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Winner

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Jun. 30th, 2014 | 05:07 pm

“Go in the hole,” says the boy I don’t know. Trash, I think, because he looks like Jimmy down the street, straw-blond hair and cut-offs instead of swim trunks. But he and his friend have both gone through the hole—really a short rock tunnel in the bottom of the spring. Seventy-three degrees year-round and crystal clear, I know from Girl Scouts and from reading the state park information sign. I am on the rec center team. I can beat Nikki Haislett in the 100-breast stroke, my medal at the all-county meet, her medal later in Barcelona. I can hold my breath for four laps in the short pool or two and a half in the competition pool. The tunnel is maybe six feet, you can see the daylight at the other end.

“You don’t have to if you’re scared,” says the boy, using his big brother voice, not mean.

On the ride home, I’m with our neighbor’s adult son David and two of his three boys. They are eight and ten and worn out, so they sleep in the back and I get the front seat. My mother and the neighbor and my little brother and David’s oldest son—fifteen, two years older than me—are in the car ahead, inner tubes strapped to the roof rack.

We tubed all day, putting in at the headspring, drifting down river for an hour, then catching the shuttle back to the top and doing it again. When the moms were tired of drifting, they sat by the picnic table while we swam in the springs. Diving to the bottom and feeling where the water gushed out, trying to guess how many gallons an hour added up to 400 million a day, letting however much it was push us to the surface or suck us under the current to struggle up for air, coughing, and do it again.

“You don’t have to do it,” says the boy in the cut-offs, and I know I have to. I tread water and take deep breaths.

You can see right to the bottom of the springs. You can see David swim near me as we drift down the Rainbow River. You can see him brush his hand on my leg. You can see my mother’s face as I surface to hear her call, “Come over here, Alli,” with a look that lets me know she has seen, too.

I don’t know who started it. My adult brain knows I jockeyed for that front seat. My adult brain remembers diving down, finding the entrance to the tunnel and kicking in, the tunnel big enough for a kid but not for an adult if I got stuck here no-one could get me the tunnel walls made of rock made of crushed shells made of roughness against my emerald-green racing swimsuit, paper thin with a sport back. I surfaced when he mentioned the rear view mirror. I surfaced to high-fives and did not bother to tell my mother, I did not need her praise for swimming through a tunnel.

That was the most intense thing that’s ever happened to me, David says. The best.

I did not know there were prizes to be won here. But I know I am meant to be a winner. I know I want to be the best.

The next year, I drop off the varsity swim team and do fall musical. David is there one day when I come home after rehearsal, his mom talking to my mom, his new girlfriend being introduced. I am burdened with books, red-faced and sweaty and half in costume and fourteen. I can see in David’s face that I am not what he remembers, and this, too, feels like victory.




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whipchick just discovered the Twitter and it's eating her brain.





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Comments {32}

Laura, aka "Ro Arwen"

(no subject)

from: roina_arwen
date: Jun. 30th, 2014 10:19 pm (UTC)
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This is a very interesting slice-of-life / coming of age piece. I like the ambiguity at the start, too. :)

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jul. 3rd, 2014 07:26 pm (UTC)
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Thanks - I enjoyed playing with the time shifts.

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braver

(no subject)

from: _swallow
date: Jul. 1st, 2014 01:02 am (UTC)
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I love this one.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jul. 3rd, 2014 07:27 pm (UTC)
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Thank you very much! My goal was to write a piece that was pretty subtle, so I'm glad it struck for you.

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Teo Says

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from: eternal_ot
date: Jul. 1st, 2014 12:45 pm (UTC)
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I have a *grin* on my face on behalf of the girl...I like her spirit ! Her thirst to win...loved this short adventure...Good work!

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jul. 3rd, 2014 07:28 pm (UTC)
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Thank you!

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drwex

I also used to swim breaststroke

from: drwex
date: Jul. 1st, 2014 04:04 pm (UTC)
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When I got to the Varsity team in HS, though, we had 3 states-level breaststrokers so I was switched to freestyle by the coach. Never placed higher than 6th after that. I used to do a lot of breaststroke in practice anyway, which caused me to not do fencing when I got to college. My knees said "Are you fucking KIDDING me?" after two hours of practice doing lunges and I never went back to that, either.

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whipchick

Re: I also used to swim breaststroke

from: whipchick
date: Jul. 3rd, 2014 07:29 pm (UTC)
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Later I got moved to 800 freestyle because I wasn't the fastest but I didn't know when to quit :)

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Every Day Above Ground

(no subject)

from: mallorys_camera
date: Jul. 1st, 2014 04:10 pm (UTC)
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Well done. I have a strong preference for pieces without editorializing, where the writer conveys what needs to be conveyed through subtext alone -- and you do this quite successfully here.

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The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors

(no subject)

from: halfshellvenus
date: Jul. 2nd, 2014 07:27 pm (UTC)
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I second this comment! I have all sorts of thoughts about that adult neighbor, and what he might have been up to and what you might have felt about it, but you don't draw those conclusions for us.

I also liked the vivid background here, and the sense of what starts out as a should-be-easy dare and turns out to be far less guaranteed.

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blink

(no subject)

from: yachiru
date: Jul. 2nd, 2014 12:29 am (UTC)
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I think you could make the phonebook interesting. You write in such a clear cosmic voice.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jul. 3rd, 2014 07:30 pm (UTC)
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Wow, thank you :)

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Elizabeth

(no subject)

from: watching_ships
date: Jul. 2nd, 2014 02:52 am (UTC)
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Really enjoyed this. Great work.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jul. 3rd, 2014 07:31 pm (UTC)
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Thank you!

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uncawes

(no subject)

from: uncawes
date: Jul. 2nd, 2014 07:35 am (UTC)
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This is so vivid, I can see every action in full detail even though it's subtext.
Fantastic work - again

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jul. 3rd, 2014 07:32 pm (UTC)
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Thank you very much.

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dmousey

(no subject)

from: dmousey
date: Jul. 2nd, 2014 08:24 pm (UTC)
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Please ma'am, may I read some more? You held my interest avidly and I would like to know more about the main character. Thank you for sharing.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jul. 3rd, 2014 07:32 pm (UTC)
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Thank you! It's me, and I mostly write nonfiction, so I suspect you will :)

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D.

(no subject)

from: binaryorchid
date: Jul. 3rd, 2014 11:43 am (UTC)
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These competitions that only happen in childhood, they are memories that last.

the tunnel big enough for a kid but not for an adult


As an adult, those moments will not be repeated.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jul. 3rd, 2014 07:33 pm (UTC)
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So true! Thanks for reading.

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i_17bingo

(no subject)

from: i_17bingo
date: Jul. 3rd, 2014 03:24 pm (UTC)
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I like most that the narrator doesn't seem to act like she's got anything to prove--she just does things because she can. That's not to say she doesn't care what anyone thinks, but that's less important than what she does.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jul. 3rd, 2014 07:33 pm (UTC)
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Thanks, I'm glad you get that from the piece!

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Veronica Rich

(no subject)

from: veronica_rich
date: Jul. 3rd, 2014 08:39 pm (UTC)
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Usually something non-linear confuses me and I don't always like that, but this was enjoyable. It felt more like a stream-of-consciousness piece, which I do sometimes like.

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A Karmic Sandbox

(no subject)

from: karmasoup
date: Jul. 3rd, 2014 09:17 pm (UTC)
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I always enjoy seeing moments such as these. The ones that begin to define you, maybe in ways you don't realize until later. Thanks for sharing this.

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ArmagedDan

(no subject)

from: hosticle_fifer
date: Jul. 3rd, 2014 10:37 pm (UTC)
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I got claustrophobic reading this, and I was positive some kid was gonna eat it by the end. The stream of consciousness towards the end really caps it off. There was actual, tangible relief that it was a coming of age story instead of a tragedy. :D

Edited at 2014-07-03 10:37 pm (UTC)

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kick_galvanic, zagzagael, skull_theatre

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from: bleodswean
date: Jul. 4th, 2014 12:42 am (UTC)
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This is something wonderful. I cannot tell you how much I adore the craft of writing that requires something more from the reader. You aced this small HUGE piece of writing.

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