When Charlie Foster fell into the river that late afternoon, no one really knew what to do. It had been raining on and off for three days, the river was muddy and moving fast, and the water was rising up over the grassy bank at least ten extra feet. Five or six of the ones who were there that day and saw him fall in moved as close to the water as they dared, standing motionless at the edge, silently looking for any part of him that might rise to the surface. Stephanie Knox swears she saw Charlie's arm and hand break the surface, but no one else saw anything else of Charlie, or at least that's what they told the police. It was a full ten seconds before anyone said or did anything. Nancy said it was like a movie moving in slow motion. She also said it was Jodie McDermott who was the first one do really do anything.
"Oh my God! Oh my God! Somebody do something! You guys! We can’t just let him—" Jodie didn't exactly know how to finish her sentence.
"CHARLIE!! You stupid idiot!" Jeff quickly took off his shoes and socks, followed by his shirt.
"Jeff, what are you doing?" Yelled a frantic Stephanie.
"He’ll drown!" Jeff quickly replied. "Do you think Charlie Foster knows how to swim? Hell, No!"
"Jeff, it’s stupid to go in that water!" Said Jana, assessing the situation.
"The water is too fast, Jeff—"
"Get some help!" Yelled Jeff, right before he dove into the water and headed downstream.
"Jeff! I’ll call 911!" Jodie yelled, hoping she could somehow stop an already swimming Jeff. She pulled out her cell phone, and with a shaky finger pushed the three numbers.
"We have an emergency! At the river! I don't know, where are we you guys?"
"The dirt road by Castle rock," Jana responded, "Tell them to hurry!"
Meanwhile, Charlie Foster was confused at what had happened. The cold water had numbed his body immediately, and he was trying to remember if he knew how to swim. For several seconds, he didn't know if he were up or down in the water. He opened his eyes to see if he could see anything. The muddy water stung his eyes, and the next thing he felt was a branch hitting him on the side of the head as he began tumbling beneath the bank of the river. He reached out with his hand to see if he could hold onto something, but he was moving much too fast. Finally, he did get a hold of a branch, but the river was much stronger than the one arm he had to hold it. The last thing he remembered was that he couldn't breath.
Jeff looked up from his frantic freestyle stroke, his arms moving like two windmills. Jeff was a good swimmer, but the current was very fast. He took another breath and tried to slow down his stroke. He let the current carry him in hopes that it would take him in the same direction it had carried Charlie. He claims he did see Charlie Foster that day, and in fact, as he went beneath the bank of the river, he even says he had grabbed Charlie's wrist. Kyle Smith says that would have been impossible, because the river was moving much to fast and Jeff was to far behind him. It ended what little friendship he had with Kyle, in fact, they came very close to a fight over it. Kyle said he was just using logic and he didn't understand why Jeff had to be such a putz about it. Jeff says that Charlie was holding onto a branch beneath the bank, and that's how he was able to catch up with him. After that, Jeff says, he let the current carry him down, but he almost had a hold of him.
When the fire trucks finally pulled down the dirt road towards the bank of the river, it was a full fifteen minutes later, and neither Jeff nor Charlie had been seen. Two of the firemen began running down the bank of the river, one of them pushing through the bushes and shrubs that lined the bank. The third fireman stayed behind, and was already beginning to ask questions. Nancy, Juliet, and Stephanie had quickly collected all the beer and empty cans and had put them in the trunk of Stephanie's car before the fire truck had arrived, and before the police began to show up.
"Thank God," thought Stephanie, "that no one really had time to get drunk."
That was the first thing the policeman asked them, if Charlie or Jeff had been drinking.
"No, officer, we were just…out here…" Nancy had stammered, not really knowing what to say. She knew that Charlie had maybe drunk a couple of the beers, but not enough to have this happen, not enough for him to just fall in the river.
Mike Barry sat on a rock. He was running both of his hands through his hair, and his face was very red. That's what Nancy remembers. When Nancy had been smoking pot, she remembered things like that. What people looked like, what they were wearing, whether they were happy, sad, or even scared. She remembered that red face the most, and the look in his eyes.
"Does someone want to tell me what happened?" The cop said.
Nobody said anything at first. Everyone stood in silence. Finally, Trisha stepped forward. "It was an accident, he fell into the water. It didn't look like he could swim. He just went under right away and disappeared."
" And the other boy?" The cop questioned.
"Jeff went in after him, to save him I guess, I mean, it happened so fast," Jana joined in.
Everyone was relieved when the fireman appeared from downstream with Jeff. The girls all began running down the river-bank until they reached him.
"Oh my God, Jeff! Don't ever do something like that again!" yelled Stephanie.
Jeff had a large scratch across his chest, and he was holding his hand. He looked like he was about to cry, that's what Nancy said later, and she wanted to cry too. She usually didn't get emotional when she was stoned, but this was different, something in Jeff will never be the same, she thought. Although the other girls were treating him as some kind of hero, she knew that Jeff didn't feel so heroic, he was just scared, and so was she.
The next day in school was very quiet. An announcement was made in each of the classrooms that Charlie Foster's body had been found, and that he was dead. That's all they really said, although the rumor quickly spread around the school that he had been found almost a mile down stream, and that his body looked as though it had been badly beaten. Someone else had said that his arm was broken and was bent behind him like the guy in the Deliverance movie. The principal had wanted to do an assembly that day, but decided that it could wait for the next day, to see what other details emerged.
"You're Jodie McDermott?" Juliet said, catching up to Jodie quickly and gently pulling her arm.
"Where do I know you from? Oh, you were there." Jodie replied.
"We started in Drama, the first of the year," said Juliet.
"What happened to you?"
"Oh, I switched to sixth hour, same class, only later." Replied Juliet.
"Art imitating life", Jodie said, "Talk about drama."
"Are you going to the funeral?" Juliet asked.
"I never miss a good funeral," she replied, teasing.
"Maybe we could go together, Juliet said.
"You were there, weren't you? I mean I saw you there at the river," said Jodie.
"You called 9-1-1.
"Did you know him?"
"Did anyone really know Charlie Foster?" Jodie replied. They walked together to class, one of many walks that began on that day.
"Charlie was in my earth science class. I mean, I didn't really know him, he was, you know, quiet." Juliet said as they walked.
Mike Barry didn't come to school the next day, or the next. In fact, it became obvious to the whole school that Mike Barry may not come back to school for the rest of the year. It was a little strange, because Mike Barry was a senior, and there was only two months of school left in the year. Rumors began to surface that Mike had some kind of emotional breakdown after Charlie died, and that he was even taken to a hospital. Everyone loved Mike Barry. He was the quarterback on the football team, and led the team to the state championships for the first time in twelve years. The college scouts swarmed around the coaches, his parents, and of course Mike himself. Everyone knew that Mike wanted to go to USC, but the college he had chosen had been a well kept secret the entire year. Mike was the perfect size for a quarterback, and he was also very good looking, a characteristic that he was modest about, and that's probably why people liked him all the more. He had the perfect shyness that attracted students and teachers alike, an A student, and more that enough athletic talent that made him a three sport legend. And now, he had disappeared right along with Charlie Foster. It was true that no one really understood how or why that Charlie Foster had ridden to the river that day with Mike and Kyle, but most said that Mike was such a nice guy that he had invited Charlie himself.
There were forty-two students who left school to attend Charlie's funeral. Several of the kids made a banner that said, "We love and miss you, Charlie". That didn't seem like a lot in a school of over 1200 students, but it was enough to make Charlie's grandmother very happy. Nancy told her mother that she was a very strange lady, wearing a Hawaiian mumu to the funeral, and it seemed like all she wanted to do was talk to the kids about what their future plans were. Nancy told her mother it was the strangest funeral she had ever been to, and Nancy's mother responded that Nancy had only been to three funerals in her life. But, Nancy was adamant about it being just plain weird, and that no one really even knew this kid. Nancy said that the grandmother was the only relative, and that she had brought three cats to the funeral, put them in cages, and set them down near the coffin. It was a closed casket, which only added to the mystery and rumors. Some said later that not only was Charlie's body beaten up and his arm broken, but that coyotes had pulled him from the river and eaten away most of his face and that's why the casket was closed. The crueler kids had said that it was probably a good thing, that his face was probably better for it. It was true that Charlie had a very bad skin problem, everyone knew that. In fact, it was probably why people even knew who he was by that. The kid with boils on his face. Nancy also told her mother about Mike Barry, and now that he was absent from school, kids said that Mike and Charlie were even lovers, and that's why Mike freaked out. Nancy's mother said she didn't want to hear anymore about the funeral. That was fine with Nancy.
Charlie's death was ruled an accidental drowning, even though there was a short inquiry from a detective assigned to the case. Everyone knew that Mike and Charlie had been wrestling some on the bank of the river, but everyone was pushing each other that day, and that if anyone could be blamed, it had to be everyone. That's what you did at the river, Kyle had said, you pushed each other. Everyone told the police that no one really saw what happened right before Charlie fell into the river. He could have stumbled, or he could have been really drunk. Trish Vander said that Charlie was downing beers like a maniac, and it didn't surprise her at all that he fell into the river. And no, she had said, when the police asked her where he got the beer, she didn't know, he must have had them in the bushes.