Chris looked down from the rigid cliff to the water below. The edge of the jagged rock was menacing and he could only imagine his flesh being torn to shreds whenever he approached the edge. The water was safe, that he knew, but it was getting to the water that was the problem. Inching his feet closer to the edge, he shuffled and kicked a few small rocks over the edge. Listening for them as they fell down the side, the rattling sounded only like bones shattered as they crashed into the cliff face. Chris pulled back, the terror taking hold of him.
“C’mon Chris!” Yelled his friend Jackson from the water below. “Stop being a pussy!”
And now it started, thought Chris. His friends Jackson, Riley, and Tommy would heckle him until he jumped. As much as he wanted to push their shallow insults to the side, they would keep nagging at him. He knew they didn’t mean any of it, it was just to get him to jump as they had, but Chris wasn’t as lucky as they’d been. He knew that if he jumped he’d jump short and hit the cliffside or he’d land on a rock and break his spine or he’d hit his head on the lake’s floor and drowned or, or…
Chris shuttered at the thought. He didn’t want to end up on the news as another kid who died in Lake Laramie. Chris had seen stories like that himself and they stuck in the back of his mind, especially when Jackson said the day before that the group needed to go. Chris was adamantly against the idea but despite his pleas, he found himself at the top of the cliff edge looking thirty feet down into the dark blue abysmal water. He wasn’t even sure how deep the water was but his friends all seemed to be swimming okay. Chris wasn’t a fan of swimming in the water he couldn’t see in. He didn’t even like putting his head underwater in a clear public pool because he didn’t like having to close his eyes. His stomach sank.
“Chris, let’s go! We don’t have all day, just fuckin’ jump already!” screamed Riley.
“Yeah, it’s not that bad. We made it just fine,” said Tommy.
Chris looked down at his skinny, lanky, pre-pubescent body wondering if this was the last time he’d ever see the sun. The lake was in the middle of the woods and surrounded by large pine trees. The lake was wide enough that it opened up the sky for the hot August sun to beat down on the entire area, including the hot ground he stood on. He knew if he didn’t jump, his friends would never let him live it down. They’d give him hell for it for the rest of the summer and probably when they returned to school at the end of the summer. Chris didn’t want to be the only one in the group not to jump. It would be cowardly, dishonorable even. He took another step back.
He took a deep breath. He had to do this. All he needed was a running start and he’d easily clear the edge and make it to the water just as everyone else had. He didn’t need to be super fast, just fast enough. He closed his eyes and drew a deep breath. If he’d die, he wouldn’t die a baby who was too afraid to jump into Lake Laramie. He quickly drew three breaths and took off at a short sprint towards the cliff edge. At the final step, he went to plant his foot near the edge for the jump but his foot slid right off the edge. All his momentum gone, Chris’s quick burst of courage turned to terror as his body slipped uncontrollably into the open air. Looking up at the open blue sky, he screamed with all the air he had in his lungs, waiting for the inevitable crash into the deadly jagged rocks below. Chris’s body slammed into the water.
Shocked nearly to the point of petrification, while underwater, Chris felt the cool water on his skin and with his hands checked his body for broken bones and torn flesh. Finding nothing out of place, he kicked his legs to resurface. His head burst through and he gasped a deep breath. He turned to see Jackson, Riley, and Tommy staring at him.
“Jeez Chris, you screamed like your mom did last night,” said Jackson. The group began hooting and hollering, laughing until their sides hurt.
“I told you you’d be fine,” said Riley. “The cliff juts out over the water. It’s literally impossible to hit the side. But way to join us gracefully,” he laughed.
Chris’s terror turned to jovial laughing as he joined his friends in Lake Laramie, swimming in the cool water under the hot sun during one of their last weeks of summer break.