Joanna roamed the beach in the windy, unstable afternoon, shading her eyes as she viewed the expanse of sea. It was after 4 o’clock and the beach was deserted. The waves were breaking heavy on the shore. It was one of her favorite times to walk the beach—just after a storm. She drifted to the edge of the tide as waves splashed and foamed around her ankles. The water was cool and refreshing and helped to ease some of the aching in her right foot. She strolled with her hands locked behind her back, squinting into the gray moving sky. She watched the raw surf curve and break across the beach, observing sandpipers skitter along the edge of the foam, pecking for food.
She lifted the binoculars to her eyes and scanned the horizon, looking at white caps and distant sails. Smoky white and purple wisps of clouds hugged the horizon. She picked at the shells and toed the sand, exploring the stringy seaweed, driftwood and plastic trash, all pushed to shore by the storm. Again she pointed her binoculars toward the sea. She spotted something bobbing in the waves.
She jolted erect, adjusting the focus. At first she thought it was a kayak. She moved toward the water, straining her eyes. Was it some kind of raft? The current was drawing it toward the shore.
Her eyes shifted, and then focused. She saw a body—a person—clinging to a piece of something, floating in toward the beach. It drifted toward a large swell, was seized by the current and then tossed helplessly, bobbing and twisting in a surging wave. It was a man! He was desperately holding on.
Joanna dropped her bag and binoculars, darted into the water, plunged into the cold surf and swam toward him. Coming up for air, she saw him clinging to a piece of debris, wearing an orange life preserver.
As she closed in, another wave struck, smashing down on top of them, spinning him away from her. She dropped under the wave, came up, recovered and relaxed, feeling her shirt swimming around her. She allowed the current to do the work; to carry her in the same direction as the man. Drawing near, she kicked and swam, using all her strength to reach him, before the next charging waves impacted. One threatened, gathering rolling strength, rumbling toward them like thunder. The man reached for her weakly, arms flailing, his pallid face stretched in agony.
“Help me…,” he called.
With her outstretched hand, she reached and snagged him by the collar of his shirt. She yanked him toward her.
The wave struck. Joanna wrapped him with her arms as it pounded them, shoving them carelessly toward the beach.
Together, they thrashed toward shore, gasping. Catching her breath, Joanna struggled to her feet, stumbling for balance across the rocky bottom. Anchoring herself, she helped the man to find his footing. She wrapped an arm around his waist and led him up the beach to safety.
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