Crosby puts his hand on Cody's shoulder and the skin beneath his palm retreats, but Cody does not notice.
Crosby's voice is quick and inflective.It glides gracefully above the silence of the locker room as he confesses his praise with the fervor of sins.
"Cody, you're already the best swimmer on this team—and it's only your sophomore year."
Cody smiles as the empty air between the lockers fills him:his lungs grow buoyant and his nostrils delight in the scent of chlorine as the poor heart beneath his chest struggles for freedom.
"I don't know where you came from, but trust me, you're one in a million.Just give it one more year and I wouldn't be surprised if you hit an Olympic time."
Cody's tongue is ready to flick and deflect the praise when his stomach insists to take the brunt, growling loud and brazen.
Crosby's liquid eyes—like pool water—pour over Cody's navel in the rudimentary fashion that in last year's unofficial yearbook was awarded most likely to make a girl drop to her knees, but Cody, known for his imperturbable blitheness, does not notice.
"Oh, you must be hungry!"
Cody's feet catch on to the irony of the statement in the midst of the locker room's secret ovation, and he is up in a breath, his taut body completing the comedic relief.
Satisfied, Cody's stomach allows his tongue to do its work:it hurls gratitudes and returns courtesies with an expertise that Cody, to no one's surprise, had yet to be aware of.
In the absence of Crosby and Cody's voices, the aisles return to their lethargy, each sigh moving toward the tempo of the coach's footfalls in a lazy ritardando.
All of a sudden, a refrain:an inconsistent staccato to the afternoon's slur that redelivers its events in repetition, a tempo.
Sixty beats per minute, it tugs at the end of the second hand, teasing.A tease:the identity Cody assumes before every meet; eyes upon the lady in blue but not for her, his steady heartbeat the sole traitor to his adultery—meretricious, to say the least, but no match for the clock.A jaded bystander, it awaits the realization with untrained calm that starkly contrasts with the athlete's disingenuous heart rate.
Time.Cody's innocuous smirk darkens into a grimace as he retraces his steps, the soft spot behind his neck—where Crosby's fingers were—ignited by the breath of the locker room's closing door and the tiles beneath him strangers to his feet, as this refrain spans much earlier than the movement of the day's swim meet.
Adolescent lust relinquished, Cody marvels at the water, her dress made all the more dazzling by the surrounding darkness.Empty, except for Cody and the quiet, the latter watching as the former steps close enough to the edge of the shallow end to grow ablaze; jump in—almost as if by accident—as he did ten years ago, introducing a hiccup to the silence.
One lap, swum horizontally through the pool.A stop for three breaths.Three more laps, and he is back to where he started.Clockwork, which designates Cody's sinking to the bottom of the pool, hands sculling, breath held.Two o'clock.
At five years old, his brother's belt buckle surpasses the bottom of his chin.Sam sprints in different versions through the football field, one a red head, one freckled, one with the broadest shoulders Cody has ever seen.Sam, his brother, however, has made perfectly clear Cody's lack of invitation to his titanic induction.Cody is to make himself scarce, which results in him sitting, five minutes later, squeamish on an unforgiving set of benches, eyeing the sliver in an adjacent door:his rescue.
Enter locker room, the air a vacuum.The breath of the door is caught on Cody's neck as he runs out its parallel end, tiles kissing feet, to the same place he waits now.
Clothes on kickboards, feet at the edge of the pool that is painted red with warning:no diving at the shallow end.Jump anyway—and sink!Fear strikes, but determination lifts its weight from Cody' lungs, and his head, suddenly, has broken through the surface of the water.No longer himself, he is Tarzan.He tears through the pool, Jane on the other end's island.She is saved!A pause as Cody's chest is inflated with air and pride.
Back across the pool, back, and back again.Tarzan is abandoned, replaced by Mark Spitz, swimming for his eleventh gold.He's won!Arms go up, despite exhaustion, face alights in exuberance.
Recapitulation.Footsteps.At five years old, these incited hiding—a retreat to the bottom of the pool.At fifteen, their recollection provokes something entirely different:recognition.
One hundred beats per minute and on the rise, a metronome to their conversation.
Crosby:Just give it one more year.You're one in a million.Don't throw it all away.
Don't touch me.
Crosby:Don't be selfish.You're the best swimmer on the team.You can't just walk away from them—from me.
I won't go to the meets.
You know why.
Crosby:Listen to me—
I'll tell, I swear I'll—
One twenty, one thirty, one forty, one forty-five.Cody's gasping throat breaks the silence that has suffocated the end of the boy's sentence, swallowing oxygen and a hint of something metallic.
Cody's hand moves instinctually to his bleeding nose.
© Copyright 2016 Diana Christina. All rights reserved.
Short Story / Young Adult
Short Story / Science Fiction
Short Story / Science Fiction
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