The Swimming Lesson

Margaret my mother explained to me how to float… ” Don’t panic, relax, breathe. If you’re head goes under, don’t panic. You will rise back to the surface. ”

I was 7 and desperate to learn how to swim and for reasons I couldn’t understand Mom wouldn’t go to the river with me. I was young dumb and bored and 4 older boys came by and offered to take me to the river to teach me how to swim. ” You don’t need to tell your mother where we’re going. ”

I knew I was in trouble as soon as we were under the cover of trees. I knew I couldn’t outrun them. No panic. I undressed down to my underwear. The oldest boy Harvey took me into the river as the other 3 grabbed my clothes and ran into the woods to hide the evidence of me being there. I asked Harvey to not put my head under. ” Give me a chance. ” I asked. Harvey complied as he pushed me floating towards the channel.

I could hear them run away and the silence of the river told me that I was alone.

“Don’t panic… breathe… I’m floating. Dear God Dear Jesus Please help me. ”

I moved my hands and controlled my direction and moved towards the treetops.

Margaret saw me run towards home in my underwear.

“What happened?” She asked.

“I can swim.”

In the aftermath all anybody would talk about was the fact we couldn’t find one of my running shoes. ” Who’s going to pay for that?!” I heard my mother ask one of the boys mothers…

Decades later I realized my resentments were probably doing me more harm than others until I checked out how Harvey and the others were… All of them appeared to be drinking themselves to death. I decided to forgive…

Or as Margaret would say, ” Don’t panic, relax, breathe, let it go… You will rise back to the surface. ”

Dennis Mantin

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