Beautiful Swimmer

Posted on Posted in Notes & Doodles


Excerpt from Blue Rubber Pool coming soon.


It was happening again, wonderfully. The Transition. The moment of crossing from one world into another.

Traversing the spiritual bridge between land and sea was bewitching and so powerfully exciting. Man, oh man, what a homewrecker was the sea: a slinky nymph with dreamy eyes waiting under motel sheets in the middle of the day.

I let myself ease in, immersed myself, absorbing even the slightest sensations, letting them build, drinking them up, becoming one—then let go, releasing myself into the moment, letting the moment consume me, cleanse me.

My thoughts glinted briefly toward home, toward Marianne and our promises. But I knew not to dwell there, knew to let the water lure me away until, soon, I could only look ahead instead of looking back.

The sails tightened. Water splashed off the hull with an enticing fusion of large and small sounds spaced evenly and unevenly based on any number of influences: size of waves and distance between them, heel of the boat and its angle on the sea, my steadiness on the wheel, or rudder, or lack thereof.

I remember the sound as like this: Slippedy-slippedy-slap-slap-slap-swish-swash-swish-slippedy-swish-slap-swash-swash-slippedy.

Try it with your eyes closed: Slippedy-slippedy-slap-slap-slap-swish-swash-swish-slippedy-swish-slap-swash-swash-slippedy.

Now again: Slippedy-slippedy-slap-slap-slap-swish-swash-swish-slippedy-swish-slap-swash-swash-slippedy.

Repeated a million times, the effect is hypnotic, the trance eternal. For sure, I had been willing and ready to wander off wherever that mantra would have me go, hitchhiking its random directions and distances until no longer aware of who and where I was. I was there, on the cusp of that profound metamorphosis—ready to ride, baby, ride—when a raspy outraged voice burst over the VHF.

“Thanks for the wake, asshole!” it seethed.

An odd utterance from out of the blue as if from Jehovah Himself. I looked for the source—and for the pestilent wake—but could find no likely suspects.

When it became quiet again, the mood was gone. The waves sounded only like waves, a mere side effect of moving on in life. Then, soon enough, came more chatter on the VHF—this time between the dock master and a cargo vessel while, in the same instant, Mad Dog and the first mate, Roger, emerged from the cabin congratulating each another on having found and fixed a loose wire at the battery bank. Next, The Kid joined us in the cockpit too, having been standing at the bow pulpit, arms out like wings, his silhouette on the headsail resembling Christ on the cross. Perhaps, like me, he had been in a trance-like state, sensing his soul given over to the sea, leading him farther away from his troubles back home, the knocked up girlfriend and a matter pertaining to stolen beer.

Like me, his attempted escape proved futile, the opportunity spoiled by some fool on the airwaves. I felt sorry for him, for his broken moment at the pulpit. There was nothing left but to join us eavesdropping, just bullshit at first, unimportant chit-chat and ubiquitous prattle, until finally it came: the cheap entertainment we needed just then—the harbormaster critiquing a Chinese restaurant for the restless crew of an incoming ship, running through the menu, critiquing the Moo Goo Gai Pan versus the General Tso.

The arriving vessel, bee-lining toward hard and steady ground, had a name I’ll remember the rest of my life—be that days or decades. Beautiful Swimmer. We searched the horizon, hoping to see such a craft. We looked and looked, each of us quiet for reasons of our own. But all we saw out there was the dark thin line at the edge of the world. And, in that, ourselves.

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— Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill


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