Brevity Sixteen

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The Swimming Lesson

By W. Brian Overcast

Part I

The girl, my neighbor, has me in the garage with her. I don’t remember what the garage looks like or what she looks like. She might have had short hair or blond hair, and living in Florida, she probably had both. We were four and a half. Her eyes, probably blue, maybe green—would they eventually turn brown? Maybe. But in the garage (of which I remember but one image: red car, chrome bumper), the neighbor girl pulls down her shorts and underwear and tells me to do the same. I acquiesce. Then she tells me to put my thing into her thing. I do, and we rub it around and I am leaning back, my lumbar arched, my pelvis thrust forward. We are standing. Am I smiling? The only certainty is that the action we are performing is wrong but feels right and is surely exciting. I think, wow. At that exact moment the scene is broken when the little brother of the neighbor girl bursts in on us. We hurriedly pull up our pants.

Part II

The little brother, his name might have been Dave, after seeing our impossible and naïve attempt at copulation says he wants to do it. He unzips his shorts. The neighbor girl sends him off with a bit of violence and he waddles out of the garage and through the laundry room (which in turn leads to the kitchen), with his shorts and underwear around his ankles. The mother is there. The brother cries from his exclusion, says, “I want to do it. I want to do it. I want to do it.” The mother looks at us. “What were you two doing in the garage?” “Nothing,” we say. The girl tells me to follow her outside. I follow. She points out over the pool in her backyard, past the concrete deck that encircles the pool, points beyond the clipped lawn all the way to the grey-green ocean. I am looking out over the pool when the girl steps behind me. Her words come clear: “Now you got me in trouble.” The next sensation I have is of her hands on my shoulders. For a moment the feeling is pleasant, but the tension between her fingers and my shirt increases. Then, I am in the water.

Part III

At first I sink and then, automatically, I begin to swim through the chlorinated water for the shallow end and the white stone steps. I don’t think I am going to die, but am panicked. My hand reaches the step and I wriggle my head above water and gasp for air. In moments I am out of the water, fleeing the pool as if I had been immersed in a vat of acid. The girl is gone—has she run to get her mother? Did she leave me to drown? I turn from her pool to the grassy side-yard and then out into the street where I begin the half-block walk home, even though I know that I am not allowed to do so without an adult. I do not cry until I get to my front door. I ring the doorbell. My father greets me there, laughing. “You look like a wet dog” he laughs. I tell him what happened at the neighbor girl’s house, but not the part about the garage. I don’t remember what he said but I remember him saying the word ‘girlfriend’ and laughing again. My father carries me to the bathroom and takes off my clothes. When I am fully naked, I turn my back from him.


W. Brian Overcast is a graduate of the New School University, where he earned
an MFA degree in creative nonfiction. His work has appeared in Simple Cooking
and The St. Petersburg Times.

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photo by Dinty W. Moore