A Short Story For You

stammen_207_ellen_swim

I wrote this when I was 15 years old.  10th grade English class, the teacher gave us an assignment to write a short story, I don’t fully remember the specifics of the assignment just that we had a week to do it.  She gave us that class day to begin our first draft and I knew exactly what to write about, about a dream I had had the night before where a man was swimming and flying at the same time.  I wrote out this whole story in a matter of about 45 minutes and turned it in at the end of class, I got an A too 😀 (btw this is in original form with just slight grammatical and wordage corrections here and there…)

The Race

I am walking down a deserted beach, for the most part, until they end, where I see a small crowd of people have gathered.  It looks as though they are going to have a race.

“They haven’t had a race in years,” I comment to myself.

Desiring to get a better look at the action, I slowly walk my way down the beach and towards the crowd.  Then they spot me.

“Look!”, they cry out, “Look!  It’s him, the great swimmer!”

I back away and start to deny it, but it’s already too late.

The announcer of the race calms the crowd and then proceeds to ask me why I don’t race anymore.

I just shrug my shoulders, not really caring to come up with a reason good enough to satisfy this crowd.

“Too old?”, I reply.

“Aww, no your not, you’re only 28.”

I would never have told him the real reason, that I wanted to end my career on a high note 8 years ago.

“C’mon,” says the announcer, “Why don’t you swim in this race, for old time’s sake?  Swimming across the Chesapeake Bay should be a lot easier than that stunt you pulled 8 years ago!”

The crowd begins to cheer and the announcer smiles ’cause he knows he’s got me, and he has.

“But I’m not ready to swim!” I protest, “I’m not even in condition!”

“It’ll be fun!” replies the announcer with a wink and smile as he pats me on the back.

The crowd begins to cheer my name, this has gotten too far out of hand.  So, I agree.

I remove my shoes, socks, shirt, roll up my pants and step into the water. They hand me a number, Two…a vaguely familiar number.

I swim out to where the other swimmers are waiting for the race to begin. “This is gonna be real bad..” I’m thinking to myself as I get down into position and I hear the call, and the shot of the gun…

My muscles ache and my heart pounds, it’s the only thing I hear.  I am lost in myself fighting fatigue and nausea.  I can see land ahead, “just 4 or 5 more miles” I think to myself, “I can make it.”

I set into rhythm, right over left, right over left, right over left, kick and kick.

I am a prune.  I have been in the water for over two months now, maybe closer to three now that I think about it.  This giant bathtub, my curse and my dream, and the death of me if if I don’t keep my mind on swimming.

I force it back to rhythm, right over left, right over left…I look up for a split second at the boats stopped just for me, just slightly to me left so as not to run me over.  I focus in on my supply boat, people on deck, my support crew, waiting for my body to give out.  I can just almost make out the pensive worried looks on their faces.

Suddenly my stomach churns, I stop to tread water, “Not again..” I mutter to myself.  I swallow hard and breath evenly, I don’t need this, not now, not when I am so close.  I swallow hard again and my head spins, I’m going to pass out.

All of a sudden, in the distance, I see something under the water swimming towards me.  It’s green like a large algae bloom, I blink in an attempt to clear my vision and then sitting in front of me is a huge frog. “What the..” but before I can finish, the frog very matter of factly says, “Hello” and then bobs back underneath the water disappearing from sight.

Very strange.

I quit treading water and begin my stroke again.  Try as I might, there is now no longer any denying that my body is giving out on me, my legs are numb and at times I have to glance behind me just to make sure that they are still there.  My head spins again and I unwillingly stop and tread water, as if beckoned by some unknown force I suddenly look up into the sky and I see, flying towards me, two perfectly white birds, doves.  They swoop down and stay aflight in front of me, like hummingbirds, hovering just a couple of feet above the surface of the water.

“We have come to help you” says the one.

“You can not do this on your own” says the other.

I instinctively begin to refuse, but then I think about it, I really do need the help.  I grab onto the birds and pull myself up out of the water, for their size they are very strong and sturdy little birds barely burdened by the weight of my body.  As they lift off slightly and my feet dangle just a few inches above the surface of the water two very large fish poke their heads up, just underneath my feet, and ask if they can help too.  I laugh and say “Sure, why not!”.  Each one gets underneath a foot and again, just like the doves, the are quite strong and sturdy, seemingly unhindered at all by the weight of my body.

The birds flap and the fish swim and I hear myself all the while…right over left, right over left, kick and kick, right over left, right over left…I am skiing and sailing, flying and floating, impossible.

I feel utterly weightless.  I am out of my body and out of my mind.  It feels like I am swimming, I know I am flying. My muscles still ache but it’s beautiful.  I am going faster than light now, this isn’t anything at all like swimming!

Higher I go, and coming up fast.  I can see the crowd on the beach..men, women, children, old people come to cheer me on.  I am above them all, looking down.  I watch the crowd watch a man, he has just reached shore and is staggering onto the beach removing his goggles.  Looking much like a drowned rat he collapses into a heap on the sand.  Paramedics rush to his side, quickly picking him up and putting him on a stretcher, drying him off and checking his vitals.  He looks delirious and very weary, but the grin on his face is unmistakable.

The one dove taps me on the shoulder, his eyes full of kindness, he speaks thoughtfully, “We have to go now.”

“No, not yet!” I plead.

“Our work here is done,” replies the bird.

As tears come unheeded streaming down my face, the doves fly off and the fish fall from the sky and back into the ocean.  And I feel myself fall, falling and falling, I drop through the layers of clouds and then open my eyes.

I see faces, a little girl, all of eight years, holding a bouquet of flowers out towards me, smiling her toothless grin.  I hear cheering and much commotion behind me.  I gaze around me and before me, my vision blurred by tears.  I look into the crowd and see a man dressed in a sharp-looking suit with well manicured hair and a microphone in his hand making his way towards me, pushing aside a cheering bystander he stands beside my stretcher, microphone outstretched, another man holding a camera and bright light bring up his rear.  He looks a me, square in the eyes, plastic smile plastered in place and in a clear voice he asks “So how does it feel to be the winner of the first ever trans-Atlantic swimming race?”  And I am back with myself.

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