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Near Drowning: In Brief(s)
by Leslie Sittner

We walk hand-in-hand down to my cousin’s beach, across the quiet road. Dad’s fully dressed, leaning on the railing overlooking the stairway down to the beach. A dozen people in swimsuits are lying on towels.

I squeeze Dad’s hand, whisper, “Watch me now!”

He nods, smiles, as I run down the stairs, across the sand, and belly flop into the water.

I wave, and start swimming like a pro. When I’ve gone what I think is “far,” I drop my feet down to stand, prepared for praise. There’s no bottom. I can’t touch. I gulp a mouthful of water. I go under again and again, flailing.

Dad and the sunbathers are all gaping at me. Dad runs down the stairs, rapidly removing his shoes, pants, shirt glaring at the onlookers. Not one of them has made a move to rescue me. They even snicker as he disrobes.

He races in to snatch me up before I go under a fourth time. By now I’ve swallowed buckets of water. With uncontrolled hiccuping, I cry with abandon. Dad holds, hugs, and soothes me. Everyone is watching. In his wet semi-transparent briefs, Dad stands shaking with anger, clenching and unclenching his fists.

“Not one of you could rescue a drowning child? You had to wait for me to undress, then laugh? You shouldn’t be allowed to use this beach.”

He hugs me close. Puts on his pants.

“I’m so sorry, Daddy. I thought I was swimming even with the shore. Instead I swam away from the shore, into the deep water.”

When we return to the camp, I announce. “Guess what? I almost drowned! But Daddy saved me!”

He smiles and makes a small bow, then grimaces as the telltale silhouette of the wet briefs in his pants comes into view.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photo is that same day at Lake Desolation, New York. The extended family is sitting against the beach railing. I’m in the upper right twitching my nose — probably still some water in there somewhere. My brother is next to me with my beautiful mother in front of us. Dad is taking the picture. This was insurance so that he himself wouldn’t appear in a photo lest his wet briefs show through his pants. He was extremely modest in public.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This prompt immediately brought this experience to mind. I tried to capture the speed of the event as well as the fear, anger, and humiliation. Oddly, I didn’t hang onto my fear for long. I went back in swimming right before the photo. And I’ve been a water hound ever since.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leslie Sittner has been turning to the written word as a form of self-expression and reflection. She began this journey two years ago and is just finding her voice in different formats. Two of her stories are now available in print in The Apple Tree by Third Age Press, and on-line prose at 101Words and 50 Word Challenge. A variety of other prose and poetry can also be seen on-line at Silver Birch Press. She is finishing a book about travels with her ex-husband and hopes a publisher will find it as humorous as she and her friends do.