Mike hung by his toes at the edge of the quarry. He took a deep breath and pictured himself diving into the milky water 20 feet below. The water was said to be 50 feet deep at its center but neither he nor any of his friends knew how deep the water was just below the cliff. Once he dove, the only way out was a five mile swim across to the outcropping they used for swimming on hot days.
“Go for it Mike!” said Charlie, and the rest of his gang cheered.
Mike took one more deep breath, swung his arms behind him, and threw himself out and away. The wind on the way down pounded his chest and stomach, knocking the air out of his lungs. He felt a sharp pain in his ears, and thudded into the water. Blackness.
His friends stopped cheering when he didn’t come up. Some peered over the edge or scanned the water hoping to see some sign of him. But there was none. One by one, they left the quarry in silence.
Mike shot to the top of the water some seven feet from the cliff face, sputtering and spewing water from his nostrils like a baby laughing with a mouthful of milk. He lay on his back, gasping and looking at the sky above him. He swiveled his eyes, found the cliff face and headed for it. There were no handholds. He forced himself to swim toward the far wall. A few painful strokes, floating, a few more strokes, floating, until he touched an outcropping. His internal compass had worked. Alerted by Charlie, the security guard found Mike unconscious an hour before the EMTs arrived.
That night in the hospital, he celebrated his sixteenth birthday.