Swallow Dive by Zev Bagel

I curled my toes so they gripped the jagged edge of the rock, my feet steady on the warm, flat surface. I stood alone and naked, looking down at the dancing sea. The ocean stretched from a deep, dark blue to a light green fringed by a crinkle of white lapping onto the curve of golden sand a hundred feet or more below me.

            I was ready. I had planned this for three years, and this was the moment. The sea waited. I had calculated that beneath this overhang of rock the water was at least twenty feet deep. I straightened my body, keeping it erect yet relaxed, weight evenly spread, ankles close together. I concentrated on the horizon, where the blueness of the sea and sky merged into one purple haze. I lifted my arms, pointing them straight out in front of me so that they were perfectly horizontal.

            Three years. Everything was rehearsed; everything planned. I had watched champions dive from the top boards, noting every movement, every action down to the minutest detail. I had studied videos, playing them until I knew the average number of blinks the diver’s eyes made as he stood preparing to spring from the board. The slight bend of the knees, the graceful, effortless leap, the curving arc of the body until the outstretched fingers made a perfect entry so that the feet, pointed like a ballet dancer’s, disappeared into the exact whorl in the water made by those fingers. Hardly a plop.

            Other training was through books, manuals, photographs, lectures. Then the meditation, visualization, hypnotherapy, breathing. I had perfected it all. Every day, for at least four, usually five hours, I rehearsed in my mind and by watching myself in the mirror. There was to be no practical rehearsal. I had never dived, even from the edge of the swimming pool. There was to be one dive, of at least a hundred feet. A swallow dive.

            And where would it be? I studied the atlas. Somewhere far away. Somewhere quiet; a secluded beach, a high cliff. Somewhere warm. I found Malta, a tiny island slap bang in the middle of the Mediterranean, with cliffs. Closer study revealed Robin Hood Bay as the perfect spot.

            I took my deep breath, bent my knees slightly. Now. It was now. I launched into space.

            Timing is everything. And relaxed concentration. Hold the torso steady. Follow the line of the arms as they curve slowly over. Keep that head straight. Let the legs follow. Hold them tightly back; don’t allow them to go too far. There. Like an arrow. Keep that line.

            The air rushed past. I had the faintest impression of the cliffs blurring upwards. I had forgotten to count, so I had no idea when I would hit the water. All I had to do was to hold that line, like a plumb line. Those arms were stretched out perfectly in front of me, the fingers pointing like darts. Hurtling towards me, the waves beckoned. I counted now. One, two, three. I hit the water.

            A pity, I thought, as the shock of cold water shot through my body. A pity, I thought, as I knew the perfection of the dive. A pity, I thought, as I sank, my hands just touching the soft sandy sea bottom, my fingers scraping against some small rocks. A pity, I thought, as I swirled around, my head searching for the way back up; as my lungs began to burst and my eyes sought the surface; as my head broke out of the water and I saw the stupendous height of the cliffs soaring above me. A pity, I thought, as my arms flailed and I sank, and came up again, once, twice. A pity, I thought, that I never learned to swim.

(Painting “The Cliff” by artist Nicole Tremblay)

Zev Bagel (the pen-name for Warren Redman) was born in England and moved to Canada in 1994. He has lived in Shediac, New Brunswick since 2009. As Warren Redman, he is the author of seventeen books of non-fiction, including a Canadian award-winner.

Zev’s short stories and poetry have been published in several journals and anthologies. His first novel – Bernie Waxman & the Whistling Kettle was short-listed for the Atlantic writing awards. His second is Secrets. Four more books are ready for publication, including Solitary, the winner of the David Adams Richards Award for best-unpublished novel in 2021.

Zev Bagel is past president of the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick and a member of The Writers’ Union of Canada.

Swallow Dive was previously published in The Breach House Anthology Vol lll in 2014.

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