- A Morning Swim
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Jill was still sleeping, so he got out of bed quietly, and in the bathroom he pulled on his swimming suit and stepped into his sandals. She was still sleeping when he left the rental cottage that overlooked the bay. He planned to be back from his swim before she even woke because he knew she would worry. Earlier in the summer, there had been stories in the local paper about shark sightings all up and down the Cape, even close to shore, but there hadn’t [End Page 123] been any reports in almost a month now, and at any rate, not a single soul in the area had been attacked, and what were the odds anyway? He wasn’t an overly cautious person, but he was hardly reckless.
The cottage was on a bluff, and he walked down a long, sandy board-walk to a narrow beach, crossed the beach, and went out on a short pier. Sometimes there were people out fishing, but it was just after dawn now, and he was the only one out. He left his T-shirt and his sandals at the end of the pier. There was a ladder to ease himself into the water, which was cold year-round but quite swimmable now in late July. The first touch of the water was the most difficult, and his legs pimpled and tightened against it. He took a breath and sank into the water. A shock traveled through his chest, but after he submerged and came back up, the chill eased and he looked ahead to the orange-and-white buoy, about a hundred yards away. He’d made the swim daily earlier in the summer, when they’d first arrived, before the shark sightings had induced Jill to make him stop for a time. But he was ready to take it on again. He wasn’t a great swimmer, but certainly decent. He regularly swam a mile at the swimming pool back home and at amateur competitions even placed reasonably well in the over-fifty-five age division. Open-water swimming was quite different from pool swimming, but a hundred yards out, then back, was easy. Usually he’d do some repeats, catching his breath in between by hanging on the ladder.
He started slowly, with casual breaststrokes. The water was calm, and now that he’d adjusted to the cold, he felt quite peaceful. He enjoyed the solitude, having a little time to his own. He and Jill rarely fought, but sometimes there was an irritability and distance between them, which seemed more pronounced of late. They weren’t used to spending so much time together. He’d taken an early retirement, and she was still going strong in her law practice, but she’d agreed to take an extended vacation. In the first couple of weeks, they’d enjoyed themselves. Each day they’d bike the two miles to the town center to sit in a café and talk and then bring home a few groceries in their knapsacks. But the novelty had worn off, and now they usually just drove and parked at the supermarket.
After fifty yards, he switched to a slow crawl, then a bit faster, but steady, controlled. He’d take it easy on the way out and then sprint it back home. At first it always seemed as if the orange-and-white buoy was coming no closer, but now he bobbed up in the water long enough to get a clearer view, and the buoy loomed just ahead. There was something comforting in its nearness. That was when he felt the sensation, [End Page 124] the water move below him, a rushing past his thighs, and whirling his head about, he saw nothing for a few seconds until, ten yards to his right, a fin jutted from the water and glided on. The fin turned in a circle and disappeared below the water.
He dashed for the buoy, wrapping his arms and legs around it, attempted to climb it, but the buoy...