Friday’s Story #3
This story is based on what my older son, Neil, told me about why he doesn’t like going into lap lanes.
By Keith Wilcox
“Dang, that’s deep,” Joe muttered to himself. It wasn’t his turn yet. He wished it was. Chris jumped into the pool. “Swim!” yelled Nancy. She said it cheerfully. Chris responded by turning around in the lane and doggy paddling a few strokes. “That’s not swimming! Do the crawl!” Chris glanced to the far end of the pool and to the starting block in his lane, lane 8. He began swimming. “That’s good, Chris! Keep it up!” She didn’t say it for Chris’s benefit because Chris was 15 meters away with his head in the water. “Joe, you’re next.” Joe didn’t say anything. He wiggled his way past the rest of his classmates and sat down next to Nancy. Joe dangled his feet in the water and watched Chris. Chris touched the wall on the other side and shoved off for the final leg. “You’ll do fine.” Nancy smiled at him and patted him on the head. “Thanks.” Joe managed a real smile. He kicked his feet back and forth in the water a little. Then, he made circles with his feet in the water. He wondered if he could create a whirlpool. “You’re almost there!” Nancy stood up and put her hands on her knees. The rest of the class started to cheer, too. Joe scooted his butt over to make space for Chris’s arrival. Chris came splashing up to the wall. He picked his head out of the water as he touched the wall. He was panting – and smiling. The class all cheered. “OK, Ready, Joe?”
Joe slid into the cold water. They kept the lap pool cold. The leisure pool was always at least 10 degrees warmer. But, the leisure pool was also shallow. It wouldn’t have been a good test for the kids who needed to practice their strokes. The lap pool was too cold, but it was a good place to practice. “Go, Joe!” Nancy grinned as she said it. Joe looked down the lane and pushed off the wall. His arms stretched out in front of him as he plowed though the water. Joe tried to get as much distance between him and the wall as possible before he had to start paddling. He let his momentum carry him while he began to flutter kick. Joe was a pretty good swimmer. Staying afloat was not the thing that worried Joe. It was the bottom of the pool he was scared of. Or rather the empty space between him, suspended at the surface, and the tiles on the bottom. He imagined being chased by a shark or some monster oozing out of the drain to get him. The pool looked much more innocent from the outside.
Joe crossed the midway point. He took three strokes for every one breath. It gave him enough time to watch the tiles plunge away from him as he crossed into the deep end. He took another breath. When he looked down again the water was a darker blue and at it’s full depth. His panic began to set in and he paddled furiously to reach the wall. Another breath. Almost there. The lane line ended in a “T” and he reached out for the wall. “Got it!” He popped his head up and took a deep breath. “Come On!” Nancy was still yelling her head off at the opposite end of the pool. Joe wondered if she had been doing that the whole time. He shifted his body around and faced Nancy and the rest of the class. His chin was touching the surface and pointing in the right direction but his arms were still stretched out in back of him grabbing the wall. He tucked his feet up to a crouch on the wall. Whoosh! He pushed off.
Joe methodically counted three strokes and a breath, three strokes and a breath. Each time his face plunged into the water he took the time to look around. He saw a band aid and a coin. He came up for air. He went back in for some more. This time he ignored the trash on the bottom. The pool was so much bigger in the third dimension. It made him feel so small. He began to contemplate what it would be like to float helplessly in outer space. That would suck. But, then he saw the tiles ascend toward him as he crossed back over the midway point. He suddenly didn’t feel so small. His next breath brought the sounds of cheering. He didn’t know what words they were cheering. But, he heard them and that was pretty good. Again, the lane ended in a “T” and Joe stretched out for the wall. “Yes!” was the first thing he said when he came up for air. “Hmm,” his arms were a little sore too.