Distracted by Pamela Love


Summer Water Challenge Honorable Mention


A toddler can drown in four inches of water. One was doing just that four feet in front of me.

I blasted my whistle in his mother’s ear. As her phone fell to the beach, I stabbed my finger toward her son, face down in a tide pool. Purple sea urchins and anemones with waving green tentacles framed his blond head. Hardly a surprise that a curious child would leave the beginnings of a sandcastle behind to take an up-close look at this ocean puddle. Top-heavy like all toddlers, he’d slipped and stayed down.

“Ethan!” His mom scrambled over the sand, yanking him out of the briny shallows and bawling for help. People crowded around, pulling out their own phones to record a lifeguard performing CPR.

Me? I walked away. My work was done. Ethan had lucked out. I’d saved his life. Good thing for him—who knows when his mother would’ve realized that he was in trouble. When parents are distracted, children are in danger.

It’s a lesson other parents gawking at Ethan apparently didn’t learn. Fascinated by this near tragedy, they didn’t notice their own offspring being lured into other tide pools just as he had been by the song of my Siren sisters—a wonder young children can hear, but adults cannot.


Pamela was born in New Jersey and graduated from Bucknell University. After working as a teacher and in marketing, she became a writer. Her stories have appeared in such magazines as Page & Spine, Luna Station Quarterly, and Havok. She now lives in Maryland.

Published 8/12/21

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