I was out on the back deck with Flash, the geriatric mutt, enjoying the first day of 2016, a crisp snowless day. Our property backing up to a park as it does, the woods extend far beyond the fence. The silence was broken by the sound of a boy yelling, “Help!” I listened for a moment, to see if it was repeated. It was, and then again a few seconds later.
I realized that if the boy had fallen in the water, he might be at risk of hypothermia, so there wasn’t time to call the police. There wasn’t time to holler into the house to tell them what I was doing. I had to go now.
I hopped the fence without much trouble, getting over the slightly lower gate without crotching myself. The brambles pulled at my jacket and one scratched my face, but I got through them, only to step in thick mud and fall, staining my Christmas corduroys. Finally gaining my feet, I ran up the slick trail in Rockport penny loafers, slipping and sliding onto the metal bridge, which was, if anything, icier than the trail.
Listening for additional cries, I followed the trail beside the creek. The water didn’t look too deep, but I figured it was entirely possible to have gotten injured and hung up in the water…like if you were running in Rockports.
It was at about this time I started wondering if this was a popular new gambit for hold-ups…somebody starts yelling for help and the first sap to answer gets mugged. I’ll admit to mulling that over, but I also didn’t stop running. And Good Lord, I am no athlete.
I finally came to the clearing where the cries were coming from. There was a boy, probably twelve, on the path in front of me. “Who’s yelling for help?” I panted. The boy started backing away from me. This didn’t pass the smell test either. Did this boy push another boy into the water?
Just then I saw a boy laying in the leaves beside the creek. He was sheepishly getting up and brushing himself off. It was a hoax. A goofy, kinda-messed-up, but still totally twelve year-old thing to do. I couldn’t even lecture them because the adrenalin dump had gone. Exhausted, I started walking home, wondering if they would have gone for help if I’d fallen on my face in front of them from a heart attack.
We hear again and again that we must remain vigilant in the post 9/11 world, and I won’t argue with that at all. We owe it to our fellow man to watch his back. But sometimes, as with what happened to me on New Year’s Day, people are going to say or do some outrageous things in a misguided plea for attention. These things may make us angry, but we still need to check them out. If they turn out to be hoaxes, at least no one is hurt. At the same time, we can’t stop respecting the legitimacy of any cry for help.
A quick change out of my soiled cords and a dot of iodine on my scratch, I got away with a sore quadricep and a spilled beer. I have to tell you, I know a lot of people who enjoy going out for a job but I just don’t care for it.
It makes me think too much.