Image found here.
The residents of Monroe, Texas, were not thrilled at the dark clouds crowding out their July sunshine. It was Texas. It was July. The muggy heat was enough to choke a maggot, and it wasn’t just kids who wanted to vanish under six feet of cool and wet. Not even sprinklers or dunking one’s head under the hose could stave away the sticky, uncomfortable blanket of humidity that had unceremoniously draped itself across Monroe, like a old aunt’s afghan one didn’t want or need.
“Everyone out of the pool!” the lifeguard yelled. Parents groaned, kids shrieked and the 16-year-old lifeguards blew their whistles and grinned behind the lanyards. They’d be getting off early, today. There was no arguing with those clouds.
One child, however, didn’t get out for the whistle. While everyone else grumbled on the side of the pool, toweling themselves, a dark form zipped back and forth in the water.
“Hey, kid, get out!” one of the lifeguards yelled.
But the flippers kicked back and forth, back and forth, zigging and zagging from the deep to the shallow end.
“Kid, come on!” The lifeguard glanced at the sky. The dark clouds were rumbling with the deep threats of storms only July and April can bring. A flash of white cracked against the ominous grey. “Kid, come on!”
But their resentment of the kid’s blatant disregard of the rules turned to suspicion, then concern. It had been at least three minutes since the kid surfaced. Still he went back and forth, back and forth, his head never breaking the surface once.
The lifeguards huddled under the tallest chair to conference. “Should we pull him out?”
“No one can stay under for that long. He’ll get brain damage.”
“We can’t leave him here. There’s lightening.” The lifeguards looked at each other and nodded. It was decided. One ushered out the gaping crowd, another jumped in the water and a third waited on the side, just in case. The lifeguard kicked his way down to the deeper end of the pool and caught the kid’s arm under the shallow of the diving board. He tugged, trying to pull the boy up, but to his shock, the boy turned his head and grinned. Purple gills flapped on the sides of his skinny neck. He wore no goggles, but a clear film bubbled around each eye like a glass encasement.
“Five more minutes?”
The lifeguard opened his mouth and sucked in water. His lungs seized and the boy pressed his hand to his mouth. Oxygen flooded through his webbed fingers and the lifeguard drank in a wobbly breath, the air tickling the back of his throat.
“Better?” the boy asked.
The lifeguard nodded. The boy’s gills flapped, open and and shut. “Don’t mind me,” he told the lifeguard. “I’ll get out in a little while. I love swimming in storms. I love swimming, period.”
That much was obvious. The lifeguard kicked back to the surface. The other lifeguards looked at his empty arms. “Where’s the kid?”
“It’s not a kid, it’s a cat.” The lifeguard hauled himself out, wet footprints trailing behind him as his feet slapped toward the booth. “Let’s go.”
The lifeguards looked at the shadow in the water, then at the sky. They shrugged and hurried after him. If anyone asked, it was his fault. They were going to the movies.
That night in Monroe, if anyone had been near the pool, they would heard more than the rumble of thunder and crack of lightening. They would have heard the high-pitched giggle of pure childhood delight, the splashing of one gill-necked boy as he splashed in the deep end of the pool.
After all, there’s nothing like swimming in the rain.
Stay tuned, Invisible Friends! More stories next week!