The two young fishermen jumped into the water to cool off and then stood waiting for Jedidiah to move away from the ladder.
“What the . . .?” one of them said as he noticed Jedidiah’s deformed foot through the clear water. “Hey, Chuck, look at this.” He grabbed hold of Jedidiah’s leg and lifted it out of the water, dunking him backwards. Jedidiah struggled, but the older boy had a good grip and then the second boy got closer and grabbed the good leg that Jedidiah had begun to flail and kick.
Panic overcame the initial humiliation and even though the water was not that deep, Jedidiah was thrashing to stay above the surface.
In a sudden impulse he sucked in a lungful of air and went limp, letting his head sink to the sandy bottom. Jedidiah was good at holding his breath. Despite the tight grips both teens had on his calves, he concentrated not on the bruising his muscles were receiving or the foul-mouthed descriptions he could hear even underwater or the tightness that was growing in his chest, but rather, he concentrated on holding his breath longer than he ever had before.
And suddenly they let go. He righted himself and came to the surface in time to get hit in the face mask with a glob of watery mud. He gulped some air and dipped back under and watched from below as his tormentors’ feet disappeared up the ladder rungs. The muddied water hid the splashy approach of his three friends along with four girls and two adults. Jedidiah popped up and heard all the yelling and swearing that was going on. Friends and strangers had come to his aid, throwing mud, attacking and shouting down the jerks who had held his foot up for all to see.
“You all right, son?” one adult asked.
Jedidiah nodded and the adults herded the girls away.
“What was that all about?” Chris asked.
“Dude,” Dex said, “you don’t want to mess with those brothers. They’re weird.”
Before he could respond Eric said, “Dragonfoot, man, look, they crushed your foot.”
The three friends stared through the lake water and slowly, very slowly, holding his breath again, Jedidiah raised his foot to the surface. “Nah,” he said as his friends gasped, “it’s always been like this.”
(excerpt from THE GUARDIAN'S DIARY, a young adult novel)