Published August 7, 2012 by rochellewisoff

The following is an excerpt from my short story “The Swimming Lesson”. It’s one of 14 stories included in my anthology THIS, THAT AND SOMETIMES THE OTHER. Illustrations and Front cover are the author’s original work as well.

A lit M-80 slipped from Wayne Lord’s fingers. It sizzled its way to the water thirty feet below. Bang! Splash! A startled catfish floated to the surface and turned belly-up.

Two more explosions resulted in two more dead fish. He grinned at his buddy, Frankie Ray, and shrugged. “Ain’t done it.”

“Darn tootin’ you did!” With a shake of his head, the other boy chuckled. “We’ll make a hillbilly out of you yet, city boy.”

It was the second day of Wayne’s escape. Summer vacation. 1961. He didn’t miss the eight-by-forty-foot home he shared with his two brothers, a sister and his mother. Their trailer sat next to Frankie Ray’s parents’, in a tag-rag trailer park behind Beech Aircraft, on the outskirts of Wichita, Kansas. When they invited him to go to Arkansas cor the summer with Frankie Ray, he jumped at the chance to leave behind the dust and never-ending flatlands. His eyes couldn’t drink in enough of Arkansas’ lush hills and valleys.

“Hey, Lordy Lordy, know how to swim?” asked Boyce, a barrel-chested boy with ash-blond hair and a deep tan.

Wayne breathed in hot air, thick with humidity and his own sweat. Words stuck in his throat like first-grade paste. “No.”

“Time you learned, city boy.” Thump! Boyce smacked his shoulders.

Scraping his bare heel on a sharp rock. Wayne stumbled backward and tumbled over the cliff’s edge. He flailed his arms and feet and fought to climb empty air.

The river approached with alarming speed. What if he missed the swimming hole and landed on the rocks instead? he shut his eyes so he wouldn’t see it when his brains splattered into fish bait and floated down the Buffalo.

End of excerpt.

The story in its entirety is included in my collection. Copies are available on To find out how to receive a personally autographed copy go to my website:

2 comments on “THE SWIMMING LESSON

  • Dear Rochelle,Thank you for the link to summertime 1961 and Wayne's Swimming Lesson. M-80's are a lost treasure now, aren't they. Your evocation of the river and young boys at play is spot on. (Were you a tomboy?) I can see you there.Aloha,Doug


  • Hi Doug,I have to admit I had an adviser on this one. There are two in the book that were inspired by my husband Jan's experiences. The main characters in the story are Jan (Wayne) and his best friend Ray (Frankie Ray). He's told us the story of his first swimming lesson so many times that I feel like I was there. I can't say I was a tomboy. Very much a bookworm and off somewhere in my head…but that's another story, isn't it? Shalom,Rochelle


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