So there I was, unable to swim and yet knowing that, if I went back to the shore I would die anyway.
I remembered seeing people swim on their backs and I just kicked my feet and moved my arms and started going further and further out into the river.
I could hear my Stepfather shouting at me:
“Come back! Just you wait till you come back! Come back I going to drown you like a stinking rat!”
NOTE: Over the years, the utter irony of his words and total LACK of incentive has struck me as very stupid.
But at the time, all I could think was: “I’m going to die and I’m only 14!”
Then I felt my head hit something in the water. It was a small boat anchored about 70 feet out from the shore.
I grabbed a hold of the side and pulled myself into the boat. I hid under the tarpaulin.
I know it is ridiculous looking back but at the time, I was convinced that if I moved or made even the slightest of sounds, he would somehow hear me and swim out to drown me.
Eventually, I fell asleep.
I woke in the morning about 8 am hungry, sore and very thirsty from the heat.
I looked out and my heart sank.
The tide was in and the water looked so deep!
It was one thing to have made it to the boat under the power of adrenaline but now in the light of day I was TOTALLY stuck.
The feeling of despair was overwhelming. And then I saw a couple of guys in a fishing boat about 90 feet away.
I started waving at them and shouting and a few minutes later they were moving towards me.
They asked me what I was doing and how I got there. They were amazed when I told them I couldn’t swim and took me to the shore.
I remember one of them asked if I was hungry and handed me $20 [a LOT of money for a kid back then]
So there I was, standing on the shore, $20 in hand – my clothes creased and wondering:
“What the heck do I do now?”
One thing was sure. I had to leave home. I knew I could never risk going back.
I looked at the $20 all the money I had in the world… and thought: “I’d better spend this wisely…”
[Continued in Part 3]