Ewan pushed off from the bar, turning and adjusted his stroke, clawing the water. Above him, armed with a long, aluminium pole, his instructor, Martin, shouted above the din of the pool. Children’s screams ricocheted around the glass, tile and metal. Ewan tried to get his arm position and wrist snap correct, his mind repeating the sequence; 1-2-3, left arm up. 1-2-3, wrist turned, 1-2-3, arm into the water. Right arm repeat. His progress through the learning lane, dictated by Martin’s shouts and the metronome in his head.
Turning his head, he took a gasp for breath; the world a garish yellow from the plastic of his goggles, before the green of the tiles below passing as he swam. Ewan’s legs propelled him awkwardly, the muscles reduced in mass on his right leg after the motorcycle accident; its lesser weight forcing him to push it harder. Ewan began to veer off along the lane before the aluminium pole nudged him back into the centre.
Ewan’s lungs felt uncomfortable, as if they wanted to burst out of his chest, He turned his head the opposite side and breathed; he could see Martin’s toned calves and strong, smooth feet pushing through the Y of his flip flops. The image burned as he turned his gaze to the bottom of the pool. His leg dragging like a loose anchor; a lasting reminder of the foolishness of the accident.
The opposite side of the pool began to appear as he swam toward it. Now came the tricky bit. As he approached the wall of the pool, one length completed, he heard Martin shout,
‘Turn now, Ewan.’
Ewan attempted the Mushroom float, turning, but was already in trouble with the timing. His feet collided with the metal bar, the pain, a momentary red flash across Ewan’s vision.
‘Christ, Jesus!’ he spluttered, the water pouring into his nostrils and swirling freely down his throat.
His composure broke, he scrambled to the safety of the support bar.
‘Tread water!’ shouted Martin. He was grinning good naturedly,
Ewan tried, but the leg was dragging him down, like a twisted kite.
He reached the bar and rested his head on the cold metal. Sharp, stinging tears mixed with the water.
He felt helpless, he was wracked with sobs.
He felt stupid and he couldn’t bring himself to look at Martin’s perfect features