His name was Edward, the brother of an ex-girlfriend.
It was mid-summer, a real scorcher of a day. We went, as a whole group, to a park with a small beach along the river.
We set ourselves up on a wooden bench, unpacking a picnic onto the table. Edward was excited about swimming and scoffed down some sandwiches. It wasn’t long before he was off into the water.
The group chatted, watched Edward’s antics in the water, ate, drank soft-drinks, and had ice cream from the nearby shop.
Edward was in and out of the water, topping up on drinks, snacks, ice cream, and sun-tan lotion.
Mid-day came and went, and we reached the mid-afternoon. We had become comfortable on our bench, and complacent of Edward being in the water playing with the other kids.
Then we heard a boy’s cry. “Mummy!”
There he was, fifty metres from the beach, up to his waist in mud. The tide, in a space of minutes, had gone out.
He tried to pull himself free, but his lack of upper-body strength and the mud’s hold meant he was trapped.
He was distraught, crying for help.
The family rushed over, while I stayed back to watch our belongings. I looked on from the bench.
The family, and other by-standers were grouped together. The mother tried to walk out to him, but within a matter of metres she too found it almost impossible to move in the sticky mud, her legs being swallowed up to the knees. She had to retreat to the beach.
There were calls for ladders, or ropes, but there was nothing around. What about the fire brigade?
I looked from Edward, to the mud, to the family.
I can do that, I thought. I’m the only young, fit, strong person here. I’m the only one that can even try.
Calmly, I rolled up my jeans as far as they would go. That calm, I remember now, was eery. As though, I had found enlightenment.
I walked from the bench to the group. “Someone needs to watch the stuff,” I said. Without another word to anyone, I waded out into the mud.
The mud was light, a soupy mass that hungrily ate whatever applied pressure on it. The further I went, the deeper each leg went in.
By the time I was six, or seven, metres from Edward, I was up to my knees with each step. I spoke some calm words of encouragement.
I never felt like the mud was too much. If it had been, I would have stopped. But, for how hard it was, I knew I was stronger than the mud. I told Edward, as I made the final part of distance to him, what the plan was. We would do it together.
I reached him and in a smooth movement, I stepped forward, grabbed him under the armpits and hauled him out like I was lifting a sack of potatoes. I finished the move by throwing him onto the mud.
The move now meant that I was personally up to my thighs in the mud.
The mud wanted me.
But, Edward wasn’t saved yet. I hauled my right leg out and took a step forward, pulled out my left leg – that was encased in the mud, like a plaster caste.
I was able to move again.
I made the distance to Edward, grabbed a hand and dragged and half threw him forward as I waded back to the beach. We repeated this until we made it back.
We reached the beach, both covered in this thick, grey-brown mud. Edward looked at me as though I was Superman.
And that’s how I saved a boy’s life. And I know I would do it again.
There are moments in life where sometimes your intuition will tell you what you are capable of. And there are situations where a few of us get a calling, a push of inertia, that says:
KG Heath is a digital health professional, author, and lifestyle blogger. You can get his debut novel here.