Amazing Kids! Magazine

My First Swim

By Johnny Carroll, age 12, Cincinnati, Ohio


I arrived at Eastfork Lake. I hopped out of my uncle’s truck. The air smelled of nature and dead fish. I like that smell; it reminds me of true life in the wild. The smell comforts me, surrounds me. I then helped my uncle unbutton the cover of the boat. I was with my mother and my uncle Jim. I tried to unhook the small silver buttons connecting the cover, but my fingers were too small and fragile.

Once my uncle had discovered that I was no help, he sent me down into the beach to (I quote) “gather some seashells.” I bite my bottom lip in frustration.

“What do we need seashells for?” I retorted.

“Umm, for your mom,” my uncle responded. I did not appreciate how he kept telling me to go away. I walked down to the beach very annoyed by my uncle’s words.

I had no shoes on, and the small road leading to the dock felt hot. It felt like stepping on hot coals. My feet were contaminated with pain. I ran down to the cool water as fast as I could. I tried dodging the rocks at the bottom of the road. There was no time. My feet were almost impaled by the rocks, but as soon as my feet hit the water the pain was relieved. I took deep, long breaths in pleasure.

I looked out into the distance. People were swimming and laughing in the water. This reminded me that I do not know how to swim. I felt so held back by my disability. I looked behind me, and I saw my uncle strolling down the small road. “Having fun?” he yelled sarcastically.

“No,” I said, still frustrated with his words.

“Well, we’re going to take the boat out, and I’m going to teach you how to swim.”

My eyes exploded with joy but also with worry.

This mischievous face that he made – it made me scared for my life. He was smiling only on one side of his face, with his tongue making an indent in his opposite cheek. “What do you have planned?” I asked, gulping.

“You will see,” my uncle said, with that same mischievous smile.

I stopped talking to him. I looked down to my small fragile toes, with my eyes still wide open. I was thinking of all the horrible and gruesome things that he could do to me. There was no time: my mom had begun to tow the boat off the dock.

My uncle had begun unhooking the boat off the truck. My mother had chosen not to go with us but rather stay at the beach, which was odd because she usually always went boating with us. My uncle told me to get in the boat when it was halfway inside the lake. I tripped on the border of the boat and tumbled down to the floor. My uncle was sitting in the driver’s seat, and he looked back as soon as he heard the clatter. He shook his head in disgust at my clumsiness.

I waved goodbye to my mother. She looked back and smiled, but with a very worried face. This scared me, for I had never seen this look on my mother before. My uncle started the boat. It started to move forward. My uncle pushed full throttle towards the middle of the lake, and the motor of the boat came out of the water. I looked at my uncle with a very concerned face, he looked at me, and then he looked back towards the front of the boat.

“What are you planning to do?” I asked again with a very shaky voice.

“I’m going to teach you how to swim,” he returned.

“How?” I asked.

“Why are you asking so many questions, what are you afraid of?” he asked with an outburst.

“I’m afraid that you’re going to kill me.”

“Hopefully not,” he answered.

“What?!” I shrieked, alarmed.

“Nothing,” he said, reassuringly.

My uncle slowed the boat until it had come to a full stop. He began to drop the anchor into the clear blue water. This was the first time I had been on a boat without a life jacket. This frightened me.

My uncle slowly looked back and said, “You ready?”

I questioned him with great empathy, but it was too late. He picked me up with his big strong hands. As he threw me in the dark green water he yelled these haunting words, “Sink or Swim, white boy!”

As my face hit the water, all I could think of was, How could my uncle have done this to me?  I could feel my body going deeper and deeper. My ears started to pop. I began to flail my arms and the rest of my limbs. My arms were giving out. I just kept thinking life or death, life…or……death. I had one last pump of adrenaline. I began to doggy paddle towards the surface. I began to inhale the water, the water overflowed my lungs. The water tasted like dead fish and moss.

I just kept flailing my limbs until my body surfaced. My mouth was spilling out nauseating water. I looked around, coughing and dazed. I was still flailing my arms waving towards my uncle. When he picked me up, I was still coughing – in his face.

It felt good to cough in his face, for I was furious at his actions. As soon as my coughing ceased, I asked my uncle with an enraged tone, “Why did you do that?”

“To teach you,” he responded.

“I almost died!!” I retorted.

“It does not matter. You learned,” he said.

Although I was furious at the time, this experience made me take more risks when I got older.