Swimming Home


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Kenneth N. Margolin is a retired attorney, and lives with his wife, Judith, in Newton, Massachusetts. Ken made it a sacred mission to avoid legalese in his professional writing. Ken's stories have  [+]

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Originally published in Peeking Cat Poetry Journal, February 2016

© Short Édition - All Rights Reserved

Twenty years ago, I took my daughter, Sara, to the ocean for her fourth birthday. She just learned to dog paddle, and proudly walked up to anyone in sight, saying, "I can swim." The sea was calm, so I let her sit on her float in the water.
"Not too far," I said.
She knew the rules, and I wasn't worried. After a moment's distraction, I heard her yell, "Look, Mommy." She had drifted out well over her head, and as I began to call for her to come in, she plopped off the raft to show me how she could swim. I screamed for help because I can't swim a stroke. Sara panicked almost immediately. I ran into the water and was soon over my head, several feet away from her. She dog paddled frantically, barely moved and sank lower. I reached for her and went under, flailed myself above water and reached futilely for her again.
From the shore, a man crashed into the sea. As he swam past me, he pulled my head above water by my hair, then continued on to Sara, who had gone under. Our hero dived, retrieved her, hoisted her onto his shoulder, and semi-sidestroked inland. On his way, he grabbed my hair again before I could drown and hauled me to where my feet reached the ocean floor, then brought Sara to the beach.
By the time I reached her, an EMT knelt over her. He pounded her chest and breathed into her mouth. Her body was limp and her expression flaccid. The usual flush on her face turned pasty white. The EMT grunted as he pressed harder.
"C'mon damn it," he said.
I thought he would crush her breast bone. A spittle of water trickled from her mouth, a plume of water and mucus gushed forth. Sara coughed and gasped. She opened her eyes and hugged me.
"I got scared," she said.

At twenty-four, Sara is a confident, brilliant, and beautiful young woman. She is funny and kind, and shows no emotional scars from her childhood near-tragedy. If you ask me if seeing my daughter almost die changed my life, I will tell you this : I wanted to live a thousand years, to see humans reach the stars. Now, I wish only to live to a decent old age. I want to spend my final hours on a beach, watching Sara turn toward me from beyond the breakers, come closer, closer, pause to wave, and with smooth, powerful strokes, swim to shore.

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