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   Student Writing
    (March 26, 2005)

 


Hiromi's first short story is inspired by Sean O'Failain's story, "The Trout." In it, a young girl learns to conquer her fear of the water.

 Giant Plunge
by Hiromi

      Lisa didn’t like Mom’s idea at all. Not even one bit. She would happily consider guitar lessons or even knitting lessons from Grandma if necessary, but swimming lessons? No way. Besides, she already knew how to swim.

            “But honey, moving three meters with the doggie paddle doesn’t count, does it?” said Mom, serving dinner on everyone’s plate. The kitchen was filled with the delicious smell of meat loaf and roasted vegetables. Lisa just wanted to enjoy the meal peacefully.

            “I won’t be a life guard, ever, Mom,” she said, “I don’t need swimming.”

            Lisa’s younger sister, Jenny, snickered with a mouthful of mashed potatoes. “Lisa is a scaredy-cat!”

            “Am not!”

            But Lisa knew that it was true. She had a long list of things-that-scare-me, and deep water was easily in the top five. How could anyone be comfortable in there? She always wondered. What if you were seized with a cramp in your leg? When her class took a field trip to an outdoor pool last summer, she hovered around in the shallow end. Splashing, screaming joyously, she pretended to have a good time while the other six graders were swimming freely all over the pool. Although she kept a happy face, it was—pathetic—she had to admit.

            “Sign me up, Ma! I’m gonna learn how to swim the Pacific Ocean!” This was Jenny, always hyper-active.

            “Your week is already full with soccer and karate, dear,” Mom reminded her, and peered at Lisa’s face. “So, what do you think?”

            “Fine,” Lisa mumbled with a sigh.

            “Here we go,” munching a salad, Dad made a broad smile, “the next Olympic champion, eh?” He patted Lisa’s back heartily.  

            The 25-meter-pool had eight lanes with two diving boards at one end. There were also a whirl pool and a wading pool under the high ceiling, which echoed the children’s shouts of joy. Lisa was relieved to know that her beginner class would use the shallow end, and her instructor turned out be a cheerful young woman. Her class contained ten kids, and they seemed nice enough even though they stared inquisitively—some open-mouthed—at Lisa until she blushed. It was just that Lisa was too big compared to them. Being a big 12-year-old, Lisa was as tall as the instructor while the rest of the kids’ heads were below her chest line. They were only grade one or two, Lisa guessed.

            “I feel like a deformed giant in a midget’s land,” grumbled Lisa, sinking down in a back seat of the car after the lesson. “Don’t laugh, Mom!”

            “I’m not laughing, dear,” Mom said with a controlled voice behind the wheel. She didn’t notice Lisa could check the rear view mirror from the back. I am doomed, Lisa thought.

            But in two weeks, Lisa learned to swim with a crawl for a few meters. She was awkward of course; nevertheless, it was a triumph! She saw a glimmer of hope. Maybe, just maybe, she could go on for 25 meters? Courageously, she challenged herself two weeks later.

            Her body was stiff, but she was doing incredibly well until half way through the pool. Then, suddenly, the bottom of the pool had disappeared. Underneath her, the deep end was a gigantic gaping mouth, waiting for Lisa to fall. She panicked. Water rushed into her throat and gagged her. She lost control completely. What would have happened there if the instructor didn’t jump in to rescue her? Oh, Lisa didn’t want to think about that.

So, when finally the last day of the lessons had arrived, Lisa was happy. Although she made significant progress (swimming 10 meters without stopping), she decided life without a swimming pool was much easier.

            The very last session was a big play day; all the classes joined together and played water basket ball, tag, and many other games. The diving boards were open, too. Some kids wore life jackets and started jumping off, screaming.

            “Hey, let’s try that, Lisa!” A boy from Lisa’s class grabbed her arm and ran to the big diving board.

            Why she had followed him, she didn’t know. Climbing up the long ladder to the platform, she knew she was in trouble. She looked back desperately and saw a file of little faces waiting for the ladder, all beaming with excitement. She couldn’t go back.

     After the boy jumped down with joyful shriek, Lisa stepped on the diving board. “Oh, boy,” she gasped.

How high was this? Two stories, or three? It was as if she was standing at the top of a skyscraper. Her legs were shaking, and the board started to tremble up and down. She wished she could have fainted right there, right at that moment. But she didn’t. Instead, she heard someone saying behind her, “What’s she waiting for?”

            Lisa closed her eyes. She pinched her nose with fingers and kicked the board.

            Splash!

All she could remember was the bottom of the deep end. It was only a few feet away from her toe. She thought she could touch. Then, her body floated up.

            “Are you OK?” her instructor asked when Lisa came out of the water onto the pool side.

            “Yeah, fine,” said Lisa. She was grinning, showing her perfect teeth. “It was great, was it?”

               She burst out laughing.

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