WINNER! The Writer's Cramp 7/26/20
|Learning to Swim
The busy neighborhood pool made Shirley nervous.
She made sure there were lifeguards on duty. How many? How old? Were they sleeping?
Maplewood had a free pool, one of the perks of living here. But how often did they check the chemicals? Was there enough chlorine? How cold was the water? Were the children there supervised or just dumped off to use the pool as a free babysitting service?
All these thoughts ran through Shirley’s mind as she sat in her car. A tap on her window made her jump.
“Hi hon! We’re here! Are you coming in?” Mary smiled at her. Josie and Patti stood behind, smiling as well.
“Oh, hi. Just pondering the wisdom of a swim today,” Shirley glanced at the busy pool again.
“What’s to think about? It’s about a million degrees, the sun is shining. C’mon! It’ll be fun. Look! No kids allowed after 3 pm, adult swim for an hour.” Josie pointed to the sign posted on the fence.
Shirley hadn’t seen that sign. It might be alright after all. She got out and joined her friends. They camped out under a tall maple tree until 3 pm, then joined a few other adults in the pool.
“See? No kiddoes. Freedom to dive and do laps without annoying splashing games. I love our pool.” Patti dove into the deep end. Then Josie and Mary.
Shirley smiled, dipped her toes in the shallow end.
“Shirley! We’re going to have a race! C’mon in!”
“In a moment. The water’s kinda cold.” She slowly slid into the 3 feet of chlorine-scented blue water. Her teeth started to chatter. Then she got back out. “I think I’ll just sit and watch you guys.”
“Suit yourself. It’s not bad once you get in.”
The three ladies swam until the whistle blew for time out. Then they joined Shirley under the maple tree on the blanket for snacks and water.
“You need to join us, while you can. Soon the kids will be back.”
Mary dried off and laid in the shade.
“Thanks, but I’ll just watch.”
“What’s wrong? Bad time of the month or something?”
Shirley blushed, turned her head. “No, nothing like that. It’s just that, well, I never learned to swim. The water scares me.”
Patti rolled over to her stomach, gave Shirley a cookie. “Hey, I couldn’t swim either until last year, but look at me now! I can dog paddle! Nothing to be ashamed of. They offer free lessons, you know.”
The whistle blew and splashes all around as people dove back into the pool.
“You’re never too old to learn. Look at me!” Josie pushed her hair under her bathing cap and walked to the diving board.
“How old is she?” Shirley asked Patti.
“Beats me. Older than me, and I’m fifty. Later, gator.” Patti jumped up and joined Josie.
Mary ate the last of the apples. “Well I refuse to be the only one left of us three. Come on, you, at least get in and cool off.” She grabbed Shirley’s hand. They walked to the shallow end, waded in. Shirley gasped at the cold water. Mary let go and swam to the deep end.
“We’ll catch you later, Shirley. “
So Shirley hung out at the shallow end, hugging the steps. She thought about the idea of swimming lessons. Perhaps she should pursue that idea. There were life guards, after all. And if a small child could swim, surely a woman of a certain age could learn as well. Nothing to be nervous about. She hoped. Surely, she prayed.
A woman of a certain age put her face under the water. Visions of a boy splashing and falling filled her brain. She stood up with sputtering, then a scream. Everyone in the pool stopped swimming and diving.
Shirley took a deep breath, stepped out of the pool.
“Are you alright?” The lifeguard came over to her, helped her to the blanket.
“Oh, yes,” She gathered her bag, ran to her car. She sped home. Perhaps it wasn’t the right time. Maybe there would never be a right time.
The picture of Jamie greeted her as she entered the house. It sat on the piano, as always. She sat in a favorite chair, as always. Talked to Jamie, as always.