When I put my hand on my little brother Sam’s shoulder on that summer day, he was six years old. I was fifteen. Back in the 1980s, every day of the summer break was an “Into the Wild Day”. Well, for the kids in our village, it was “Into the River Day”. One of the crazy things we did was rock diving. The rock was 30 feet or so high. We climbed to its top. Then one by one, we jumped into the deep, blue river below. Sam was one of the youngest boys that dared to make the dive. I always jumped before him. Then I got out of the water, waved hands to him all the way up on the rock, “Jump, come on, jump!” He flew into the sky, curled into a ball, hit the water like a huge stone.
Living in the river were the giant salamanders. The salamander is an amphibious animal. It has the shape of a lizard, but could easily grow to five feet long. Its brown, blotched skin is coated with thick slime. When it is happy, it growls like a baby is crying, “Owh, owh……” We didn’t know its official name at that time. So we called it the monster baby fish. Sounds like a horror movie, huh? But the monster baby fishes were actually incredibly timid. They lived under the rocks in the deep water. In the summer days, they were incessantly haunted by our rock diving. Sometimes a monster baby fish scrambled to the surface, swimming around in confusion. That was the true scary scene, causing hysterical cries among the boys onshore. Sometimes there were drunk adults jumping into the river to chase it. They came back with nothing but two hands of sticky slime.
One day, the boy before us jumped and made a huge splash. Then a monster baby fish turned up in the center of the whirlpool. Holy cow, a monster of monster baby fish. It was well over four feet long, twisted in panic, revealed its dreadful white belly. All the boys were frozen, except the one that made the dive. He was swimming toward the shore like crazy. He must have peed in the water.
“Oh no~~” I heard Sam shout behind me. “Don’t let it go.” He ran past me toward the rock cliff, was poised to jump. Apparently, he had no idea that he was a lot shorter than the salamander down the river.
I jumped up, put my hand on his shoulder, held him back with all my force. “Are you crazy? You want to get yourself killed?” He seemed…