Read Amber by Michelle Watson
THE SWIMMING HOLE
by Rae Spencer
Jerry felt as lazy as the noonday sun. He was slouched against the bridge, fishing line in the water, bobber not even bobbing, just lying there, floating. Lazy-like. Content. Doing what was needed -- nothing more, nothing less.
An easy day of summer.
At sixteen, life lay full before him. He knew that. He knew he would have long days of back-breaking work, burdens, and woes. Didn’t Mama always tell him that? Life’s no bowl of cherries, Jerry, she’d say. Nope, no bowl of cherries, sitting out easy, waiting for you to pick up and stick in your mouth. Life’s struggle and disappointment and hardship and I can’t believe folks believe in a God that would stick us in this hell-hole. Dried up at 50, Mama just had Jerry and his little sister to nag on, an art she had perfected, as far as Jerry was concerned. Today he’d had his fill. God damn it! I’m going fishing.
Not that Jerry wanted to catch fish. Catching fish meant gutting and cleaning fish, and he hated gutting and cleaning fish. Plus he didn’t want Mama getting any ideas that fishing was a source of cheap, easy food. Be like her, wreck his fun. Turn it into work. He had just said he had some things to do, none of her nosey business, and off he had gone with a bobber and some fishing line hidden in his jeans. So now he could lean against the bridge and watch the bobber lay quiet, enjoying the sun on his neck.
Jerry didn’t notice the old man until he was full in his vision. Buck naked, for all the world to see. Sagging skin, liver spots, white hair and a grizzled beard. Jerry could see his thing, wrinkled like a prune and surrounded by curly gray fuzz. Knotted veins in arms and legs like a farmer, or a laborer down at the sawmill. And old! Sunken chest, beer gut – the guy had to be in his sixties!
The old man glanced around. When he noticed Jerry, he simply nodded his head. Sloshing into the watering hole to his waist, he bent his knees, opened his arms into the coolness before him, and began to swim.
His strokes were as lazy as the day.
His head switched from side to side, matching the arc of arms and exhalation of breath. Jerry watched the old man swim the width of the watering hole until he reached the shallow part on the other side. Standing, he rubbed his face before giving his head a shake, like a dog, water spraying off his beard and into the motes of sunlight. Bending again, arms opening, the old man swam back to the other side, where he repeated the rubbing of face and spraying of water before bending himself back in, languid strokes propelling him across the pond, staying clear of Jerry bobber, weightlessly slicing through water until he was standing again, rubbing and spraying, then bending and stroking, wafting through life on a summer afternoon.
Now floating on his back, the light played tricks with Jerry’s eyes and they saw instead a young man, outlined against the green-black of the water. The figure drifted across the pond and when he emerged from under the weeping willow tree, he was once again white haired and wizened. Standing up, executing one final rub and shake, he looked over his shoulder and waved good-bye to Jerry. The old man stepped into a patch of sunlight and was gone, casting no farewell shadow. Jerry redirected his gaze to the bobber. The old man’s strokes had gently rippled the surface. But the bobber floated motionless in the water, needing a stronger wave to force it into movement.
Jerry remained motionless too, supported by the bridge and the inertia brought on by a summer day. It was not until the sun had moved to the west and lowered its position that he pulled the bobber out of the water and began to walk home.
Rae Spencer: I am a new writer, being a late bloomer in many, many aspects of my life. I recently quit a well-paying corporate job in the Midwest to create a new life for myself in northern California. And, as we all know, the best laid plans I am still very glad to have made the change and look forward to channeling my experiences in future stories. To date, I have had a poem published in POETRY MOTEL and I recently won Best in Show in the contest sponsored by the Literary Arts Council of the Sebastopol Center for the Arts.