Swimming, flash fiction by Beth Ghiorso at Spillwords.com
Autumn Studio

Swimming

Swimming

written by: Beth Ghiorso

 

When the knock came, Nora had nothing left to do.
“Do you want to come over and play?” Chrissy stood with her foot on the threshold, ready to step into the house. “We can go swimming. My mom said you could spend the night.”
Nora said, “I have to ask my mom.” She gave the door a nudge, not all the way closed, but enough that it wasn’t open. “Mom!” Nora hoped her mom wouldn’t answer. Swimming, though. Nora had already played in the front yard under the tree, she had already sprayed water into the oscillating fan, and she had finished her book. The girls next door, Peggy and Lisa were at their grandma’s for the weekend.
Nora turned back and was about to shrug and say she guessed her mom wasn’t home. Then her mom called from the back of the house, “What Nora?” Her steps were light on the carpet as she came to the door. “Oh, hi Chrissy.”
“Can Nora spend the night? We’re going to swim.” Nora knew there was no getting out of it now.
Nora’s mom smiled. “Sure. Swimming, sounds fun.”
Nora wished her mom had said no. Chrissy’s parents were too strict and Chrissy called her ‘butterball’ sometimes.
Her mom nudged Nora’s shoulder.
“I’ll go get my stuff.”
The two girls walked down the sidewalk, flip flops singing a smack, smack, smack. Nora’s dark blue sleeping bag was tucked under her arm. The hum of grasshoppers floated in the hot, dry air.
“My mom is making spaghetti tonight,” Chrissy said.
Nora nodded.
The pool was clear and blue. She and Chrissy cannon balled, they dove to the drain at the bottom, they raced from one end to the other. They sat on towels and ate celery and carrots. Chrissy’s dog, a dark eared German Shepherd named Pepper, sprawled in the shade under the tree. Nora wondered if she was hot. Usually Pepper looked fierce, but not today.
“Does Pepper ever go in the pool?” Nora thought it would be fun to see Pepper paddling side to side.
Chrissy shook her head, showing no interest in getting Pepper in the pool. “My dad’ll be home soon. We can ask him if we can watch a movie tonight.” Chrissy’s hair was plastered to the side of her face.
“Can’t we just ask your mom?”
“No, my dad has to make sure the movie is a good family movie.”
Nora wanted to ask why her mom couldn’t decide about the movie, but instead she reached for a carrot.
The spaghetti was ok. The marinara sauce was runny.
Once, a friend of her parents had come for dinner. She had marveled at Nora’s review of desert.
“Food snob?”
“One can hope,” her father had replied.
She ate more bread. When dinner was done, she and Chrissy helped clear the table. Chrissy’s dad went to his office.
Chrissy’s mom, Mona, said, “Go play. I’ll finish here.”
Mona was Swiss and Nora wondered if she missed the mountains, the Alps. Nora had drawn a map in her 5th grade class before summer began.
The girls went into Chrissy’s room. Chrissy had an impressive collection of model plastic horses. Nora had three herself, but Chrissy’s collection was pristine. These horses had never been tossed high into the branches of a silver maple, or galloped across the lawn, chipping their black hooves.
“Do you still want to watch a movie?” Nora was bored with the plastic horses.
“Okay. Let’s go ask my dad.” Chrissy put the horses in their cases.
Mr. Parr’s office was at the end of the hall. The door was open, but Chrissy stayed in the hallway. “Daddy?” Chrissy leaned in.
Mr. Parr was sitting at his desk, his dark framed glasses perched on his nose, looking over papers. He was mostly bald, only a fringe remained, but he had combed hair over the top of his white, freckled scalp. Nora wasn’t fooled.
“Chrissss…” He issued a low warning tone.
Her toes, wrinkled from the pool water, had crossed the seam of the hall carpet and the linoleum in his office. She inched back.
“Can we watch a movie? Lady and the Tramp? It’s on TV 40 at 7:00.” Chrissy kept her voice just above a whisper.
Nora wondered if the movie was worth it.
Mr. Carr lowered the papers and sighed. “Alright, tell your mom I said it was ok.”
Nora usually liked watching the movie with her little brother Jimmy. He had a deep, round belly laugh. Chrissy didn’t laugh, didn’t talk.
Getting ready for bed, Nora asked if Pepper would come in at night. She loved the feeling of her own dog, Ferber, sleeping at her feet. A pang of home sickness hit her.
“No, Pepper never comes in at night,” Chrissy replied. “She has her dog house.”
Nora went to sleep wishing for a pancake breakfast.
She woke to the sound of a dog yelping. Chrissy was still asleep in her bed. Nora had been on the floor, her sleeping bag rumpled. She sat up. There it was again, a yelp. Nora stood. She didn’t hear any kitchen noises. The drapes on the back sliding door were open.
Mr. Parr was bent over something, his dark green bathrobe open, sides flapping like two wings. The morning light shone on his flopping hair. He raised a piece of garden hose and came down. And there it was, Pepper yelping. Nora hit the glass door with her open palm. But Mr. Parr didn’t turn, he didn’t stop. He raised the hose again.
Nora screamed. She wanted to rip the hose away. But she ran to Chrissy’s room and scooped up her belongings. Chrissy was awake, blinking.
Nora wanted her mom. She wanted her mom to be enraged, to march down the street and rescue Pepper, to tell Mr. Parr where he could go. Most of all, Nora wanted to be brave. She ran home, her feet light and swift over the morning cooled pavement.

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