The dog put his paw
on my knee. He looked soulfully into my
eyes. Raised his ears a fraction.
“You need a walk?” I asked.
I rose and grabbed his leash.
He jumped up. He spun
circles around me. He gave a little bark
He dragged me through the door, nosing through the tall
grass, reading the clues of the neighborhood happenings. He watered here. He watered there, marking his territory every
couple of minutes before moving on, pausing now and again to sample a dandelion
“You playing this weekend?”
I looked around.
Where had that voice come from?
“I shot a seventy last time.”
I looked up. A man
stood on my neighbor’s roof. He’d
loosened some shingles, exposing the tar paper beneath. He held a cell phone to his ear.
My stomach lurched.
I despise heights.
Every summer my
sisters and I took swimming lessons at the local college. Oh, how I dreaded these lessons. I dreaded looking at my figure in a bathing
suit. I dreaded removing my glasses and
setting them on the textured concrete edge of the pool and viewing the world as
a smear of color and motion. I hated the
sound of the pool; the way the shouts of the children would echo off the domed
roof. I hated watching the other kids,
so confident in the front crawl while I flailed at the water mightily, moving
nowhere. Every week I glanced at the
sign: Keep the P out of the ool and I
found myself wondering if anyone near me had actually peed in the water.
The last fifteen minutes of swimming lessons were always reserved
for free time. Kids could toss balls into
the pool and retrieve them from the bottom.
They could use the floating devices stacked up alongside the wall. They could even use the diving board at the
far end of the pool.
You know, the deep
The scary end.
And one day during free play, I got the strange notion in my
head that I would like to try to jump off the diving board into twelve feet
water. No, not the low diving board, which
hovered just a few inches over the pool.
No. For some strange reason, I
decided to try the high dive.
I walked along the tiles, staring at my raisin toes, telling
myself with every step that I could do it.
I got in line. I stared
up at the board. And then, too quickly,
it was my turn.
I grasped the metal bars of the ladder. Legs trembling, knees knocking, I took step
after step after step upon skid-proof metal that jabbed the soles of my feet.
I climbed and I climbed and I climbed. It must’ve been fifty steps to the top. But, finally, I was there. Finally, I was at the top.
It was scary at the top.
I walked a few inches out on the diving board. It was coated with a slip-resistant material,
like stones on shingles.
I walked a few more
The diving board wobbled.
“Hurry up,” someone groused.
I squinted behind me.
There was a girl there at the top of the board. She was a real pro. Bathing cap.
Bikini. Tan. Trim.
I edged out further…further…further.
And then, I was looking down.
Down, down, down into the pool.
Down into twelve feet of water. I thought about that cartoon, about a man
diving into a tiny barrel of water a hundred feet down.
I turned around again.
A line of kids waited on the metal steps of the ladder.
I turned back to the water.
The board bounced a little bit. My raisin toes hung over the edge. The surface of the pool rippled.
I edged back.
I hung my head in shame.
It was true: I was a chicken. And
I was bailing out.
“Excuse me,” I mumbled to the girl in the bikini.
“Make way, got a fraidy cat coming down the ladder.”
The kids scooted off to the side to allow me passage.
And the trip down seemed even longer than the trip to the
Labels: Creative non-fiction, Growing up