By Margaret MacInnis
“I’m watching, Daddy.”
“You have to stand up close to the wall and watch until my feet disappear.” He was getting ready to dive into the “haunted” small side of the Whitins Reservoir. We – my younger sister and the cousins with whom we played – did not swim on the small side. Our mothers, aunts, godmothers, and grandmothers had so often recounted the stories of all night searches for missing children, who later resurfaced, facedown and lifeless, that we would not have considered it. Not only was my father going to dive into this unfamiliar deepness, but he was going to swim under the causeway, through the pipe joining the two sides of the reservoir.
“Are you sure it’s OK?” I pointed to the water. “Down there. In the pipe?”
“Yes,” he assured
me. “I’ve done this a million times. Don’t worry about your old
Old man. He was not an old man. He was only thirty-two. Puppa, his father, was an old man.
“You’re not old,” I said and he laughed at me.
“You take everything
literally. No, I’m not old. But I have done this a million
“When?” I asked.
“When did you do this a million times? Before you had me?” I wondered aloud, trying to piece together a portrait of my father as a young man right then and there, before I missed my chance, and he disappeared into his bedroom or backed down the driveway alone. Sometimes I would not see his face for days. That’s just the way it was, but here in this moment, he was all mine. I had to make the most of it.
He sighed. “Yes,
before I had you. Ask your mother. She’s seen me do it. Mostly
“Did your old man
watch? Did Nanni?” He guffawed, shaking his head at me.
“What do you mean?”
I wanted to know, oddly fascinated by the fact that my
“No more questions. I’m ready to go. On the count of three.”
“On three or after three?” I asked, and my father groaned.
“Jesus, Margaret. Can I please go?” Yes, I nodded, unable to speak, disappointment swelled in my throat. I had ruined everything. He said again, “On the count of three. No, after three. Count.” After making the sign of the cross, he arched forward into a diving pose.
Splash. He must
have meant on three. Down he swam.
“Sure. Sure I’m
OK.” I clasped my hands behind his neck and felt the silver
Margaret MacInnis's poetry has appeared in The Lyric, and is forthcoming in Literary Mama. She holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Queens University of Charlotte, lives in Massachusetts, and will be a fellow at the Kimmel Nelson Harding Center for the Arts in Nebraska City in October and November.