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Short Story: Look & Listen

The following was written as a quick exercise in my Modern Short Stories class.

Photo by Pixabay on

“You’re right,” Jack said, breathless, as Ryan’s fingertips touched the grille of the poolside. “You’re out of shape.”

Ryan was panting, his fingers clutching the plastic and metal as though they were all that stood between him and further agony. With a withering look, he raised his right hand and extended the middle finger.

“Dude,” Jack snickered, splashing at his friend with a playful intensity.

“It’s easy for you to stay in shape,” Ryan’s reaction to this burst of water was very restrained. Disappointingly so. “You’ve always been an athlete.”

Jack frowned, running a hand through his soaking hair. It darkened when wet. “Have I?”

“I mean, basically,” Ryan puffed. “Soccer. Lax. And you swim in the Summer.”

Jack shrugged. “Eh.”

“I’m not saying it’s easy,” Ryan frowned. “Really.”

Ryan and Jack floated next to each other, only inches apart. Jack was beginning to get cold. He wanted to resume swimming soon. Nobody really liked treading water.

“I remember last year your time trial blew everyone out of the water,” Jack said abruptly, not entirely sure if he knew why this detail was relevant.

“It wasn’t as loud as it is today. So many screaming kids, I can hardly think. Let alone swim.”

“Since when does hearing have shit to do with swimming?”

“I used to think every voice I heard was my dad,” Ryan mumbled. “He never has anything nice to say about my backstroke.”

Unconsciously, Jack’s gaze flicked up to the grey swim cap wrapped around Ryan’s head. It looked slimy and uncomfortable. Jack had never worn one.

“How do you think this season is gonna go?” Jack didn’t really want to talk about Ryan’s family. He didn’t know him well enough for that.

Ryan shrugged, unconsciously reaching up to draw up the swim cap just enough that a dash of water trickled down his face.

“Do you remember the time two years ago when we were in the C relay together?” Jack blurted suddenly. “And we thought we were going to get trounced, but we managed to–”

“I do remember,” Ryan cut him off, dropped back under the water, and began to swim. Jack shivered. The hairs on his legs had begun to stand up straight from the cold.

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