The Swim Stroy

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I had absolutely no idea what was going on. There was chaos everywhere and I was at the center of it all. The crowd was totally nuts, screaming and swelling like a rogue wave right before it’s about to break. And from atop my little white block things didn’t look so good. The water was deep, deep not like any normal swimming pool. No, this brought about a whole new level of deepness. The water was very deep.

I gazed into its depths and saw myself sickly distorted. My legs were sprawling and arms writhing in a grotesque manner. My swim cap was over my eyes and I didn’t know what was up or what was down, just that I was slowly slipping, slipping, lungs constricting, slowly drowning. I gasped, took a gulp of air and came back to consciousness.

A girl in a one-piece swimsuit was cheering me on. She was standing off to the side with her friends waving and yelling wildly with her hands cupped over her mouth. “Wall” was written across her breast and those of her friends in thick, bold, red letters. I probably would have smiled or at least nodded to let them know I heard them, but I was feeling rather queasy at the moment. I turned my head and saw an old guy with a mustache mount a white block. The crowd instantly died down to a dull roar. “Swimmers take your marks!” he barked. A pang of fear hit me as I forgot what to do. I stole a quick glance down the neighboring lanes and saw this kid in a bright pink Speedo bend over. Disgustedly, I turned away and followed suit. Knees bent, shoulders locked, head tucked in poised for action, some fleeting words of advice came to me. Go all out. It’s only a 50. You’ll do fine. The guy at the block broke my train of thought when he took out a cap gun and said “This is the 200 Freestyle Medley Relay.”
Two-hundred? That’s a lo - BANG! I thrust myself forward, legs like springs off the edge of the block. I think I gave a yell as I was soaring through the chlorinated-filled air, rapidly approaching that icy cemetery, but I’m not sure. It all happened kinda fast. Water rushed around me. It went up my nose and tried to gag me. Invisible fingers clawed at my goggles and wrenched them off my eyes. I gasped, breathing water, then surfaced, breathing air. Eyes burning, I groped blindly for my goggles. Luckily, they were only around my neck instead of sinking towards the dark depths of the underworld below. With one hand stroking and both legs kicking, I tried to plaster my goggles back on. Chlorine stung my eyes. I succeeded in getting one eye socket covered, but the other was fruitlessly tearing underwater – a sign that best visual was a good 50%.

I ignored my left eye’s griping and chugged forward on all cylinders, arms flapping and legs flailing. God knows how much time I lost during the goggle episode, but I didn’t care. I was in Lance Armstrong mode right now – going against all odds and fighting them like hell. A wave hit me from some guy’s flip turn and I kept going. Between intervals of gargling water I squinted with my good eye at the lane next to me and saw Speedo Man keeping pace. Boy was I determined to beat that Flamer. The damn thing was like a highlighter in the water! I focused my energy on the rhythm and power of my stroke, extending and driving, extending and driving. Upon my breaching, I winked ahead and saw the wall. I prepared myself for the flip-turn, but went too early and scraped my big toe along the edge of the wall, toe now bleeding in the water. I could hear the Jaws theme song and I started swimming faster.

I’ve had nightmares of shark attacks ever since my grandmother showed me the movie at age five. Not even pools are 100% shark-free anymore. Sure I knew the crumby thing was only a machine, that every bloody attack had been filmed at clever angles by a suped-up tech team (I watched the special features). But who’s to say that they can’t do the same and unleash a blood thirsty 6 ton bullet proof steel shark on you every time you’re bleeding in the water? It’s frick’n scary!

I clawed at the water frantically, desperately trying to get away. I could just picture it leaping out from behind me – its 10 ft jaw extended, jagged white teeth chowing down on a shish kabob bobbing in the water. In my panic, I must have made some progress because the next thing I knew Speedo Man was nowhere to be found and another wall loomed ahead of me. I cleared my head and the shark was gone. I was back in Lance Armstrong mode. I was going to be Michael Phelps and win the race. I was going to win the entire heat. I was going to be the most popular guy on the swim team! But then I thought, Two-Hundred? I could have sworn I’m only supposed to do 50, there and back. I thought-a-louged for a time and abruptly came to my decision when the wall was nearly on top of me. I pulled back and did the most beautiful flip-turn you’ve ever seen. Lance and Mike would’ve been proud. But then I felt a rush as something grazed over my head and splashed into my lane. I couldn’t see anything but bubbles. I still thought shark so I proceeded with extreme caution. As I was breaching, I heard a roar like a tidal wave. The crowd is extra rowdy. They must be cheering me on. I must be winning! But then the cry grew clearer and more urgent. Familiar voices kept calling my name, but it was kinda weird because every time I came up, I heard only fragments of sentences followed by the timely rush of water in my ears. I thought I heard something like, “Co” – “llin - “Tur” – “aroun” But then I saw a foot disappear through the bubbles and I stopped completely and looked up. Coach Grober was jumping up and down yelling at me to get out of the pool. Dumbstruck, I looked at the girl who was cheering me on before and she gravely pointed at the kid in my lane who had just completed his flip-turn and was heading straight for me. “Oh, Shoe!” And I swam to the block in hot pursuit. I got out and Grober slapped me on the back saying, “Dude, you just made my day man! I don’t think I’ve seen anything so funny in my life!” He stood there leaning over me laughing, while I was panting, wet, and very confused.

I later found out that I would have beaten Speedo Man if I hadn’t disqualified my entire relay team.





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