"I am not going first!"
"Okay, let's close our eyes and count to three."
"I don't think this is a good idea..."
"One, two, three!"
Splash! Splash! Splash! Three bodies entered the water—their trunks and shoes laid abandoned on the shore.
It was a pastoral scene. Small naked bodies bathed in the deep brown waters that reflected shimmering images of the towering green oaks. Billowing clouds drifted in the brilliant blue skies above. The giggling young voices harmonized with the cries of crickets in the grass, frogs in the swamps, and birds in the trees.
The boys practiced dives from the shore, and cannonball shots from the swing. Tad rolled in the mud. He stomped around like a monster then jumped into the water, washing the away the facade to become human again.
The day was beautiful and bright. It seemed more a small slice of paradise than a prelude to a nightmare.
Tad and Martin inspected the fort. Alma practiced swimming. He leaned back with his nose just above the water surface. He worked on his long broad backstroke. He had already completed five laps. He would swim until he felt the first brush of the current. Flip under water and swim back to shore.
Martin was the first to see the nightmare begin. It looked harmless, like a log bobbing up and down in the pool. He thought nothing of it at first, but the innocent looking ripples moved, and moved fast. The object wasn't a log. There was a little head just above the surface. "Alma!" he screamed.
The water moccasin struck at the unsuspecting swimmer. Alma began to splash. Martin saw his head go under for the first time. "Tad, get the rope! Hurry untie the rope!"
Alma worked his head above the water. They could hear a loud wheeze as he gasped for air.
Tad wanted to jump in the swimming hole. They saw two more water moccasins slither into the water blocking the path. It was a warning.
"He's in the current. We've got to get him down stream."
The two naked boys thrashed through the poison sumac. Alma bobbed above the surface two more times. They tried to break their way through the undergrowth. The shrubs gnashed at their sides. The gnats bit into their wounds. Alma was always just out of reach. He now floated listlessly with his face down in the water.
"Maybe we can get him at the highway 5 bridge?"
They ran in shear desperation. Neither could accept that their efforts were in vain. They ran hard for an hour through the open fields of Kentucky. Their feet cried in pain. Dusk began to cast its shadows across the earth. They ran, and ran for all they were worth.
They had been in the sun too long. They were dehydrated. The evil of poison sumac scratched into their skin. Their feet ached.
Why had they ignored the warnings? Bad things happened when you did wrong. They saw the lights of the highway, and continued to run.
A cruiser pulled along side the red exhausted youths. There was barely enough light. Officer Ron raised his flashlight. The site was not pretty. Two naked boys with welts from their toes to the tops of their exhausted heads. Officer Ron held a look of stern disapproval. "Aren't you the White's boy? What are you doing out here."
Young masters White and Black bowed their heads in shame as the recounted the death of their young friend. There were many valuable life lessons learned that day.