Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Taking the Plunge

Everybody belly flops the first time.


  1. Tuesday was swim class. The lesson for the day was diving.

    Ms. Morrison’s third grade class was shivering by the edge of the pool. They had all jumped in once to get used to the water (icy!) and now they were each waiting their turn to go in head first.

    Tommy Addison curled his toes over the edge. He squatted down and formed a triangle with his arms and hands over his head. He tried to push off, but his nerves were failing him.

    Ready ... set ... ready ... set ...

    No go.

    Lauren Benoit, the class show-off, said, “Watch me.” She stood at the rim, preened a bit, lifted up on her toes and went in, more or less head first. With just a tiny bit of belly flop. Her head popped up shortly thereafter. “See? Easy!”

    “If you can do it, so can I!” said Mark Rayburn. He tried to do exactly what Lauren had just done, and landed – WHOMP! – right on his belly. “Ow! Man, that hurts!”

    “What a baby,” sniffed Lauren.

    Mark swam to the side of the pool. Ms. Morrison grabbed his hand and helped pull him out of the pool. Mark’s stomach was several shades of reddish-pink. “Look, class,” Ms. Morrison said, “Pretty much everybody belly flops the first time. But it does get easier – and more fun after that.”

    Tommy was still in his squat position because he still hadn’t managed to get himself off the side and into the pool. Debby Zinn asked him if he wanted a little push to help him get started. Tommy said no.

    Debby and four other kids went off the side in quick succession. Four of them landed on their - SPLAT! - stomachs. Kelsi’s ‘dive’ looked more like a jump, although she insisted it was a perfect dive. Tommy remained in his position at the edge of the pool.

    “Any time now, Tommy,” said Lauren, tapping her wrist where a watch would be, if she were wearing one. “And by the way, Kelsi, that was not a real dive.”

    “Was too!” Kelsi stuck her tongue out behind Lauren’s back.

    A few more kids made attempts, most of which landed in belly flops, too.

    Ms. Morrison walked over to Tommy. “Tommy, do you think you can just try to lean over until you touch the water? It’s actually easier if you stand, but if you feel you can’t, the squat dive is still okay. I just want you to see what it’s like for today’s lesson. Now, why don’t you - ”

    “I’m trying!” hissed Tommy.

    “You sure are! Trying, that is!” Lauren laughed loudly. So did a couple of the other kids.

    “Lauren – that’s quite enough.” Ms. Morrison walked back over to the rest of her class. Tommy teetered on the edge. Suddenly, as Ms. Morrison was busy talking to her class, Tommy tilted over far enough that he overbalanced and finally went headfirst into the pool. There was a tiny splash. Everyone jerked around to look.

    What everyone didn’t see was Tommy. His head did not pop back up to the surface, like everyone else’s had after their dives. Ms. Morrison, fully dressed, jumped into the pool. She grabbed Tommy and pulled him to the side.

    As she pushed him to the outside edge of the pool, he started coughing and spitting out water.

    Everyone came over to him out of concern (or, in a couple of cases, curiosity) as Tommy’s hacking finally slowed down.

    Ms. Morrison sat on the cement rim with Tommy. “Are you all right?”

    He nodded.

    Ms. Morrison continued, “You know, Tommy, that was a very good attempt for a first attempt. But next time, you might want to keep your mouth closed when you go in.”

    Tommy nodded again and then turned to grin at his classmates, “Hey - but at least I didn’t do a belly flop.”

  2. Opening night. Ms. Callahan had spent every night of the past two weeks in rehearsal, sometimes the kids even came. No one believed that a middle school could pull off Guys and Dolls.

    Billy was the first actor to make it in. As first chair trumpet in the school band, he'd been a shoe-in for Nathan Detroit. Cute, cocky, charming, a little over the top, perfect casting. And he played decent jazz, so he could do the offbeats.

    Everyone draggled in and we did warmups, ran lines and had a little prayer behind the curtain as the orchestra (a synthesizer and a piano) warmed up to the overture.

    Opening scene at the horse track. Not great, a few stumbles, but good for barely teenagers. Ms. Callahan stopped picturing the play from To Kill a Mockingbird.

    The Save-A-Soul salvation Army scene went well in borrowed band uniforms.

    And here's Nathan Detroit! Ms. Callahan edges forward in her front row seat.

    Oh no, he's freezing. Ms. Callahan hisses his line. Billy edges to the front of the stage as the audience begins to nervously whisper and giggle. Ms Callahan squats at the edge of the stage and whispers Billy's line.

    Billy looks horrified as his pre-production snack breaks the fourth wall.

  3. [OK - Apologies in advance, and I won't be offended if you skip ahead to the next post.]

    I tried to be choke back my revulsion. I tried to be tough. To be gritty and hard-boiled. To be manly. To be a good cop. There was no stopping it, though. My revulsion ended up all over my shirt and tie. My gritty manliness ended up in the drawer of my wishful thinking.

    The body was both more and less grotesque than I had expected. There was very little blood. The whole body was swollen and distended, though. It was obvious that the insides were pulp. The outsides stretched to capacity.

    You always think of jumpers as going headfirst or toe first. A diver or a plunger. Splintered bones and blood.

    “Everybody belly flops the first time,” the senior detective commented. He had the affected matter-of-fact tone of a guy who was used to things worse than this. Not jaded, but close.

    “Can there be a second time?” I asked. I had the nervous tone of a guy who had lucked into a job that he was mentally but not experientially prepped for. Not na├»ve, but close.

    The senior detective looked at me, looked at the body, and looked back to me. He looked with twists of his entire body rather than just with shifting his eyes. “You survive that and tell me you wouldn’t try to kill yourself again.”

    I winced. “Do they survive?”

    He laughed. “Sometimes, Jackie, sometimes.”

    My name wasn’t Jackie. It wasn’t Jack. It wasn’t John. It didn’t seem like the time to correct him. “So what are we here for?” I asked.

    “Suicide’s a crime,” he said, as if he needed to remind me. “It’s a crime that ends up with someone dead.” This sounded like a favorite diatribe of his. “It is not, as they say, a victimless crime. A self-reflected homicide is still a homicide. Not to mention the poor bastards he left behind.”

    “That’s a him?”

    “It was.”

    “And there are poor bastards he left behind?”

    “There always are.”

    My attention was grabbed by a van that pulled up. Three guys in jumpsuits got out, one of them carrying a bag. Two of them carrying what looked roughly like snowshovels.

    “What’s that about?” I asked the senior detective.

    He did the full-bodying back-and-forth looking thing again. “That’s the body recovery team.”

    My revulsion got my shoes that time.

  4. BN - that was wonderful! Just perfect! So I guess Billy really did rock the boat, eh?

  5. RJ, I feel like I knew and had a regrettable crush on Lauren. LOL!

    And, B, way to give voice to the reason actors don't eat. hahaha

    Very enjoyable stories, both of you, with great personality and characterization. Easy to get into and easy to read!

  6. Nevets - omg! I just saw your post and - well, um, yeah. Forensics would love you! Well, them and CSI.

    But that was great - “You survive that and tell me you wouldn’t try to kill yourself again.”

    Yeah, right.

  7. I think I married Lauren.

    Nevets- are you sure you aren't a writer for Bones? You and that show do a remarkably consistent job of making me throw up a little in my mouth. And I mean that in the most admiring way possible.

  8. BN - lol on Lauren!

    Also - Nevets, what BN said - squared!

  9. Nevets, the graphic images your writing invades my head with are truly wonderful and scary!

    RJ, your third-grade characters are perfect! The issues and the banter...right on the mark.

    B., I'd LOVE to see a middle school production of Guys and Dolls!! That was great! I particularly loved the last line. hahaha

  10. B, I don't write for Bones, but I lived for a year, which is just long enough to lose touch of what normal people consider gross. And I used to be a really squeamish guy, too...

    Today's definitely more graphic than I normally try to write for Flashy Fiction, but it was just sort of there. Actually, it's more graphic than most of what I write regardless. You've soon worse, of course, B.

    And, Deb, I'm glad to invade your head; I just hope I don't do any lasting damage. lol

  11. Erm, that was supposed to say, "I live *it* for a year." I think most of us here have lived for a year. lol