Chapter 5 — The Drowning


Towels flung over shoulders and donning two-piece swimming suits and flip-flops, Naomi and Greta emerged from the house and entered the alcove through the kitchen door.  Greta closed the door behind them, making sure they weren’t locking themselves out; Naomi sashayed to the chaise lounges closer to the pool where she tossed her towel on one and kicked off her flip-flops.  Meanwhile, Greta sauntered to the pool-house and opened the storage closet to find air mattresses.  It was a beautiful night for swimming and only the alcove and pool lights were on.  The girls entered the pool area chatting nonchalantly:

“So on Saturday, the day of the concert,” said Naomi, resuming her narrative, “he calls me at, like, four o’clock so I’m already doing my nails and everything, and he says:  ‘Naomi, I feel shitty calling you like this but my mom’s really sick so I’m going to have to drive her to the emergency room because her car’s in the shop.’”

“Oh that’s original,” interjected Greta.

“Yeah, right?”

“Do you think he took Emma instead?”

“I don’t know but I’m sure as hell going to find out,” said Naomi.

By that time, Naomi had gotten to the pool’s edge to test the water.  For a second she stood there, frozen in place, staring into the placid pool.

“Oh my god, Greta!  There’s someone in your pool!” whispered Naomi hoarsely, as if discovering an intruder.

“What?  There’s no one in the pool,” scoffed Greta.

“Come here, quick.  I think he’s dead!  Oh god, what shall we do?  What shall we do?”

Naomi’s question turned into uncontrolled sobbing as she repeated it like a mantra while crouching in a fetal position at the pool’s edge, hand over mouth, staring down at the body, lying face down and spread eagle at the bottom.  The worst part of the image was the man’s hair.  It floated away from his head in sort of a sea anemone fashion.

Greta ran to the pool and gazed in.

“OH MY GOD,” Greta shrieked, “THAT’S NOT A MAN: THAT’S DADDY!”

Immediately she dove in and swam to her father.  She lifted him enough to clamp her right arm around his torso then tried to stand up but he was unwieldy and slipped away.  She grabbed his sport coat and tried to pull him towards the surface but his body only rolled lazily.  His eyes were closed and his tie partially obscured his face which was blanched.  His lips were a dark gray.  At that point she had to surface for air.

While Greta wrestled with her father’s body, Naomi ran into the house.  She ran to find her cell phone and call 9-1-1, the emergency hotline.  Greta broke the surface of the water screaming:

“Mom, help me!  Mom! I need help!  Somebody, please help!  Hurry!  He’s drowning!”

Greta dove again.  And again struggled with her father’s body at the bottom of the pool and found she could not lift him to the surface.  Mandy Carr, awakened by the commotion poolside, flew downstairs, through the living room and kitchen, out to the alcove in frantic confusion, thinking that one of the girls—Naomi perhaps—might be drowning.  She wore only a nightshirt and panties and found, when she arrived downstairs, the kitchen door flung wide open but, apart from that, saw no evidence of the girls.

Meanwhile, Naomi had dashed to Greta’s bedroom and was frantically searching surfaces and digging through clothes to find her cell phone.  When finally it appeared, Naomi—in a state of panic—dialed 9-1-1 and began crying for help incoherently when the emergency operator answered the call.

Mandy, by then, had dashed out to the pool, shouting Greta! Greta! and, as she arrived, Greta resurfaced again sobbing and screaming:


At once Mandy understood the situation and saw her husband reclined on the pool floor.

“Greta, listen to me!” Mandy shouted.  “Listen to me!  We have to pull him to the shallow end, together.  Do you understand?”

“Yes!  Yes, I understand!  Mom, hurry, he’s gonna die.” cried Greta in anguish.

“Okay!  Go!  Now!” screamed Mandy and dove into the pool.

Within seconds and with Herculean strength, Greta and Mandy pulled Hunter out of the swimming pool and began cardiopulmonary resuscitation.  Both were certified and expert administering CPR so they tag-teamed, working on him until the emergency responders could arrive.  Hunter did, at one point, convulse and retch up water but did not regain consciousness or begin breathing.

So as one gave CPR, the other shrieked at Hunter, ordering him to breathe then alternately pleading with him not to die.  They told him all of the reasons they could think of why he should want to live.  They told him things they had not expressed prior to that moment.  They told him how much they loved him, how important he was in their lives, how broken they would be without him, and how he was expected to be present at future Christmases, graduations, weddings, births, and little league games at the Village Recreational Park to watch his, as of yet, nonexistent grandchildren play soccer or Little League baseball.  He must not die, they told him.  They would never forgive him if he did.  Without expressly saying it, they conveyed the emphatic message that to die would be to commit the ultimate betrayal against his loving family, an even greater offense than infidelity.  Infidelity could be healed or, at least, compensated for; death could not.

It seemed an eternity but in reality the first responder team arrived only minutes after Naomi called the emergency line.  It so happened that the Carrs’ high-tech private security system picked up Naomi’s call as it came through and determined that it originated from the location of the Carrs’ home.  The security system, in turn, automatically relayed all critical location and personal medical information for all three of the Carrs directly to the appropriate emergency response locations as well as to Waterford Mercy Hospital.  The system also included in its alert that the Carrs owned a swimming pool, where on the premises the pool was located, and the fact that drowning might be a high probability factor at that location.  Thus, the Carrs’ fancy security system probably saved four to six minutes in emergency response time.

As the paramedics arrived they pushed aside Mandy and Greta and began fevered efforts to save Hunter’s life.  So there stood Mandy, Greta, and Namoi, now wrapped in blankets and towels (joined by Jackie, the recent divorcée from down the road who couldn’t resist running to see what the sirens and lights were about) all huddled together a few feet away, watching helplessly as the professional lifesavers plied their frenetic trade on Hunter’s behalf.  And it appeared to Mandy they were not succeeding, especially when they initiated the use of some kind of portable electro-shock instrument to jumpstart Hunter’s heart.

Mandy knew at that moment that her husband was dead.  This scenario was not developing the same way as usually depicted in the movies where the drowning victim, you think might be dead, suddenly coughs up water and immediately wants to get up and eat a sandwich.  No, this was quite different.  There was absolutely no rigidity in Hunter’s body: his body was as flaccid as a salmon in the seafood case at the supermarket.

Presently, a second ambulance arrived and more paramedics with it who hustled a gurney to where Hunter lay, coming in through the side gate.  One member of the first crew was a woman.  She held what looked like a rubber water bottle, attached to a clear acrylic mask which had been strapped to Hunter’s face, covering his nose and mouth.  As the others lifted Hunter onto the gurney, she stayed beside him, counting and squeezing the rubber bottle in her hand.  She continued hovering over Hunter, preforming this counting and squeezing task, as two paramedics strapped him to the gurney then lifted and locked it into place, and began carefully rolling it from the patio around to the side gate.

One paramedic separated from the others and intercepted Mandy as she and her entourage started to follow.

“Ma’am, are you a relative of the patient?” asked the serious, action-figure-looking young man.

“Yes, I’m Mandy Carr, Hunter Carr’s—the patient’s—wife,” said Mandy.  She tried to answer confidently but her words quavered as she spoke.

“Ma’am, your husband’s condition is critical.  We’ve managed to regain a faint, irregular heartbeat and we’re bagging him—”

“What do you mean ‘bagging him’?” Mandy interrupted, holding a bad image in her mind.

“We’re using a device to force oxygen into his lungs but he’s not breathing on his own.  We’ve stabilized him as much as we can for now so, at this point, we’re transferring him to Waterford Mercy where they can treat him more aggressively.  They’ll probably admit him to Intensive Care, is my guess.  Now ma’am, I have to go,” said the paramedic.

“Wait.  Wait, please,” pleaded Mandy and grabbed the young man’s elbow.  “I need to know:  Is my husband going to make it?”

“It doesn’t look good, ma’am,” he said.

Just then the wind caught the kitchen door and it slammed shut.


Hunter sat up in bed, half asleep, needing to relieve his bladder.  Mandy was not in bed.  Apparently she had had to use the bathroom, too.  She probably woke me when she got up he thought.  But strangely her bathroom light was off and the door open.  Mandy had a habit of closing her bathroom door and turning on the bright vanity light whenever she needed to get up in the middle of the night.  Hunter considered it a peculiar habit since he did neither; too much light at night tended to wake up his brain and cause him trouble falling back to sleep.  The dim nightlight in his bathroom and his excellent night vision were all he needed to get around.  But just then he noticed that the bedroom door was open and surmised that Mandy had gone to the kitchen or was having one of her “girl talks” with Greta in Greta’s room which often stretched into the wee hours of the morning.

Hunter hung his feet over the edge of the bed and searched for his slippers but they were not where they usually were.  So he ambled to his bathroom barefooted and used the toilet.  But when he tried to flush the toilet the handle would not depress.  Strange, he thought, I’ll figure out what’s wrong with it tomorrow he told himself.

He was about to return to bed when he noticed a pulsating light—a faint pulsating light—lighting up the walls of the bathroom.  It appeared to originate from the frosted windows that ran in a line, adjacent to the ceiling beam.  That’s odd, he thought, Greta and her friends must be up to something out at the pool.  Then the pulsating light got stronger and was lighting up Hunter’s bathroom like a strobe.  I’d better go see what they’re doing he decided.

Hunter came downstairs and into the living room.  There, too, were wild disco lights bouncing off the walls and furniture but these came from the front windows.  It was confusing.  Then at last, it dawned on him: these are fire truck, ambulance, or police vehicle lights.  The thought Fire! shot through his brain but he smelled no smoke, nor had any of the fire alarms gone off.

The light in the kitchen was on but all other lights in the house were off which gave the rooms an eerie, abandoned feel.  The kitchen door stood wide open and the smell of chlorine from the pool had let itself in.  Why were there no sounds? Hunter wondered.

As he reached the kitchen doorway and looked towards the pool, he saw a cluster of people talking.  This too was confusing.  There, he recognized Mandy and Greta who were wrapped in blankets and their hair soaking as if they had just gotten out of the swimming pool.  Naomi, Greta’s best friend, was also among them.  She was wrapped in a towel but was not wet.  And the neighbor lady from down the road was also there for some inexplicable reason.  All four of these women stood, with anxious expressions on their faces, listening attentively to a man wearing a blue jumpsuit—a uniform apparently—embellished with broad, white bands which reflected light.  Then the man turned and jogged in the direction of the gate at the side of the house and left the others by the pool.  As the man left, the women huddled closer together and Mandy and Greta broke into sobbing.

“What the hell?” said Hunter under his breath.  He determined to find out exactly what was going on and why he had not been awakened while it was happening.  Perhaps the security system had been improperly armed or disarmed, causing it to send a false alarm and the man in the jumpsuit had reprimanded Mandy and Greta for the mistake and they were feeling terrible about it.  But certainly they would not cry over something as silly as that; more likely, they would have laughed.

Hunter reached back, grabbed the kitchen door knob, and pulled the door closed.  But it seemed that a draft caught the door just as he was pulling it, causing it to bang shut.  Only Naomi startled at the door slamming; she glanced quickly in Hunter’s direction then returned her attention to Greta, trying, it seemed, to comfort her.

“Mandy!  What is going on?” demanded Hunter as he neared the circle of distraught women.

Not one of the women looked up or acknowledged his question.

“Mandy!”  Hunter said more sharply.  But, again, not the slightest response from any of the women.

Then they began hugging and Mandy told the others she needed to get to the hospital.  Hunter was stunned.  He appeared invisible to them.  They turned and walked directly at him.  He tried to move aside to avoid their paths but was caught between Mandy and the neighbor woman who, it appeared, walked directly into him but at the same time did not touch him.

Oh, it’s a dream! thought Hunter.  Wow, it seems so real.  Must be a lucid dream he thought.  He had read about lucid dreams and had always wanted to experience one.  So at that point, he chucked at himself and decided to just enjoy the ride while it lasted.

“God, that scared me!  My heart is still pounding,” he told himself.  “This is insane.”

By then, the women had left the pool area and gone into the house.

Hunter strolled to the pool, walked the plank, and sat down at the end of the diving board.  As always, he peered into the water.  But this time he noticed an object sitting at the bottom of the pool.  At first he could not make it out.  Then he realized it was one of his favorite bourbon glasses, a hand-blown old fashioned that had a weighty base.  At that moment, he felt a flash of déjà vu but it was too fleeting for him to connect to anything he remembered.

Then suddenly, his perception of reality changed.  There was more—so much more.  For example, he began to believe he could calculate, in his head, the weight and volume of the water in the swimming pool.  Figures popped into his brain.  He wanted to run to his office, find a calculator, and test if these figures were correct.  He could lift the water with his mind and see it like an aqueous loaf of bread.  He could look into it deeply and explore its atomic structure.  In doing this, he realized the water was a living thing.  Then he looked around him and saw the trees.  They had life, too.  Sentient life!  Not just biological life. 

The trees were singing.  Hunter could hear them!  It was a different language, of course, but he could translate the language into English.  Their song sounded like that of medieval monks singing in Latin in a cathedral.  They sang about light, “The true light”.  He saw that they enjoyed moving their needles individually, like thousands of fingers.  They were joyful, celebrating something he was ignorant of.

“Wow, what a fantastic dream!” thought Hunter, then lifted his eyes to the stars.

The most amazing part of Hunter’s altered perception was that he could see everywhere.  His vision was fully three dimensional:  He could see objects from every possible angle, and he could see all objects this way.  For example, of course he could view his house in the normal sense, but then he could also see through its walls into all of its rooms without moving from his perch on the diving board.  He saw Mandy searching for a lost shoe in her bedroom.  He also saw that the shoe she searched for was behind her closet door; he saw her throw the shoe she held in hand into the closet in frustration and grab a pair of tennis shoes instead.  He saw what rocks and stones and layers of soil lay under the house and could see that a solid table of shale lay about ten feet below the house’s foundation but it was not large.

Still seated on the diving board, Hunter began to experience a low buzzing in his ears.  It was like a very bass tone at first, then grew into a ringing sensation, as if an explosion had gone off next to his head, causing his inner ears to ring.  Then came a tremendous pressure in his head which felt like a giant vise had been clamped on his temples.  Soon, the same pressure was crushing his chest as the ringing in his ears intensified further.  He grimaced in pain and closed his eyes.

Then he had to hurl and did so but it was not from his stomach.  It was from the chest.  After vomiting, the pressure in his chest and head subsided by about half and the intensity of the ringing in his ears abated, somewhat.  He gasped for air and found it difficult to breath.  He heard a siren; he heard voices; they spoke numbers; he heard an automobile engine accelerating; he no longer sat but instead lay on his back and could not move his limbs.  He felt tied down.  And he was traveling.

He wanted to wake up from the dream but couldn’t.  Then he remembered another dream of leaning over the rail of a tall pier to look down and, leaning too far, losing his balance and falling a great distance into the dark water.  He fell from the pier at night he remembered.  Then he understood somehow that he was not dreaming, that what he experienced was really happening.  He tried to open his eyes.

It took a great deal of effort but he managed to open his eyes a little; he could not open them long before they closed again.  But in the second his eyes were open, Hunter saw the face of a serious man watching him and heard the steady whooshing sound of air and noticed a plastic cup strapped over his nose.  The man sat next to his bed.  His eyes were intense, almost angry; he was not smiling.

Then a new and frightening sensation began.  Instead of pressure, he felt a sharper, tearing pain in his chest.  It felt elastic.  It felt like elastic cords connected to his heart were being ripped asunder and with it his soul was being torn from his body.

When the last cord broke, Hunter opened his eyes and experienced himself sliding up and out of his body through the top of his head.  Then there were two of him.  One—his unconscious body—lay, bound to the gurney in what was obviously the inside of an ambulance.  The other Hunter—his conscious self—now sat opposite the serious-faced man which he had caught a glimpse of earlier when he opened his eyes.  The serious young man continued to intensely observe the body, strapped to the gurney which was, now, attached to a breathing machine.  Hunter’s body faced the young man in the blue jumpsuit so that Hunter could not see his own face from where he sat.  But he noticed a small pool of liquid on the metal, ambulance floor that ran in fingers towards the back and door.

Hunter then realized this was not a dream; it was reality:  He had died in the back of an ambulance.  But, somehow, he no longer cared, mainly because all of the pressure, pain, and ringing in his ears had vanished.  He felt okay again.  He still, however, did not know how he had died, only that he had and, really, how it happened didn’t matter.

Years later, while relating this experience to a close friend, Hunter said:  Dying is a selfish act.  What do you mean by selfish? asked the friend.  To which Hunter replied: I mean that when you die, you die alone because no one else in your life enters your thoughts.  They are simply not part of your decision-making process as they usually would be.  When I died, for example, it didn’t remotely cross my mind how my death might affect any of my family members or friends.  Not once did I think about my job or co-workers or my responsibilities at work.  In that moment, I had zero obligations and no responsibilities of any kind.  None of it mattered.  I was completely absorbed in the present and what I experienced in that moment.  I felt like a kid at the zoo, caught up in the novelty and surprise of what was before me.  Everything else became utterly inconsequential.  That’s what I mean when I say: Dying is a selfish act.

At that point, Hunter could not think of any reason to continue riding to the hospital with his body.  So he stood up and poked his head through the top of the ambulance where he could look around.  The fresh, cool air felt good on his face.  Then, not sure if he willed it or it just happened, Hunter floated upward and out of the ambulance.  The ambulance continued racing down the avenue with its lights flashing but Hunter stayed behind.  He floated higher until he was above the trees and could see houses on both sides of the avenue and the lights of town.  He watched the ambulance slow, turn left onto Baudelaire Boulevard, then accelerate again towards Waterford Mercy Hospital and, at that point, start its siren.

The higher Hunter floated the freer he felt.  Soon he had reached an elevation where he could see all of Waterford village.  Floating a little higher, Clemden came into view, also.  Up and up he climbed.  He passed through a virtual asteroid belt of satellites orbiting Earth, some humming, others silent.  He had never thought about satellites orbiting Earth before and certainly had never imagined there were so many of them.

At last Hunter reached an elevation where he could see all of Earth.  He saw dawn approaching where a crescent of Earth’s surface was bright with sunlight while the rest was still dark.  In the dark area, where there were landmasses, cities sparkled with golden light.  Where the Earth was illuminated with sunlight, he saw Earth as the iconic blue and white marble he had seen so often on posters and in space movies.  But nothing he had seen before did justice to the actual experience of seeing Mother Earth firsthand.  The sight of her caught his breath and he felt privileged to be one of her offspring.  How could I have taken such a privilege for granted? he wondered.

After a moment or two gazing at Earth, Hunter turned his attention outward towards space.  From there, above Earth, the stars were not just stars.  They were jewels, majestic jewels of wondrous clarity and color.  They looked faceted and lit from within, throwing sparks of colored light in all directions.  But then there was one which was white like a diamond and dazzlingly bright.  It was larger than all the other stars in the sky and seemed to be growing larger still, though it had to be light years away.

Then, as if bursting into warp speed, the light shot towards Hunter and expanded as it came.  It had not come half way when already he had to squint to look at it.  This must be the light everyone encounters at death he thought.  It was blindingly bright.

It was so bright, yet Hunter could not stop looking at it.  Two things were happening to him as he did:  First, the light filled every cell of his being and, at the same time, saturated him with an incredible euphoria.  Having sex is a miserable disappointment compared to this thought Hunter.  Second, he began to see a figure in the light.  The figure was like one of those in a Bronzino painting except more beautiful.  And its splendor became more overwhelming the closer it drew.

“Wow!” was all Hunter could utter as he gazed upon the dazzling light.

Oddly, however, Hunter knew that the figure in the light was not God as people generally thought of a Supreme Being.  In fact, it seemed that all earthly expressions such as “God” or “Creator” or whatever had no currency in the presence of the Eternal which Hunter then found himself facing.  In that way, earthly language lost its utility.  He could no better describe the being standing before him than he could count to infinity.  The only phrase in the English language he could think of which offered some weak token of its essence was:  Perfect Beauty!

Before this being, Hunter found himself unable to contain his joy.  And, in that moment, all he could do was laugh.

Copyright by Dale Tucker.  All rights reserved.