a big yellow tube and go across the cove. It sounded like fun.

We were on the tube, paddling across the lake, when Chelsea said that she was having doubts. Was it safe crossing the lake in this tube? Paul said that he had done this before and that there was nothing to worry about. The boat speed limit was five miles an hour and all boats needed to have at least two lights on.

We were cruising along when, suddenly, Kari started yelling from the dock, saying she heard a boat coming. We didn’t think anything about it, figuring we were on the opposite side from where the boat would be. Then suddenly, the noise became loud enough for us to hear over our splashing feet. We all began to panic.

We yelled back to the dock, asking them if they could see a boat, but no one could. So we kept going until the roar was louder than our voices. Then, all of a sudden, Kari started screaming, “Come back!” Her voice sounded scared, so we desperately started looking for a boat. Out of nowhere, over the roar of the engine and the kicking of our feet, Kari yelled, “Oh my God, there’s a boat!” The way she said it terrified me and I started to cry. None of us knew what to do.

We stayed as still as we could. Chelsea and I were on the tube. She was on my left and Paul was on my right, floating in the water. Once we were still, all I could hear was my heart pounding, the yelling all around me, and the roar of a boat coming closer and closer every second. Then suddenly, right in front of me, was my worst nightmare. There, just a few feet away, was the boat. It was coming right at us!

Chelsea froze right in her spot, screaming. I pushed her into the water and jumped in after her, just in time to save my own life. As I went under water, I felt the boat skidding over my shoulder like a jet.

I looked up through the water, but at first I could not find the surface. Finally, I got to the top and took the biggest breath I’ve ever taken. But the terrifying situation was not over. The boat came back, looking for what it had struck, and almost hit us again.

Chelsea was above the water by the time I came up, and I could hear her yelling for Paul and me. I answered her, but Paul did not. It seemed as though we were calling for Paul forever, but thinking back, it was only about twenty seconds. At last, Paul came to the surface, and we made it back to the dock. Kari had to pull me in with the life rope because I felt like I could not move. Once we all got onto the dock, one of the men who was in the boat brought our tube in for us.

Paul kept saying that it was his fault and that he was to blame for us almost being killed. We assured him that we had made the decision to go and that he was not to blame. We sat on the dock telling our own versions of what had happened. The only way that our stories differed was the way the boat hit all of us. The boat hit me on the shoulder while I was trying to push off the bottom of the boat. Chelsea pushed off the boat with her hands; Paul got hit on the head. Everyone agreed that I had saved Chelsea by pushing her off the tube.

The next afternoon, which was Father’s Day, my parents and I went over to Paul’s house to have a cookout. When we were all sitting on the dock, we told them our story. I spent a lot of the day thinking about how lucky we were just to be alive. That moment gave me nightmares for almost a year. To this day, I can still see the color of the waves and feel the way my heart was beating when I finally came up for air. That was one experience that I will never forget.

Without a doubt, the next time we go out on the lake at night, we’ll bring along a light!

Jessica Harper, age 14

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