The ocean was angry and the waves thrashed at the beach like a rabid pit bull at the end of its chain, desperately looking to bite into anyone or anything. A hurricane was off the coast of Ocean City. It wasn’t close enough to cause evacuations, but it kicked up the surf to the point where it wiped out most of the beach. The lifeguards were still keeping watch, ready to blow their whistles and call for back-up through their radios and longdistance flag language. If rip currents pulled someone out beyond the break, they were ready to come to the rescue.
People made assumptions about the lifeguard with the homemade tattoos on his arms. With his shirt on, they figured his lazy demeanor and sun bleached hair blown by the wind into a fro meant that he was still recovering from a party the night before. Once his shirt came off, he became a scary symbol of authority, as if he had command of the very ocean itself. It was shortly after noon. The sky was a grayish green and the wind picked up millions of grains of sand and flung them into the flesh of anyone brave enough or stupid enough to bare their skin.
Despite his typically laid back posture, in one fluid motion the lifeguard stripped to his shorts and threw off his glasses. Bystanders followed his gaze into the ocean and saw a young woman who was waist deep in the water. She ducked beneath a crashing wave, but by the time she popped back up to the surface, the rip current had opened up, and she was smack in the middle of it. A man on the shore witnessed the waves carry the woman away, and he turned to the lifeguard a yelled that there was a woman in trouble, but the lifeguard had already sprinted past him and into the ocean.
The waves looked as if they were pushing against the shore, trying to keep everyone out, but sucking them in if they made it beyond the fingertips of the furiously waving ocean hands. The lifeguard sliced through the water with precision and grace. Where the water was shallow, he ran. Then he dove under the waves, and for a moment he was gone. His rescue buoy floated on the surface, but the lifeguard was still underwater. Then he emerged less than five yards away from the woman in trouble.
When the lifeguard with the scary tattoos had reached the woman, she was exhausted from treading water, just keeping her head above water. The guard reached for his buoy and thrust it into the arms of the fatigued woman. She grasped the handle with both hands and then climbed on top of it. The lifeguard turned back towards shore and noticed three troubling things. The water was choppy and strong which meant they were still in the middle of the rip. The rip current was close to a block wide, so there would be no swimming out of it; they would have to come right back through against the current.
The most disturbing observation that the lifeguard made was that the lifeguard that sat in the chair next to his was still sitting in her chair and focusing on whatever she held in her hands. The lifeguard in the water became enraged at his circumstances. He began to swim straight for shore. At first he held the buoy and dragged it and the woman on top of it through the water, but after he saw that he wasn’t making any progress, he let go of his floatation device. The rope thrown over his shoulder was attached well to his buoy, and so the lifeguard put the woman and the buoy in tow as he swam for shore.
He reached a point where the waves would push him towards land, but between the waves, the rip current would pull him back out to sea again. The lifeguard fought and wrestled against the ocean and felt himself losing the battle. He waved to the other lifeguards on the beach to ask for help, but they did not see him. His situation got more desperate as his strength faded quickly. He struggled to maintain his position. The woman on top of the buoy must have noticed the desperation in the lifeguard. She slipped off the buoy and into the water, still hanging on to the buoy, but now she was a teammate with the lifeguard.
She began to kick towards land while the lifeguard worked to position them ahead of the break. They fought the current for what seemed like ten more minutes until the waves began to break on top of them. After a few waves crashed on them, one finally picked them up and hurtled them both landward. They twisted and turned and somersaulted in the water, thrown about by the force of the wave. Somehow they both managed to hang on to the buoy. After the wave had finished with them, the lifeguard and the woman were standing in water that was about waist level. They trudged ashore, beaten and exhausted.
The woman fell into the arms of her anxious husband while the lifeguard picked up his buoy and made his way back to his chair. On his way back, the beach patrons who had witnessed the spectacle stood and clapped their hands in appreciation of the no named lifeguard with the tattoos of doom that everyone had just assumed was lazy. The lifeguard climbed his chair, dried off with his towel and put his sunglasses back on. From high on his chair the lifeguard could see just how big and powerful the rip currents were. The waves pounded the sand with loud, crashing blows as the ocean made a growling noise.
Perhaps it was angry that two people who should have known better were allowed to escape its clutches. The lifeguard put his clothes back on and sat back down in his semi reclined position. The beach patrons went back to their business of walking up and down the beach, dipping their feet in the ocean, and letting the wind pick up grains of sand and fling them against their skin. The lifeguard continued his vigilant scanning of the ocean, beach patrons, and fellow lifeguards. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he wondered if it was God that allowed him to escape from the ocean one more time.