Mikey waited by the gate, watching as Zach swam back… and forth… back, and forth…
He wondered how it was possible to hit the wall so many times.
Everytime he came close to the blue tiles, bam! Then he would recoil to hastily swim the other way, only to eventually hit the other wall. Mikey wondered how he didn’t get brain damage from hitting the wall so many times. Or who knows, maybe he already had--- it would explain a lot.
In the other lane, Gentry slid by the water with the easy swiftness of a frog, flipping into a turn then pushing off the wall. Even then, only the tips of his toes touched the big blue tiles along the pool wall. This notably slowed him down, but he always caught up, keeping time with Zach, who every so often would take a harsh breath to keep from drowning. Gentry moved less like a human and more like a large fish, gliding through the water without resistance, fin-like arms shooting from the crystalline water then sliding back in. The stroke, Mikey recalled, was called The Butterfly. The Butterfly. Mikey turned it over a few times in his head, then leaned against the chain link fence, wringing his fingers around the netted metal.
When practice came to a close, Gentry heaved his sopping wet body onto the poolside wall, and sat quietly panting with his back hunched over and legs dangling in the water. He noticed Mikey from the corner of his eyes, yet showed no sign of caring. He stared at him like headlights at a deer, waiting for him to leap away.
“Hey, Gentry…” Mikey spoke up from behind the fence, “Mind telling Zach to come here?”
No reply came, though Gentry peered away dismissively. In turn, Mikey sighed, pressing his weight against the chain link fence, counting down the minutes until practice ended.
And the very second it did, Gentry leapt to his feet and shrilly blew into the coach’s whistle.
“Practice is Over. Move out!”
He yelled loudly enough to stir up the freshmen, who stopped splashing water at each other and looked up to listen. A few frightened birds whooshed past him. Mikey raised an eyebrow.
The truth was, he didn’t need to shout. He did it because there was nowhere else he could.
As a matter of fact, the right to yell that was a one of the reasons people vied to be swim team captain. When the coach would sit in the shade yelling orders, no one ever went against him. During practice, there was no excuse for yelling or giving orders to anyone unless you were the coach. If you didn’t like that, then, as he put it, you could “pack your bags and run home.” The swim team captain was a notable exception to this rule, because he had the coach’s shiny metal whistle. And only he and the coach had the right to blow into that whistle, thereby overpowering every and any other sound.
Gentry really liked that. So much so that he blew into it again, just for good measure. It was really the next best thing to a gun, the next best thing to whip people into order. The next best thing to make them look and listen.
“You’re such a showoff,” Mikey thought to himself, as the swimmers began to trudge out of the pool.
One by one they crept onto land; heaving, panting and ambling to the locker room as fast their tired legs could carry them. The Seniors sometimes hit the freshmen with towels or tripped them, and the smarter underclassmen tended to wait until the seniors had cleared out and hit the showers first. That way, they could sneak into the warm showers when no one was looking.
Zach trailed a little behind the others, sorely rubbing his head with a towel. He seemed to be in his own world before Gentry sauntered over and whispered something into his ear.
“He is?” Zach said loudly, “Where?”
Gentry leaned in to whisper something else, and the statement was returned by a shove, and a shove back.
“Hey Mikey.” Zach called out, dragging his feet towards the gate. He looked worn out, but that didn’t dim the odd energy radiating from him, as he leaned against the metal fencepole and grinned boyishly. There was definitely something different about him, Mikey figured. A certain something in his step he hadn’t seen recently.
“Hey, Zach. Hm, you looked great out there.”