Every day was the same for Lewis, his life was as predictable as the sun rise and a monotonous continuation of his father’s tedious existence. But whereas his father seemed satisfied with his lot and disinterested in changing the routine he had set himself, Lewis wanted to break free from the tedium, make changes, add some colour to their grey lives.
But ever since his mother’s untimely death when he was just five years old, Lewis’ life had become part of his father’s daily routine; the hour by hour, minute by minute schedule he followed day in day out.
His mother had been the mainstay, the driving force of the family and her absence had left a gaping hole that his father filled with routine.
But his way of life excluded Lewis from every aspect of a loving supportive father. Lewis was now 10 years old and wanted more than food on the table and clean socks in his drawer.
So he came up with a plan that was so simple it was foolproof.
Every morning at 7am his father went jogging; the same route, the same length of time. All Lewis had to do was to stop him, even if it was just for a few mornings, then the time he normally spent jogging he could spend with Lewis.
Lewis knew just where he would lie in wait; he would hide in a huge bush adjacent to the canal path, lay the near invisible string across the path; pull it tight just as his father was passing; trip him up just enough to cause a minor injury; a sprained ankle or cut knee.
It was 6.50 and the sun was just rising. The canal walk was completely quiet, his trap was set.
Suddenly Lewis heard a voice, he looked at his watch, his father was early. He pulled the string tight and waited. More voices. His heart beat loudly, his pulse raced, his breathing became faster and heavier. His hand was now throbbing from the string that was wound tightly around. He could hear someone running, getting closer; then shouting.
Then it all happened so fast it seemed like a dream.
He tripped over the string, stumbled then went flying over the edge. There was a loud splash then shouting,
‘Help, help me, I can’t swim.’
Lewis ran to the side of the canal and looked over and was horrified to see a complete stranger floundering about in the water, sinking then coming back up, arms flailing desperate to get a hold of something.
The sun was now well risen and shone like a huge golden globe. Lewis looked around and saw a lifebelt. Quickly he grabbed it and threw it over the side. He leant over the edge to make sure the person had managed to reach it.
The man who was in the water had grabbed the lifebelt and was now afloat, he looked up and saw a young face surrounded by a golden glowing circle. For what could only have been 10 seconds but seemed like an eternity, the man stared at Lewis, his face turned white. Lewis was terrified then heard another voice shouting,
‘Stop him, stop him. He stole my bag!’
He looked up to see an elderly lady hobbling towards him, without wasting another second, Lewis ran, leaving his jacket and rucksack behind.
By the time Lewis’ father arrived a large crowd had gathered. He caught a few of the words: ‘boy, drowning, angel’. None of it made sense until he spotted a jacket and a bag he recognised.
Immediately the words translated into a nightmare, the guilt of knowing but never admitting he had neglected his only son, the last precious link he had with his beloved wife, the reminder of a life he once had and adored that he had pushed to one side in a vain attempt to deal with the tragedy of his loss. But now it was too late, his precious son had been unable to continue and had ended his own short life.
The guilt and remorse, the devastation he now felt were too immense to comprehend. He held the precious jacket and rucksack, hugged them breathing in the last traces of Lewis. Then he crumpled and fell to the floor sobbing inconsolably. He heard the voices of a babbling crowd who wanted to be the first, the first to see the limp body of a boy, not any boy, his son, his flesh and blood.
He began to feel rage, incredible anger that all these strangers were going to be the first ones to see his beloved Lewis.
The words drifted across, hung in the air,
‘Let him up, give him room. Mind. You there, help me.’
‘That’s him, look there’s my bag. That’s the thief.’
‘An angel, I saw an angel. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.’
Lewis’ father looked up to see the person who had been fished out of the canal was not in fact his son but a grown man.
Without waiting to hear the explanation, with his son’s jacket and bag in his arms, he ran back home.
He arrived to find his son cowering in the corner of his bedroom balling his eyes out. He knelt down and wrapped his arms around Lewis, held him close, not wanting to let go.
They sat like that for ages, both crying but with tears of joy.
Lewis finally explained what he had done; his dad was so full of remorse and relief that he couldn’t be angry with him.
Later the local news reported …
‘Lifelong thief Tony Sudgeon has turned over a new leaf, after stealing a pensioner’s bag, he fell into the canal but was rescued, he says, by an angel. Having handed the bag back to his victim, he swore he would never again turn to crime … “I saw an angel, I was drowning but looked up to see an angel’s face looking down at me, his head was aglow, he had a halo around him …”‘
Lewis and his dad looked at each other and laughed laughed more than they had done in years.