Learning to swim is a matter of life and death, but I didn’t figure it out until I was about eleven because I drowned.
I didn’t drown forever, obviously, but I had an experience when I was three that ruined swimming for me until I was twelve. Picture it: Summer in Australia. The Warrnambool Foreshore. A small boy leaves his sunbathing parents and toddles down to the water. The surf rushes up to his toes and he stumbles back, then walks a little closer, then jumps back again. It is his first game of cat and mouse with the sea. The foam sparkles in the sun and the boy is transfixed.
An older boy walks by and see’s the toddler playing with the waves. There is something not quite right about the older boy; let’s just say he’s missing a few sheep in the top paddock and he’s not allowed to eat chocolate because it makes him loopy. Today, though, today the older boy got his hands on some chocolate, and he sweeps the little boy up, wades out into the sea and drops him in deep water. Then he returns to the beach.
The boy’s mother… by the way, I’m the little boy. You got that. Anyway, the boy’s mother notices he is missing. She leaps to her feet, as does the father, and they begin calling for the boy. Within seconds the entire beach is searching for the child. The mother begins to weep. Other mothers comfort her. The ocean is filled with men searching for the boy. Finally the father finds him, unconscious, floating on his back twenty feet from the shore.
After that I was terrified of water. It took me years to go near it again, and all because some spazo kid ate chocolate.
Last month we celebrated ‘International Save The Elephants Day’, and you can see Todd’s illustration here.