When asked about a childhood memory that can be told as a story I am always a little puzzled. Your little precious moments, so dear and tender, somehow lose their significance when told to an indifferent listener. However, there is one story that I would like to tell you as it happened long ago but still very fresh and vivid in my memory. For overall understanding you should know that until 9 years old I was afraid of water. My parents might probably have read a lot of about how to deal with a baby before I was born, so when I finally was, they tried to be A-grade parents very hard. One of the issues they were especially crazy about was baby swimming and diving. They submerged me into coldish water in the bathtub with such a monstrous regularity that until 3 years old I had been convinced they had been trying to make an amphibian out of me. However, all this resulted only in my strong disgust to the any water basins and especially to submerging in them. As soon as I learnt to talk properly I asked my parents in kindest expressions to stop this torture and go on with their lives. My parents let go of me and had a couple of other babies. They probably thought I was somehow defective and decided to take another shot. Anyway, let me come back straight to my story.
This happened when I was 9 and lived with by Granddad and Grandmom in the country. I lived there only in the summer when school was over and my parents wanted on to concentrate on the younger children without me wandering about. My grandparents' small house stood close to the bridge over a swampy river where white city schoolchildren liked to swarm in order (as their parents thought) to get stronger and healthier. Right next to the house there was a house belonging to Mrs. Rogers, a jovial and red-faced old woman who always smelt of cookies and whose grandson was the love of my life. Ricky, the love, was a 12-ish thin red-haired freckled boy who seemed to be only interested in his books and the big furry black cat he used to carry with him to the beach to read and cuddle.
I clearly remember the day it happened. It was overcast in the morning but then the sun slowly came from the clouds but was shining somehow lazily. The clouds were dark and heavy, it was difficult to breath. Everything in the nature said it was going to be a thunderstorm. I was building a plane model in my room and eating my grannys apricot pie that she put too much sugar in. I always liked boys toys except for weapons. I could see from the window of my room as Ricky was walking in the direction of the beach with the stupid cat on one arm and a Kafka under the other. Needless to say, I never went to the beach or swam in that swamp of a river. The mere smell of damp sand and dead fish decaying on the stones made me dizzy and nauseous. It was probably because of that local children would steer clear of me. That day it was too cool to swim so Ricky and his cat were the only visitors of the beach. He was wearing a green T-shirt and some breezy light-blue shorts which came right above to his skinny sun-tanned knees. His red hair was a little wavy because of the dampness and I thought I could smell its salty odor. For no apparent reason I wanted to read Kafka.
I looked sadly at his distant lonely figure as he was walking along the bridge, signed and came back to the plane wing which would not stay in its place as it was supposed to. I could not make myself concentrate on constructing so I looked up again. Ricky was still visible, his green T-shirt made a striking contrast with the grayish wood of the old rickety bridge. All at once I was shaken by an abrupt clap of thunder. In a moment I heard Ricky scream and saw him dash to the railing of the bridge. He was shouting something in a shriek voice but I could not figure out what he was saying. I tossed my plane aside, jumped out of the window and sprinted to the bridge still chewing granny's syrupy pie. It was difficult to run with the food in the mouth so I stopped for a moment to spit it out and catch some breath. I felt dull pain in my side from too much exercise that I was not accustomed to. When I got to the bridge Ricky was not on the bridge any longer. He went down the stairs to the beach and was standing in the water reaching his ankles. Only now I noticed that the cat was not in his arms, he explained haltingly that it got scared to death by a clap of thunder and suddenly jumped from his arms, ran to the rails and fell from the bridge. I was surprised to find out Ricky was afraid of the water too. He went to the beach only to read and lie in the sun. I came to the water and as my nose felt the river moist, my knees and chin started to tremble. I looked at Ricky's desperate frightened face and saw a fresh bloody scratch on his neck. His lips and chin were trembling too. I saw that he was going to jump and suddenly something in me changed. I was no longer afraid. I saw in the distant dark horizon that the cat was sitting on a log of some kind and opening its mouth regularly. It looked miserable and even more scared than we were. Technically I knew I could swim, my parents tireless efforts had not been in vain. I closed my eyes and made a move. I could hear Ricky saying something loudly but my head was underwater and I was too excited and stupefied to understand what he was saying. I was swimming. My body was doing it without my conscious presence. It was enveloped by cold water but I was not cold. In some time I dared to open my eyes. The water was too muddy to see anything so I came up to the surface. The bank was quite steep so it was considerably deep where I was. I looked around and saw the ill-fated beast in about ten meters to my left. It was mewing fiercely. I made a couple of powerful moves in its direction and finally reached it. As I grabbed the cat it scratched my face and I could feel the iron taste of my own blood on my lips. I vaguely remember how I got back to the beach. When I gave Ricky his cat he stopped trembling and looked at me sullenly. I do not know if he was grateful but he certainly could not forgive me his humiliation.
Since that incident I never saw Ricky again. Next summer he just did not come to his granny. He was probably ashamed to see me or afraid that I would tell someone. This is the first time I am telling this to anyone. However, the most important thing is that I no longer fear to be in the water. Actually I joined the local swimming pool and even was on the university swimming team. I got a cat too. He is big, fluffy and red. His name is Ricky.
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