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Saving Delroy?

For the "Just a Minute" Challenge

By Geoffrey Philp Published 3 months ago 5 min read

Delroy was drowning, and I thought, should I save him? Now, you're probably thinking, what kind of monster are you? But then you don’t know me. And you definitely don’t know Delroy.

What I do know is, my mother, God rest her soul, would have dived in even though she couldn't swim. That's why everyone said she was a saint at her funeral when we buried her three years ago. I could hear her voice, even though she knew the history between Delroy and me, which goes back to when we were both students in high school, urging me, “Michael, let your better angels guide you to do the right thing.”

I watched his arms go up as he tried to swim against the tide instead of parallel to the shore like our swimming coach had always taught us. But that was Delroy. He always thought he was the school's biggest, baddest “bad man” and nobody should stand in his way. Never in a million years did I ever think I’d see him again after I’d left Jamaica and my plans to hurt him for everything that had gone wrong in my life.

I’d seen him through the corner of my left eye on an afternoon I’d have painted when I was younger—something like Monet would have done. Boombox on his shoulder, Delroy swaggered over the sand on this deserted section of Haulover Beach, blasting the loudest dancehall riddims as loudly as his speakers could take.

Delroy’s hands went up again, his screams frightening the seagulls. The seagulls circled and then returned to the roof of the lifeguard's hut that had been closed that Sunday afternoon. Delroy and I were the only ones on the beach, so he was really in trouble.

It seemed as if he was having leg cramps, too, his struggling growing more frantic and erratic by the second. I watched him with my one good eye, straining to keep him in focus. Delroy, the man who had taken half my sight with a sucker punch outside the art room when we were both in high school. The man I had sworn I would never forgive, and here he was, drowning before my eyes.

Part of me whispered that this was karma and that I should let the sea take him for making me lose so many scholarships--so many opportunities to continue as an artist instead of being a teacher in Miami.

But the other part of me, who still believed in what my mother had always taught me about right and wrong, told me I should save him because I shared the blame for what had happened.

I hate bullies. Every day at lunch, Delroy would wait outside the tuck shop for the smaller boys in the lower school, and he’d take away their money to buy patties. He used his lunch money to gamble on off-course betting. I wasn’t big enough to fight him, so I teased him for about an hour about a painting he thought was his best work that he wanted to show the art teacher we both had a crush on.

I remember Miss Hamilton telling me to stop teasing him while she snickered because she didn't like how melted candle wax into the younger boys’ hair or put his jock strap over their heads while they sang songs to him as he lounged on the verandah of the Prefects’ Room. But Miss Hamilton couldn't do anything about it. She was only a teacher, a female teacher in an all-boys school.

After our little row, I went home, had dinner, went to bed, woke up the next morning, and went to school.

But as soon as I stepped into the Prefects’ Room, and before I could say good morning, all I could see was blood.

Blood on the floor. Blood on my crisp white shirt and blue tie. Blood streaming from my right eye down my face and arms on my elbow. Blood everywhere.

Delroy's head went under again, and it didn't come back up this time. I searched the waves for any sign of him. The seconds stretched on—nothing. Well, good riddance to bad rubbish, as my father would have said, wherever he is right now.

Suddenly, Delroy's hand broke through the surface. His fingers were splayed, his palm wide open, like Courbet’s ‘The Wave.”

Okay, that was it. Muttering a curse, I ran frantically and dove into the surf, swimming towards where I had last seen him. The saltwater stung my eye and blurred my vision, but I kept going. As I got closer, I could see how frightened he was. Delroy’s eyes were wide, and his mouth gaped open, gasping for air whenever he broke the surface.

When I reached him and grabbed him, his fingers closed around mine. I wanted to let go, but he held on. I struggled to keep hold of him as I fought against the current, dragging us both back towards the shore.

"Delroy!" I shouted over the sound of the waves. "Delroy, stay with me! I need you to kick!"

But Delroy didn't seem to hear me now. My muscles burned with exhaustion, and my blind eye throbbed. The saltwater felt like acid.

I struck out for the shore, towing Delroy along with me. Each stroke was agony, my body screaming for me to let go, to save myself. But I couldn't. Even though he had cost me so much, and I ended up teaching art to brats who couldn't care less if less if I were talking about a Monet or Manet, I couldn’t leave him.

The beach seemed so far away, a distant strip of sand that never got any closer, no matter how hard I swam. Waves crashed over our heads, filling my mouth and nose with water. My vision started to darken at the edges, and I knew I was reaching my limit.

Just as I felt my strength give out, my feet brushed against something solid. Sand! I stumbled forward, half-crawling, half-swimming, until I could drag Delroy onto the beach. After what felt like an eternity, we finally reached the shore. We collapsed together on the wet sand, coughing and gasping.

I rolled Delroy onto his side, watching anxiously as he vomited up more seawater. He was alive, but just barely--his chest rising and falling in ragged gasps.

Then our eyes met. "Mikey Dread?"

Delroy's voice was barely a whisper, but hearing my name on his lips sent a shock through me. It had been years since anyone had called me that, years since I had left that name, my locks, and that life behind.

"Delroy," I said, my own voice rough with exhaustion and emotion. "You almost killed yourself."

He made a weak, breathless sound. "Takes more than a little salt water to kill me. You should know that" and then laughed--as if we were friends.

But I wasn't having it, not after what he had done. I turned my back and returned to where I had left my cooler with a few beers and pieces of chicken I had brought to enjoy my Sunday evening on the beach.

"Come back, man! I want to thank—"

For a minute, I thought about turning back, but I couldn’t. My mother would have been proud, but I couldn’t forgive Delroy. Not now, anyway. I picked up my stuff and headed to my car. I still hated him, but I wasn't going to let him die. Besides, I had lesson plans to prepare.

Short Story

About the Creator

Geoffrey Philp

I am a Jamaican writer. I write poems (haiku & haibun), stories & essays about climate change, Marcus Garvey, music icons such as Bob Marley, and the craft of writing. For more info, visit my webpage: https://www.geoffreyphilp.com/

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  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

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Comments (2)

  • Novel Allen3 months ago

    Delroy....my friend Delroy died last year. So strange to write his name. Seems like they are all messed up. Now your Delroy lives to bully another day. Someone blinded my brother in one eye as a child, in Ja. too. It affected his life so much. Yet life goes on.

Geoffrey Philp Written by Geoffrey Philp

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