criminal animal

I tried to explain the fact that I was the only 35 year-old in the children’s swim class as the result of a clerical error, describing the situation to the few interested parties in terms that expressed my magnanimous sympathy for the poor overworked scheduler that I didn’t want to bother by having her place me in the advanced swim class where I rightly belonged. My cover story thus established, I spent a lot of time that summer crouched down in the pool with my chin hovering just over the jiggling line of the water, gripped with fear. Despite my arm floaties which had been carefully selected for their neutral color, avoiding detection by friends, family, and acquaintances proved a challenge equal to any I found in the drink, and the price of failure in either of these areas felt similarly high.
Speculation among the frail, liver-spotted seniors in the water aerobics class two lanes over that I was some kind of assistant instructor assigned to encourage the children by making their progress seem significant by comparison soon gave way to speculation that I was a plant assigned to keep the lifeguards’ skills sharp, after the fourth time I was dragged from the pool that first difficult week. I had traveled well beyond the age at which my flailing efforts could be considered endearing, much less inspirational. Observers could imagine the low ceiling to my potential relative to my classmates, who had their whole lives ahead to improve. Indeed, my skills would likely never advance much further than a point that would make me, in the event of a nautical disaster, more a liability for my fellow survivors than I would be if I simply drowned immediately.
My performance in the Little Ducklings End-of-Summer Swim Show was roundly panned, practically an inevitability given that I had not had the advantage shared by my classmates of being able to stack the bleachers with partial spectators such as neighbors and grandparents. Peter Travers from Rolling Stone magazine, whose 36-point font declaration “A Triumph!” adorns the top line of the DVD case for Carlito’s Way 2, called my performance “a rare… misstep from an emerging… talent,” noting that “any humor that could possibly be derived from a pathetic adult being in a class full of children has already been thoroughly explored and even strip-mined by the 1994 film Billy Madison.” Prepared for this line of attack, I deftly countered by jabbing my finger in Travers’ chest for emphasis as I pointed out that our class’ instructor’s hand had been bitten off by an alligator. That had been from an entirely different movie altogether.

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August 2012
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