That day, the water bent the sun like radio waves. We’d learned it was how voices reach across distances. In class, when we asked how things worked without wires, Mr. Jones outlined in chalk what sound would resemble if you could see it—not like a tide’s in-and-out or an elevator’s lowering, but like the mountains’ undulations, their ridges mumbling at dusk.
At the pool’s edge, I closed my eyes. But I could hear nothing except the gulp of the surface divided, the splash of a cannonball, a tangle of boys vying to hold their heads above water. The ones who lost snotted out chlorine and punched at the surface as if it would hold.
I wonder how far the ruckus traveled—if our fathers could hear our yelping in the rooms of the mountain. Over the coughing shovels. Or veins crumbling in their hands.
We practiced their curses, the work-shirts of their language, even the voices we couldn’t remember—like Billy’s dad who was somewhere in France, buried by the only ocean he’d ever seen. His son swam the hardest, demanding race after race until he collapsed on the bench. His face turned away from the chain-link fence.
L.S. McKee’s work has appeared in Gulf Coast, BODY, Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, New South and elsewhere. Originally from East Tennessee, she lives and teaches in Atlanta.