Alas, I didn’t make the final five of the more than 700 who entered the contest to write 750 words on this prompt: Three boys decide to go have some fun at the local swimming hole. Shortly after they arrive, something terrible happens.
Here’s my entry:
Final Swim at Poesta Pond
By Richard Zowie
As Robert, Lance and I swam in the slowly-evaporating Poesta Pond during yet another South Texas summer heat wave, a stranger came to the pond carrying a knapsack. He took off his clothes—a t-shirt, jeans and boots—and lay them near his knapsack on the grass near the water. The hot air was soundless except for the hypnotizing drone of cicadas.
The stranger nodded to us teenagers but said nothing. He was about 40, six feet tall with short-cropped dark hair. His lean, muscular body suggested a few decades of hard labor, possibly construction work. He also had a small, crimson scar about an inch above his right nipple. Around his neck he wore gold and silver chains, the gold one with a cross and the silver one without adornment. He looked distantly familiar, possibly a television star.
Gliding into the water, he dove down and almost immediately resurfaced. He returned to his knapsack, produced an enclosed soap dish, took the soap out and lathered his entire body. After putting away the soap, he reentered the water and dove down and disappeared for a long time.
The three of us glanced at each other, not knowing what to say.
Finally, he resurfaced, wiped water from his face. Almost all the soap was gone. His wet, light-blue eyes glittered.
“I’m Paul,” I said, trying to be friendly.
The stranger looked at me for a long time, a relaxed but guarded expression, as if trying to determine the motive of my greeting.
Finally, a brief smile. “I’m Roger. How’s it going?” he said. His deep, dusty, croaky voice, possibly one used only when necessary, carried no trace of a local accent—or even a Texas accent—for that matter.
“I’m Lance, and this is Robert,” Lance said. “Pretty hot today, isn’t it?”
“It is,” he said, ducking under the water again briefly.
When he came back up, I noticed Roger’s scarred left ear. A small part of the lobe was torn open at the bottom, healed into a jagged, inverted v-shaped pattern. I gazed for a while before realizing Roger was looking right at me. His eyes narrowed, where it was almost impossible to tell they were blue. I laughed to cover up my fear and went under the water.
When I surfaced, Roger was swimming back to shore. Once there, he dressed. Robert swam to me, glanced at Roger and then whispered, “Hey, isn’t that the guy they had on America’s Most Wanted a month or two ago?”
With those three words, many thoughts raced through my mind.
Likes to wear two necklaces, one gold and the other silver.
Strong, silent type.
Two scars: one just above his right nipple and an open scar on his left ear from when his wife had yanked out his earring in anger over his cheating on her.
Wanted for murdering his wife and his mistress’ husband.
Armed and extremely dangerous.
He’s on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List! I thought.
James McCauley finished dressing. He reached into his knapsack and produced an automatic pistol. Somehow, he must’ve overheard Robert’s whispering. “Time for a game, boys,” he said, almost bored. “If you want to live, you’d better have good lungs.”
He cocked the gun and all three of us immediately plunged into the water. I held my breath for nearly a minute, and during that time heard five loud booms. My heart raced as my burning, suffocating lungs pleaded for air; my arms and legs frantically flailed and kicked. Terrified, I didn’t consider swimming to the shore to try to run away. Surfacing seemed too dangerous. Finally, I started gagging and coughing as my mouth opened and I started to swallow and breathe water. I surfaced, coughing and breathing in the hot air and screaming, hoping someone would hear us. Coughing out water, I saw the blue sky—
A bullet tore through the center of my chest. The shot jerked me backward into the water, as if I’d been hit with a fiery sledge hammer.
As I fell splashing into the water, I caught a brief, frantic glimpse of Robert’s body on the shore and Lance’s body floating a few feet away from me. Against the hot, tearing pain I tried to stay afloat but couldn’t. As I sank into the water, water flooded into my nose and mouth, mixing with the coppery taste of blood. As breathing became impossible, the crimson water slowly dimmed to total darkness.