Today, Best Dad Evar is doing errands around town in the aforementioned electric car. His two children are strapped into their car seats behind him, noisily announcing to no one in particular (certainly not to each other, god forbid) that they exist and they have interests and ideas and, you know, stuff going on in their heads. All the while, Best Dad is gritting his teeth, trying not to rear end today’s slow poke, a white minivan with bumper stickers he can’t help but read.
“Oh, what the hell is this moron doing?!” He yells suddenly.
“Who are you talking to, Best Dad Evar?” the narrator softly asks.
“Just this b-” he stops himself from saying the expletive out loud; too nasty for little ears, but he gestures at the minivan in front of him, which has now come to a complete stop in the middle of the block for no apparent reason.
In fact, the door of the minivan has abruptly swung open forcefully and the driver has jumped out of the vehicle.
“Oh, you’ve got to be frigging kidding me!” Best Dad slumps in his seat. “Some of us have to get where we’re going!” he yells, but not so loud that the woman could possibly hear him through the window seals and metal frame of his little Northern California dream car. It looks like she’s got something else on her mind anyway and wouldn’t have responded if she did hear. She takes off running toward a gravel walking path that meanders away from the avenue they’ve both been driving on.
“Where the hell is she going?!” Best Dad says, not even yelling any more. This is more of a helpless lament than an angry blast.
“Dad, don’t you know her?” Oldest child says from the back.
“Who?” He asks dumbly.
“That woman.” His daughter says, now pointing so he can’t possibly misunderstand who she is referring to. The woman is about to disappear up the path, but he now realizes…
“Oh, shit, yeah. That’s Jane.” He rolls his eyes. Better not to say aloud the description of Jane that first comes to his mind.
“Don’t say it.” The narrator whispers in his year, this time a beat behind Best Dad.
“I know.” Best Dad says disdainfully. “But I better help her, I think she may have finally completely lost her mind.” He begins to pull the car over to the shoulder and park it safely out of the flow of traffic.
“No, it looks like-” the narrator starts, but is interrupted by younger child.
“Daddy, she jumped into the creek.” She says in the matter-of-fact voice only a four-year-old can manage with a straight face.
“She what?” Best Dad asks.
“Do you have wax in your ears, Best Dad?” The narrator asks bitingly.
Best Dad sighs heavily. “Come on, girls, we have to help her.”
“Your enthusiasm for this rescue could be a little higher, Best Dad.” The narrator chides him. But whether he has any enthusiasm or not, the process of getting both girls unstrapped from their car seats (he can’t very well leave them there, can he?) ensures that he will be, at best, the fourth or fifth responder to what he still believes to be a mental health emergency.
As they run up the creek-side path, the father and daughter come upon a scene that’s quite different from what Best Dad had imagined. “What the-?” he says lamely. A handful of people are shouting from the bank as Jane holds onto a very large branch along the opposite side of the creek. She is struggling with something under the water with her other arm. She heaves that something out of the water, it’s… a boy! He surfaces with a giant gasp as if he’s been under a long time.
The crowd cheers as they believe the boy has been saved, but then they gasp again as the boy is pulled back down under the surface. There’s something down there, pulling him down with a force equal to heroic Jane’s efforts. Best Dad Evar’s facial expression is a mixture of surprised appreciation and sheepishness. So much for the crazy b- he’d berated for slowing them all down!
No, that crazy b- is gathering herself. Jane’s face contorts with effort and she gives all her strength to her next heave to try to pull the boy out for good. In the next moment, the culprit makes its appearance, it’s the boy’s bicycle and it surges up out of the water. Unfortunately, Jane doesn’t know her own strength and the bike whips around, the rear wheel catching her square in the face. The gathered crowd groans with dismay and sympathy. A great gash of dark red appears on Jane’s face, but if she’s disoriented or in pain it doesn’t show. Instead she continues to fight to keep the boy above water.
“Aren’t you going to do anything to help, Best Dad Evar?” the narrator quietly pushes
“Well, my girls are here. I can’t leave them…” he trails off, realizing the weakness of his excuse.
There’s a splash as a young man, a teenager perhaps, jumps in to help. He latches on to the same branch and after a couple of failed attempts, manages to get hold of the handlebar of the bike with his free hand. With this second pair of hands helping, the bicyclist also manages to grab the branch and seems able to hold himself just far enough out of the water to be out of mortal danger. He does, however, gasp in horror as he looks over at Jane and spies the gash on her face, which is oozing blood. She still seems oblivious to her own injury and continues to work to free the boy’s clothes, which have clearly gotten caught in the bicycle’s chain. There’s another splash as a third rescuer jumps in. This man is large, he could be a fireman or lumberjack. With some quick work, he frees the boy’s pantleg from the chain and the foursome begin to head for shore.
Best Dad Evar’s daughters begin to cheer for the heroes. The gathered crowd, at least those that aren’t trying to pull the wet four out of the water, also clap and shout. Best Dad simply stares. He finally remembers himself and says, “Come on kids.” He and the girls approach Jane.
Best Dad removes his shirt and offers it to Jane. She looks at the garment as if she has never seen anything like it before, and her eyes flash at Best Dad as if she wonders what kind of pedophilenut would take off his shirt when he sees a young boy rescued.
“For your face.” He says, recognizing her confused expression. She still seems not to understand what he means, though it seems she has also recognized him, at least.
“You’re bleeding like crazy, Jane.” He says, pushing her softly back to reality.
“Uh, I am?” She takes the shirt but doesn’t lift it to her face. Best Dad gently raises the shirt to her face and presses it to the wound, which is definitely going to require stitches.
“Is the boy okay?” She asks, still in a shock-induced trance.
“Yes, he’s going to be fine.” One of the bystanders says.
“The boy’s not your son?!” Another asks incredulously.
“No, I just saw him fall from my car.” She says, now holding the shirt to her face independently. He sheepishly backs away again, holding his girls’ hands, realizing how harshly he’d judged her and doubting that he would have done the same had he seen the boy fall himself.
“Is that your car?” Another asks, pointing toward the street, where a tow truck is backing into position to move her minivan out of traffic.
Best Dad can only stand and watch as the two bystanders run back toward the street, flagging down the tow truck driver and the policeman who had called him to clear traffic. He watches long enough to satisfy himself that they’ve saved her van from the impound lot.
“I think we’d better get on home now.” He tells the girls quietly. They are smiling at him.
“Good job, Dad.” the older one says.
He looks at her with a puzzled expression. “For what?” he asks.
“You helped a hero.” He still looks at her, not quite believing that she thinks he actually helped in any way. “You gave her your shirt to stop all that blood.”
“I guess we all have to do our part, Best Dad.” The narrator softly says into his ear.
“A very small part.” Best Dad replies, still clearly a bit disgusted with himself.
“You prob’ly saved her life, Dad.” The little one says. She smiles her finest Daddy-is-the-best smile at him. He smiles back broadly. “I don’t know about that, but Jane certainly saved that boy’s life.”
This post is dedicated to Jane and her new scar.