The Noreaster Part 2
Justin was cold. And, he was tired. It was past dusk although there was still light in the sky from New York City on the other side of the bridges. It was a lovely pink, backlighting the clouds and the bridges, but it didn't throw much light on the water which was looking black now.
He desperately wanted to go to sleep, but was pretty sure that he would not hold on to the belt for long if he did and he didn't dare let go.
The waves seemed to die down with the light.
David brightened when his father came home, and sat bolt upright. Hi Aba....
His father wasn't in as social a mood as was Justin. He nodded at his wife and went over to sit next to David. He picked up his hand and rubbed it.
"How are you, son?" he asked.
"Fine," David answered, somewhat waiting for the other shoe to drop.
"Your hands feel as if you had them in cold water..." and he looked over toward his wife as if it was somehow, her fault.
"The boy is cold," David explained. "And, it's getting dark...."
David's father, Saul, was a supervisor of a construction company. He was often outside at the building site. He was used to compromising with Mother Nature....
He jumped up and announced, "He's here, at least on the East Coast if the sun is setting now! Where is the number to the police that you called?"
David's Mom, handed him the paper she had used and he picked up the phone. "Yes, Officer Wattles, right away," he instructed. David's mom was wondering how that was going for him.
"Officer Wattles", he said after a few minutes. "My wife, Martha, called a little earlier this evening about a missing boy, who was in water....I wanted you to know that he's on the east coast because it's just getting dark now. Also, it's likely that he's in this area, City Island, New Rochelle, Pelham and so forth. David has seen the setting sun behind two bridges. I can't think of where else that might be, can you?"
He gave the officer time to respond, but neither David nor his mother could hear a thing he was saying.
Dad went on, "Right. The Delaware Bridge is a single span, and it wouldn't be that cold. Don't they sail there all winter?....Oh, here too? I didn't know.... Still, my son's hands feel as if he had them in icewater. I don't think we have to consider anything south of New Jersey. And, east of Montaulk is probably too cold.... Listen, what are you doing now? Who cares that you haven't had any report. Can't you make a few phone calls to save a boys life? If you find him, there will be a medal and some very good press for you. It's a career changing event, Officer Wattles! You either step up to the plate now, or you forfeit the game. You know that he won't last the night in the water...."
David's Dad had raised, and then lowered his voice. He looked over at his son as he said the last part, and then dropped his eyes. He would have been relieved to know that David was only half listening because he was attending to Justin with more than half his brain.
When his father put down the phone, David announced, "His mother's name is Mary, Mary Bush, or Mary Shrub.... He has a picture of a green thing like a bush when he thinks of her name, and she has a round thing on her head like they have on the statue outside the Catholic School. He's trying to get her attention...."
Martha had the phone book right next to her and looked up both Shrub and Bush, but there was no listing for a Mary in either the Bronx or Queens phone books. Meanwhile, Saul had called Westchester and Nassau information and there wasn't any listing there either.... dead end.... They would have to wait a little longer for the policeman. Saul explained to Martha that Officer Wattles said that he would call a few precincts, and a couple of colleagues in Westchester.
The little flurry of activity had given them some hope that they would be able to help David's friend. They knew that many people don't any longer have land lines, but depend on their cells for everything. Justin's family did have a home phone, but it was in his father's name --
Joseph. Joseph Laurel, and Justin always thought of a Mountain Laurel when he thought of their last name. That was the bush that David was seeing when Justin was calling his mom.
Meanwhile, Mickey was dressed and playing with Sara in his room when his Mom came home. He was so happy to see her, and he mentioned that Justin was trying to "call his mommy, but couldn't get through." -- And, he said that just the way that his mother would have said it. Two year olds often make people laugh because they are natural mimics. This time, his mother didn't laugh. She wanted to know from Sara exactly what he had been saying or talking about all afternoon.
Sara recalled what she could and ventured to say that she just thought he had an imaginary friend, because this was not the first time he seemed to be talking with himself, that she had seen.
Mickey's mom, Kathy, nodded, and admitted that she too had noticed him talking to himself, or with himself. She had also disregarded it. Neither wanted to think there was anything mentally wrong with him....
Mickey continued to build with blocks and no one thought anything of it until he announced that "this is the harbor right near Justin. And, this is the park that he can't swim to.... And, here are the bridges.... He's afraid of the deep water, Mommy. The water pushes him...."
Kathy looked at Mickey's map, and wondered. She picked up her son and went off to the computer with him while Sara made dinner for them both.
Kathy was hoping that if she could find a picture, Mickey might recognize it. She was not secure with his left and right. The bridges could be to the left or to the right. He could be thinking of Little Neck, or Manhasset Bay, or New Rochelle or Larchmont, or City Island. All were protected enough to have some boats even this early, and all were within sight of the Throgs Neck and Whitestone Bridges.
Thank goodness for Google's photos. Kathy was able to find pictures of both Long Island Bays. Neither one was familiar to Mickey. She also struck out with the pictures of City Island that she could find, but, when she got to the picture of Larchmont Manor Park from the land looking out at a red nun in the water, he made a little sound. She asked him what he what he meant, and if he had ever seen that part of the world, and he thought the red thing looked like what Justin was on.
However, since the park pictures were the wrong perspective, looking from the park rather than onto the park, she wasn't sure if that was the park, or if he was simply identifying a generic red nun that Justin was hanging on to.
She continued to look at pictures with him, but that was the only one that got any reaction. They took a break to eat the supper that Sara prepared. Afterwards, Sara would be heading home.
"He knows we're looking," David announced. "He knows that he's not alone. He introduced me to his Gramps. I like him, but he's not Jewish."
David had seemed so distant, that his mother had climbed on to the chaise lounge with him and was holding him tightly while she listened to the radio. His father was on and off the phone with various police precincts, not leaving it up to Officer Wattles on his own.
She felt relief at the sound of her son's voice. She had been a little worried that if Justin faded away during the evening, that David would go with him. His voice sounded strong, as if he had been playing in the room next door, but had come into this one to let her know that everything was ok.
She held him tightly and kissed his head, his delicious smelling head of soft curly hair. "That's ok, David. Hashem loves all His children. You tell Justin that we're doing everything we can. See if he can tell you where he is?"
Saul was in and out, letting her know that Larchmont, and New Rochelle hadn't had any reports yet, nor Scarsdale or Mamaroneck, and not Pelham or City Island.... Each time he left his number and they promised to call him back if they received any such report. But, he wasn't sure he believed them, because they had that lilt in their voice like a supressed laugh at his story of a six year old's "worry" about another boy named
Martha looked at her watch. In about a half an hour, she guessed, it would be pitch dark. She knew that boats and helicopters had big lights, but would they be able to spot a young boy hanging on to a buoy in this sea? She vowed that she would call the police if ever David was a little late. She would not wait for him to come home, but would call before dark!
She tried to send Mary that message. "Call the police. Call the police." She believed that even though they probably thought her husband was crazy, if they had a missing person's report on a boy named Justin, that they would at least agree to talk to David.
She was so proud of her husband. He was used to getting respect when he talked to men, whether at work, or at the Synagogue, or in the community. But, he did not usually go much outside the Jewish community in Riverdale. The local police were fine, but now that he was calling Westchester, they didn't know Saul and they had never heard such a story. Policemen tend to be more practical and sceptical than "airy fairy liberals."
Not that her husband was anything like that, but they wouldn't know. It was part of the stereotype. Her husband was a tough negotiator, and a construction man, but they didn't know him. Yet, Saul was not losing his temper. He was not disrespecting them the way that they were disrespecting him. He had a single purpose -- to discover the identity and thus, the probable location of Justin. He had put himself in the place of Justin's father, and he was clear how he would want him to proceed. So, he never wavered, and responded to every "dis" with more generosity and grace.
Martha was listening to his conversations, to the radio and to David who was saying the least. The radio was not saying much more and she had little hope from that quarter, but little hope is better than no hope.
Then just as Saul hung up the phone again, it rang. They all jumped and he grabbed it. "Hello... Yes, this is Saul....Yes, yes, I know where you are and can get there in 20 -- 35 minutes depending on traffic!"
"Martha," he almost shouted although she was not more than 8 feet from him at the time, "Martha, get David dressed. They want us to come to Larchmont. His mother is on the way to tell her story. -- It's Justin's mother and she's frantic."
Justin was weakening. Both his arms felt on fire and his hands were cramping so tightly and so relentlessly, that he had the belt wrapped around one wrist, and then the other, and he was hoping that his hands would just fall off. He had liked his hands in the past, but he didn't like them anymore and couldn't think of one thing that he couldn't find a way to do without them, except pitch. And, Gramps was there telling him to keep his hands, both of them, for baseball. He would keep them for a few more minutes.
He couldn't feel his legs, and didn't know why he weighed so much. He thought it was just the pull of the current and the waves. Wishing it to stop did not make it go away. He had tried. He had pictured himself at the ball field playing with Gramps, and he had pictured himself in the park, running across the rocks with friends, but here he was, still. Here he was with the waves lashing at him and the buoy pulling on his arms.
He had "talked" with some boys. There seemed to be two boys who were watching him and trying to help. Mickey and David. Mickey, he thought, was young. They didn't know each other. They had helped him to get through to his mom, and it seemed as if she was going to do something, at least, she had been a clear picture in his mind, and then she got all wavy and faded out. David was sure that she was going to the police.
Justin thought he could hang on with his Gramps help for a little while longer. He could still see the reflected light from New York City against the clouds and was glad for that at least. The light from the sun was gone. In the summer there was a luminosity in the water itself, but not now. It was black, black, black and a little frightening. He logically figured that it was, at the most, about 20 feet deep at the buoy which marked the edge of a shelf of rocks. It was even more likely that it was only about 10 feet deep. But, it looked as if it was miles and miles deep. He looked away. He didn't like thinking about what might be swimming in deep water....
And, then he was angry at himself and pushed the fear away. It was not deep water and he knew very well that there wasn't anything bigger than a
Striped Bass in this water. Stripers didn't like toes. He was quite sure of that. Flounders stayed on the bottom, as did crabs. Bunkers were little, with little mouths. They might be milling around because of the sediment he must be kicking off the chain, but they weren't more than 6 to 8 inches long. No, there was nothing to be afraid of in this water.
He felt David probing. "Hi David," he thought. "What's up?"
David pictured the car he was in and sent the picture to Justin. "What for?" Justin asked.
"For you," David answered. "We're meeting your mother," and he pictured the pretty woman with the halo and the bush, "at a police station" and he pictured men in uniforms. That he pictured the uniform of the NYC cop rather than a Larchmont cop, did not diminish the message.
Justin almost laughed, but his teeth were shivering too much to do anything but a sort of grimacing, satiric smile. It didn't matter, because Mickey and David saw what was in his heart rather than what was on his face. His heart smiled a genuine smile.
They then spent time sharing pictures of fireplaces and outdoor bonfires, hot grills in the summertime and the beach in the sun when it was too hot to walk across. They thought that those feelings of warmth, those memories of warmth were helping Justin, and so did he. For moments at least, he would feel the heat and then the picture would pop like a bubble on a pin and he would be cold again. But David and Mickey would just think up another hot one and send it over. He loved them. He didn't have any brothers, but he had these little guys and he loved them for sticking by him. He knew they were courageous. They had to be tired. They let him know that they had first "met" him when he had sent the prayer to his Gramps. That was hours ago, and they had stayed with him ever since.
Mickey had convinced his mother that Justin's mom was going to the police station and that she should call to find out where they all would be.
She felt ridiculous, but he wouldn't stop prodding her. He kept saying that they were going and he wanted to go too. She had her pet locations, and so it wasn't long before she reached the police chief in Larchmont, and he confirmed that the mother of a boy named Justin was on her way to report her son's disappearance, as was a family from Riverdale. Kathy thought that was coincidental, but she assured them that she was also on her way. The chief said "the more the merrier" before hanging up.
Kathy gathered up Mickey, in his feet pj's and wrapped him in a comforter for the car ride. She grabbed her baby bag which was always loaded with wipes and a few extra diapers and slung it over her shoulder. The car was right in front so she didn't even take the stroller.
Larchmont Police Station and New Rochelle Hospital
They had no helicopters. They had no boats. However, Mamaroneck Harbor had a harbor police and they were sending two boats. They were only half an hour away from the breakwater. By the time everyone arrived....
Justin's mother was the first to arrive, but all she knew was that he was in trouble. She "had a feeling" she explained, "a strong feeling" that he was in trouble and cold. She thought he was in the water, but couldn't be sure of that. Perhaps she was just thinking that because he was so cold.....
Luckily, David's family was close behind. David could confirm that he was in the water, and there was something red right next to Justin. But, this was not nailed down until Mickey arrived and could draw the number '15' on the red nun. Mickey was an amazing observer for a little guy. He felt very proud of himself.
Meanwhile, the Harbor Police Boats were at the tip of the breakwater. They had charts and once they had the number of the red nun, they headed right over. Justin was in pretty bad shape. They decided to take him right to New Rochelle Hospital rather than to take him to shore. The Ambulance was dispatched to meet them at the New Rochelle dock.
David and Mickey were enjoying meeting each other, but were sorely disappointed at hearing they would not being able to meet Justin that night. They begged their families to bring them over to the hospital. Their parents' explained that he would be with doctors late into the night as they checked to see where he needed their help. Did he have any broken bones? Did he suffer from hypothermia, which was a pretty good bet? Had he hurt his head, or pierced anything? Did he need stitches? Did he have frost bite?
Still, the boys begged until their parents relented and agreed to take them over just to see. Kathy was sure that they would say no to Michael because of his age, and she would be able to take him home. Martha and Saul weren't sure about that, but were sure that it was past visiting hours, and because of that they would be told to come back the next day.
Meanwhile, the police boat picked up Justin who knew that they were coming and was just holding on by sheer force of willpower. They had thermo/shock pants and blankets which they wrapped around him after taking off the wet clothing. His feet were cut up badly so they wrapped bandage gauze around them before they got him into the light. They just didn't want him to see that they looked more like hamburger meat than feet.
He was covered and warming by the time they made the switch to the ambulance, and looking forward to meeting David and Mickey. He did nothing but talk about them to the EMT guys. They radio'd the hospital to see whether there was anyone waiting for him. They were told that his mother was there and waiting with two other families. He had told them that they were his brothers, so they were confused, but didn't ask. Stranger things had happened....
Perhaps because it was a pediatric case.... When they arrived, both David and Mickey were waiting in the Pediatric ER waiting room. They ran over to the stretcher and greeted him like the brother he said he was. They didn't have much time before the doctors scooped him up and away, but they had a little time to make physical contact.
Justin managed to say to them, "You were sharing your warmth. I could feel it. And you found my mother for me! I felt that too. You are my brothers forever! The boys felt ecstatic at the meeting. When they were told Justin had to go, David said to Mickey, "We'll see him tomorrow!" But, Mickey grabbed Justin's hand and asked where his Gramps was.
Justin blanched and said that he had died the year before. Mickey was crying when they took him away.
It took some time for Justin's feet to heal. For a while, he was home school'd by his mom, with some help from tutors.
The families stayed in touch so the boys could have regular play dates together. If anything, they grew closer as they grew older. They always went to different schools, but they never lost their ability to communicate. Later, it was more of an urgent need to call than a mind-sharing experience. However, since they are living in the 21st Century, they all have cell phones!