Born to swim


Shannon was born to swim.

Genetically, she was bound to have inherited some of her love for the water as both her parents, Jim and Jane, were professional swimmers and had even represented their country in the Olympic Games. All of the first five years of her life were spent around water, in swimming pools and on the beaches in Miami, where her parents lived, trained and worked as lifeguards. Her childhood was as fun as it could be.

All that changed on that fateful day in mid August 2005.

The Met Department called it Katrina, and classified it a Category 5 hurricane. It was scheduled to make landfall before sunset that day. But its effects were already visible in the seas where the waves were more than double their normal height. Jim and Jane, along with the rest of their lifeguard team had managed to almost clear the entire stretch of the beach in their control except for a gang of surfers who refused to heed to their warnings.

A couple of them were even foolhardy enough to venture out quite deep into the waters to ride the largest of the waves. Maybe it was the adrenaline pumping through their veins or more likely it was the heroin coursing through their bodies from the ‘hits’ they had taken earlier. One way or the other, they threw caution to the wind and were determined to make the most of the crazily huge waves that day.

While Jim was rational enough to figure out that he didn’t want to risk his life trying to pull these doped kids out of the water, Jane couldn’t quite bring herself to let go. Despite Jim’s best attempts to dissuade her, she ventured out into the waters planning to physically drag the teenage surfers back to the beach.

What she didn’t know at that point was that Katrina had picked up both speed and strength in the course of her journey over the Gulf of Mexico and was now headed straight towards them with unanticipated fury. Jim who was following the hurricane over the lifeguard radar rushed out to try and get Jane back ashore. 8 yr old Shannon was left all alone on the steps of the lifeguard hut peering at the fast disappearing back of her father. She had already lost sight of her mother around five minutes ago.

Ten minutes went by, the waves were bigger now, yet there was no sight of them on the horizon, but Shannon knew they would come back. Twenty minutes went by, the waves were stronger, the rains had started, but Shannon knew they would come back, they had to. Thirty  minutes went by, the rains were stronger now, the waves were darker and larger, and by now Shannon’s hopes had turned to prayers, would they come back. An hour went by, and Shannon had to rush back into the lifeguard hut as Katrina’s outer tentacles had made landfall and the winds and rain were too strong for a young girl to be exposed to the elements.

Shannon now knew that her parents would never come back.

Shannon was born to swim and had it not been for her fear of the water since that fateful day, she probably would have.


This post has been written for the WordPress Daily Prompts : 365 Writing Prompts where the idea is to publish at least one post a day based on the prompts provided.

Today’s prompt was “Tell us something you would attempt if you were guaranteed not to fail (and tell us why you haven’t tried it yet).” The post above was my interpretation of the prompt from the viewpoint of a teenager who was guaranteed to succeed at swimming, but chose not to even learn to swim due to circumstances.

21 thoughts on “Born to swim

  1. Quite an interesting take there Jai, and very realistic. Yes, the shock would probably render most us frozen to the spot. It’s only in movies that would emerge unscathed. Nice take on the prompt

    • @Sid, thank you, I personally wasn’t too convinced if I made the point clear enough in the story, but your words make me feel like I did 🙂

  2. Shannon’s trauma is natural after having witnessing both her parents disappear under raging waters. Wish Jane had not ventured to go into the water to pull out the errant divers.

  3. Good one! I esp. liked this one because I was caught in the US during Hurricane Ike and that one day that I spent with the hurricane just crossing over the state was enough to tell me what it would have been like when Katrina had hit…
    Frankly Katrina or not, a child going through something like that is sure to be traumatized with a potentially sad destiny in store for them…

  4. Loved it, Jai. The ending, especially, was beautiful and heartbreaking both at the same time.

  5. common sense seems to go missing at the most unfortunate of times. teenagers surfing in that weather was one thing, Jane going out to try and bring them out was another. but I guess it was her maternal instincts doing the thinking then, so rationality wouldn’t come into the picture, would it? that missing common sense left a mark deeper than any repercussion Katrina would have left on the beach. poignant tale.

    • @Leo, well, given that Jane was a lifeguard, she had a reason to go out there in the dangerous waters to try and bring back the errant surfers, didn’t she? Anyhow, thanks for reading the story and leaving behind your feedback 🙂

  6. This is so very sad and heartbreaking. A child seeing her father and mother disappear and die in front of her eyes gives me the shivers. Of course, she would fear water! These disasters how they take lives and destroy others they leave behind.

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