Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Short Story...

Swimming lessons. The very thought sent shivers down my spine. I couldn’t wait for school to end, but I dreaded the advent of having to spend an entire morning for three weeks at Jordan pool. Rumours swirled around the pool deck that someone had seen an actual chunk of ice floating in the pool that morning. Charlie McBain swore that he saw the life guards dump bags of ice in the pool – then again, Charlie had also claimed that the life guards were really former convicts. I had passed through ‘red’ last year, and was now in ‘maroon’ – whatever that meant. I wasn’t thinking of the colour as much as the state of being ‘marooned’ on this wretched pool deck on a Monday morning with the prospects of having to spend a couple hours submerged in a hypothermia inducing pool. As I huddled with my fellow ‘maroonies’ (morons?) I looked around the pool deck. A heavy fifteen foot chain link fence surrounded the pool deck. The tall lifeguard chairs served as the watchtowers to this compound. There would be no escape. I looked beyond the chain link fence to my mother sitting with a group of ladies in their nice comfy lawn chairs – they seemed to enjoy this unfolding horror, just as the Romans enjoyed watching spectacle unfold in their coliseums.

I followed my group over to the edge of the pool, while Nick our instructor gleefully informed us how many laps we would be doing. Visions of a pool skimmer and the back of Nick’s head danced through my head. My thoughts were interrupted by screams coming from the other end of the pool. One of the ‘pollywogs’ had latched himself onto the chain link fence. His eyes were wild with fear, and a ghastly scream spilled out from his mouth. Resistance was futile. Two life guards tag teamed the little ‘pollywog’ and started to pull him away from the fence. His mother assisted from the other side of the fence and started to pry his little fingers away from the chain links. The thrashing boy was dismembered from the fence and carried towards the most feared object of the pool for ‘pollywogs’ – the diving board. The poor kid didn’t stand a chance. The “life” guards dropped the boy into the swirling waters. The fall was at least two feet high. The life guard reached over to the side of the deck and reached for the large hook. This was a ten foot pole with a giant hook at the end used to scoop drowning victims out of the pool. I had often thought what an excellent lighting rod that pole would make. I looked up into the sky wistfully. With a flick of the wrist the life guard scooped the boy out of the abyss.

Finally it was our time to go into the pool. Nick the merciless taskmaster, would be monitoring from the side. His job was to pace the side of the pool deck and to stomp on any little hand that would dare hang on the side. The initial shock of the cold water was stunning. The brain goes into survival mode and all extraneous information is forgotten, akin to a crashing computer. For the first few moments, I wasn’t even sure what my name was. My seventy pound body wasn’t able to take frigid waters as well as someone equipped with gelatinous epidermis. In all my years of swimming lessons, never did I once see the life guards join us in the pool.

After what seemed like hours of swimming laps and treading water we were allowed out of the pool. This part of the ‘lesson’ was my least favourite, but fortunately the life guards had mercy on me. For some unknown reason, the pool builders thought it would be a good idea to build a ‘high dive’. I would of have cautioned them with the story of the ‘Tower of Babel’. Over the years I have seen many injuries result from the high dive – the belly flops always being the worst. Seventy pound bodies were not meant to go off the edge of such a tall structure, but down they plummet – like a sheet of paper caught in a wind storm. Arms and legs would flail helplessly as the inevitable slapping sound would still the pool deck and hush the ladies behind the safety of the fence. The hook would then swing over the pool like a boom on a crane. Just as the battered body would float to the surface, the hook would scoop up the casualties and deposit them on the deck. “Who’s next?” the life guard would call in an all too smug voice. I edged my way to the chain link fence and hung on with a death grip...


  1. I'm laughing hysterically right now!!!!!!! My favourite line...."his job was to..stomp any little hand that dared hang on to the side"...hahahahaha!!!!!!!! you better write often...this is too funny!!

  2. I love this, it made me laugh!!!!

  3. Greg, so exciting that you started a blog! Looking forward to some good reads!