Amazing Kids! Magazine

Warning Labels

Bryce Kennedy, age 14, Ohio


Warning labels, warning labels everywhere, commanding and all-powerful. On cars, seats, devices, boats – they’re everywhere. But does anyone actually pay attention to them? Especially when they’re going 30 miles an hour on an inflated inner-tube, with their knees and elbows reddening from rug burn as they whip around, jumping, jolting, twisting, and turning until someone goes flying off, flailing and yelling, anticipating the first impact with the glossy water below? No; who would? Everyone thinks everything’s alright since nothing’s ever happened to anyone they know. Well, that was my view on everything until one fateful Saturday down in a house of paradise in the year of 2013.

Allow me to explain: my family owns a lake house on what I’d call my favorite vacation place on Earth. Why, one might ask? Is it the perfect temperature water that gleams like blue glass every afternoon? Is it building a blazing fire every night to cook perfect s’mores and hang out with the low rumble of motorboats always in my ears? Sure, those are all fantastic, but what really gets me is the danger and adventure. For example, I’ve learned that if someone tells me to go jump off a bridge, I will not hesitate to go flying off of it.

With ambition still deeply imbedded in my young mind under my rat nest of a haircut, I bolt down the long sidewalk to the dock, far ahead of my family and another family we had down with us. I cannot wait to get back into the water that I’ve come to love so much. So I sprint across the dock and send myself flying off the dock’s edge. I slam into the water. After breaking the surface and being completely immersed, I simply float there while I hear the soft sound of air being released. I wait calmly until the boat is launched and the tubes are thrown into the water. I quickly wiggle up on to the nearest one, an innocent green and blue tube with a fairly large hump in the center, separating the two riders. After tossing the ropes to the boat and waiting for my brother to figure out how to attach them to the boat tower, we could finally set off. In those first few moments before liftoff, it’s completely quiet, all I feel is my fingers tightly grasping the rough, fabric handles and the soft drag of water against my feet as we straighten out. I watch the boat slowly straighten with us and its low rumble of the engine throbbing in my ears.

In all but an instant, that slow rumble turns into a roar, the soft drag turns into harsh whiplash, and my fingers go numb for a moment. Although I can’t see the other tube, I know it’s there. I feel it bullying and shoving ours and knocking me over on my side. But I hold on tight and that’s what keeps me from being dragged away to my doom in the cruel water. It’s impossible to stay completely immobile when each small wave is like a punch to the gut. It is surge after surge of waves and constant strain against not only my wrists from holding on for dear life but also my body that can’t stop flopping around like a fish out of water. On occasion we have a wave larger than the smaller punch-in-the-gut waves that sends us two to five feet into the air. However, one wave we spotted was massive. Of course, my young mind always wanted to do the most dangerous things. So I was full of adrenaline, ready for anything that this wave might bring.

In just a half a second, all of that confidence and energy left me as this wave hit. It was like being slammed into by an eighteen wheel semi-truck right in the stomach. As I’m being sent seven feet directly upwards, my body flails in terror and confusion. After reaching the peak of my failed attempt to become a bird, I feel myself suddenly plummet down. Then that same energy and excitement re-enters me, thinking I’m going to be fine and this is going to look absolutely amazing. Yet again, all of that leaves me faster than light as I hit the tube hard on my stomach, my right leg caught over the top of the hump. I watch in horror as my tube accomplice comes rocketing down behind me.

It was like an industrial cable has just snapped under my kneecap. I feel no pain at first, but the sound is there: an ear-splitting crunch that was enough to make chills roll down the spines of a dragon. I shriek as pain burns up my entire leg – pain worse than anything I’ve ever experienced. It was something close to a burning sensation mixed with two trillion venomous hornets stinging exactly one point under my knee. In pure shock, I let myself go limp and slide off the back of the tube. Everything flashes by, from my brother swimming me to the boat, to my rush to the hospital via minivan. As I sit still in shock and pain in the x-ray room, I realize two things: I am a complete and utter imbecile for actually trying to land that, and I really should recognize when enough is enough and I am in serious danger. I’ve been wary of that moment and its consequences to this day, and I know now what the outcome could be if I try to pull another stunt like that again. Although this event impaired my walking ability for five months straight, I made a full recovery to continue doing my amazingly stupid bridge jumping, cliff diving, death-defying stunts to this day.