From behind a stand of pine trees, in a sparsely grown forest, I could see the boys swimming in the creek about ten meters away. A small group of elementary aged boys are splashing around near the banks, some older high school boys are taking turns diving into the deepest part.
I’m the fastest girl on my school’s swim team, and I’ve been waiting for my chance to test my swimming skills in a natural body of water. A real summer swim cannot take place in a chemically treated pool, according to my grandfather. Actually, it was he who told me about the creek in the first place along with tales of the times he had in his day at this creek
You want to know what summer is really about? my grandfather would ask me when I was little and visited him at the beginning of my summer breaks from school.
What? I’d say in return.
It’s not staying inside all day playing video games, or watching television. Summer is for playing outdoors: climbing trees, running about, and, a gleam came to his eyes, swimming. Back in my day, I used to go over to the creek, back in the woods, and swim all day. In fact, he chuckled, my father used to tease me about living in the water. I did eat my lunch there once or twice, not a good idea He’d smile for hours afterward, thinking of all the fun he could have no more.
I get plenty of joy out of swimming on the team, but I want to experience it the natural way, out in the open with wildlife to go with it. I want to know what it is like to have fish nibble at my feet, or feel mud and sand squeeze up between my toes. I want to take a peek into this alien world, yet having a medium I am so familiar with water. Knowing how happy those times made my grandfather makes me want to have encounters at the creek so that I won’t one day look back and regret that I’d never taken the time to explore this natural attraction of summer.
Every day, since summer break began, I’ve been coming here, but the creek has been occupied. This is the only section of the creek suitable for swimming. I don’t know how the boys would react to my being there, especially since I’m such an accomplished swimmer. For that reason, I haven't joined them. For now, I’ve been checking out the area around the creek, getting familiar with it while keeping out of sight of the boys.
One of the older boys captured my attention when he announced to everyone that he was going to dive from a tree with a bough that appeared to be about six inches in diameter reaching over the creek. Immediately I was afraid that he was going to hurt himself, but when he jumped from the tree, limbs flailing, made a large splash, and then surfaced with a big smile on his face my fear abated. Afterwards, a smaller boy climbed the tree and proceeded to jump. As he did, a belt loop on his cutoff jeans were caught on a branch above, holding him back. He then fell back onto the bough he had jumped from, then stumbled in a sort of back flip motion with one of his legs almost wrapping around the bough before falling to the ground below.
An ear piercing scream came from his face, now becoming red, as the first wave of pain hit him. Before I could react, all the other boys rushed to the aid of their fallen friend. He was shrieking in pain as the other boys were taking him away, I assume to the hospital up the road that passes by this forest, some of the boys trailing behind I could see the looks of fear on their faces.
The screaming began to slip out of the range of my hearing as they left the forest and headed up the road, and I was able to think again. I decided that I didn’t want to use this opportunity now, after the tragic events I’d just witnessed. I solemnly walked home.
The next day, I awoke, resolved to have my chance at the creek, that is if no one had gone. As I left the house I tried to convince myself that this was probably my only chance, eventually the boys would come back if they haven’t already. Walking down the road, my stomach was churning with anticipation and hesitation. I was trying to use reason to decide whether anyone was there or not. This expanding obsession was only making the butterflies in my stomach seem that much more enthusiastic. The closer I came to the opening in the woods that marked the beginning of the trail through it, the closer these sensations came to overwhelming me.
I could hardly look in the direction of the creek as I approached it. When I came to my favorite spot I’d chosen to use during my spying sessions, my eyes were closed, and I listened. I strained to hear the sound of splashing, but I didn’t hear any. I finally opened my eyes, and to my surprise, no one was in the water, or out! I must have stood there staring in amazement for at least a minute, for when I began thinking again, I noticed a strand of saliva hanging from my lip.
This was the chance I’d been waiting for. Excitedly, I stripped off my clothes to my bathing suit underneath, then hastily tucked my clothes into a hollowed log with a moss lining. I made my way down the embankment to the creek. Up close, this section of the creek looked a little dark. The same creatures I’d thought of as friendly were now unseen threats. After giving myself a moment, I came to terms with what I was facing.
I took the first step into the cool water a shiver went up my back. I took another step. And another. The water was now up to my hips. I stand there for a moment to take in what I was seeing and feeling. The cool water, the gooey mud and I think a fish, yes a fish just brushed against my foot, unless it was a plant or something.
I lean into the water to begin swimming. A slight current gently flows against me as I move into the center. As I become acclimated to the water I become more comfortable in it. When I roll over to do the backstroke, I can see streams of light breaking through the trees above me. I let myself drift a little ways, watching the sun flash between holes in the groups of tree leaves. Then I dove under the water for a totally different perspective. Patches of light reached the sandy, muddy bottom where I could see small crustaceans peeping from their holes and a fish darting from one patch of light to another, eating little bits of food.
When I came to the surface near the edge where I could stand up, I froze in my place. In front of me were the boys. I did not know what to do or say, and apparently they didn’t either. Eventually I was able to get out of the water, run past the boys, and headed for my clothes.
Wait! cried out a voice behind me.
I turned around to see them all looking at me.
You don’t have to leave, said the same voice which was coming from the boy with a broken leg.
Yeah, said some of the other boys.
Why don’t you stay? Maybe you could teach us some of your swimming moves you’re one of the girls on the swim team at school, right? asked one of the older boys.
Oh! We can show you some neat stuff here! exclaimed one of the younger boys.
Seeing that they really wanted me to stay, I decided to. With that all decided, everybody got into the water, except for Alex, because of his broken leg. It turns out that the reason their delay in coming was because they had helped him here.
After nearly a full day of swimming, the boys asked me to come back. I was so surprised that they accepted me as easily as they did, but I guess I was really the one who didn’t accept that they’d accept me. A few of the boys had stories similar to mine with their grandfathers. I think I will come back, we are more similar than I knew. We can occupy the creek, together. 1
One of the boys jumps from a tree and injures his leg. No one comes to the creek the next day, or at least not yet. Strip off clothes, bathing suit underneath.
Not wanting to swim after this, went home goes next day, boys took so long to help cripple to creek to watch.
I froze in my position, for in front of me were the boys.
Small boy knows of neat thing, Big boys want to learn swimming techniques.