Drowning Under Pressure

I’ve been lifeguarding since 9 a.m. and the heat has engraved my whistle lanyard onto the back of my neck.

Down in the shallow end, kids are punching beach balls over a volleyball net. The parents sit in chairs on the pool deck, guzzling piña coladas. They turn their backs to avoid the water splashing on them.

As I pace the edge of the pool searching for anyone in danger, a ball smacks me in the face. I stare through my sunglasses at the kid who whacked the ball and slowly shake my head. He shudders. I know he won’t be hitting that ball for a while.

I had to be on point. I had to be watching my water for anyone. Not for the money—$8.50 an hour didn’t pay for the stress I went through each day. I chose this job because I wanted to help people.

I nearly drowned when I was six. I struggled to swim in the deep end by myself and My 70-year-old grandmother jumped in to save me before the lifeguard noticed I was drowning. That lifeguard failed at helping me, and I would never let that happen to someone under my watch.

I head to the opposite end of the pool. The slide gushes as a young girl shoots out of the end. She lingers under the water longer than usual. When she comes up, her eyes are bulging.

I blow my whistle, the sound echoing before I hit the water. I grab the girl’s wrist and pull her on to the rescue tube. She tears the red cover to the tube with her fingernails.

“You’re OK. I’ve got you,” I say. I pull her toward the closest wall.  A large woman in a too tight flower-print bathing suit slowly wades through water, blocking my path.

“She can swim,” she shouts and then grabs the girl’s arm and flings her away from me. I watch the girl, her head barely above the water, bob back to the shallow end. She clutches the edge of the pool and breathes heavily.

“OK,” I say uncertainly. I climb out of the pool and head back to my stand.

“Dumbass,” the lady mutters and lifts her drink.

Coming Soon in the Poydras Review eBook and Print

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