Whoever Owns That Face

By Jim Lyles
Holly, Michigan, USA

Whoever Owns That Face

When I was a child, we went camping with some friends at a private park in southern Indiana. Our campsites were close to a small lake with a sandy beach. One day, our friends’ three-year-old daughter, Jill, was taking a nap — or so her parents thought. Unknown to them, she had seen the other kids playing in the water, and little Jill must have decided to join them. None of the other kids noticed her.

Beth, 10, was with the other kids in the water. She went out to a raft anchored in water that was about 12 feet deep. She was amusing herself by jumping off the raft (on the shore side, where the adults could see her) and then swimming to the ladder and climbing back up to the raft.

After one such trip up the ladder, she looked down into the water and saw something that would haunt her dreams for years to come. She saw a face deep down in the water, looking up beseechingly, with unblinking eyes staring up at the unattainable air far above.

Beth had no idea who it was or how big that person might be. She hollered for help and then jumped off the raft and went after whoever owned that face. By the time the adults heard her and got down to the water, Beth had already hauled little Jill out of the depths and back to safety. Jill must have instinctively held her breath, for there was no water in her lungs. After a little bit of coughing and sputtering, she was able to breathe. Soon she was running and playing again. But I hate to think what would have happened if Beth hadn’t reached her when she did.

This happened about 30 years ago. Perhaps Jill now has children of her own. Maybe as I type this, she’s tucking them into bed and planning her day tomorrow. If so, she only has that tomorrow because long ago, a 10-year-old Beth had the courage to jump into deep water and pull her out.

I’m proud to call Beth my sister.

Originally published as HeroicStories #31 on July 13 1999
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 1.

4 thoughts on “Whoever Owns That Face”

  1. I was the author of this particular story. I was off on a hike when this incident happened, so I heard about it second-hand from my mom when I got back from the hike. I shudder to think what would have happened if my sister had not seen that face and reacted so quickly. And I’m still proud to call Beth my sister.

    • Thanks for stopping in Jim! You know we love it when the authors comment. And VERY glad you and your sister are doing well.

  2. The mammalian drowning reflex causes the throat to close up under such circumstances, preventing water from being inhaled.


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