Dry Land Fish


I have done some really stupid things in my life, but I did not intentionally do these things.  Typically when I do something stupid there is really a good reason why I did it.  One, I was in a hurry; two, I was preoccupied with other things, or three, I was mad about something and reacted before I thought about what I was doing.  Although I have done my fair share of stupid things, I didn’t plan to do them nor was it my intent to do them.  But, I have met a couple of people in my life who do really stupid things on purpose.  Maybe it’s just me, but I will share this with you and let you decide whether it is stupid or not.

A few years ago I worked with this girl named Penny.  We worked in the accounting department together and our jobs were very demanding.  Penny was the senior accountant, I was the staff accountant and Kathy was the accounts payable person.  At month-end we practically lived at the office and we typically put in fourteen or fifteen hours each day for three straight days during closing.  On the last day of closing, we had to make sure our accounts were reconciled, close our books and then send all this information to the cooperate office.  Buddy, the controller would order pizza or have another delivery place bring us food and we would work until late into the night.  Occasionally, Terry, Penny’s husband, would bring us supper and he would stay around and eat with us.

Terry was about six-ten and Penny was quite a bit shorter.  They made a good couple and they seemed to be so happy together and so in love with each other.  Like me, they enjoyed camping and hiking so we had several things to talk about.  Terry sent Penny roses on the first day of each month to express his love for her and she came to expect them each month.  One morning Penny was so depressed and I kept wondering what was going on with her.  Then it dawned on me that it was the first day of the month and she had not received her monthly flowers. I kept an eye on Penny because I was sure she would break down and cry at any moment.  The flowers arrived late that afternoon and after she got her roses, she perked up and started smiling.

The more I got to know Penny and Terry, the more I wondered about them.  They had lived in Kentucky for nearly twenty years, but they called two other places home.  Every chance they got, they would go “home” to either Alabama or Tennessee.  I never did figure out why Tennessee was “home” because they were both from Alabama.  One weekend they stayed in Kentucky and Penny invited me over to see their new house.  By this time I had gotten to know them better and I honestly didn’t want to go over to their house.  But since it was their new home, I felt that I had to go.  Otherwise, Penny’s feeling would be hurt.  I wouldn’t have to stay long; just long enough to tour the house and chit-chat for a few minutes.  So, I told Penny that I would love to see their new house and I would stop by Saturday morning.

Saturday morning rolled around and while I was out running errands, I decided to go ahead and stop by Penny’s.  I found their house and pulled into the driveway.  I got out of my car and walked up to the front door and rang the doorbell.  After a few seconds, Penny opened the door and invited me in.  She said, “Come on in CJ!  I didn’t expect you until later, but now is fine.  Terry is in the living room practicing; he should be done in a few minutes.”   I didn’t hear a musical instrument or any kind of noise, so I wondered what he could be practicing.  Penny guided me through the house showing me each room and we finally made it to the living room where Terry was practicing.

As soon as we walked into the living room and I saw Terry laying face-down on the floor, half-naked,  kicking his feet and waving arms.  At first I thought he was having an epileptic seizure, but when I decided it wasn’t that, I honestly didn’t know what to think.  I just stood there looking and thinking what the hell is he doing?  Then I remembered that Penny had told me a few weeks ago that Terry was learning how to swim.  She said he had always wanted to learn, but he had always been afraid of water.  She had signed him up for beginner swimming lessons at the local YMCA and he just couldn’t seem to get over the fear of water.  So there he was, this six-ten, forty-year old man, with nothing but shorts and swimming goggles on, laying in the middle of  living room floor practicing his swimming lessons.  He did the breast stroke ten times then he did butterfly ten times and he never failed to come up for air after every stroke.  I don’t exactly recall how I felt that day, but I believe I was in total shock.  When Terry rolled over on his back to practice his back stroke, he saw me standing there and said hi to me then he continued with his practicing.

When I was finally able to take my eyes off of Terry, I looked at Penny and said, “Your house is beautiful.  Thank you for the tour.  I‘d love to stay for a while, but I have lots of things I have to do today, so I better be going.”  I don’t even know what Penny said after that, all I remember is getting into my car and driving away.  As I got closer to my house, I started thinking about Terry practicing the breast stroke and gasping for air, and I started laughing so hard I almost ran off the road.   I thought to myself, “Nobody is ever going to believe this!”  But, I promise it is true.  Of course I had to tell my friend Lynn about it and the first thing out of her mouth was, “What?”  I assured her that I had seen it with my own eyes and I said, “It seems to me that if he wanted to practice swimming, he would at least practice in the bathtub.”  Lynn said, “Well, if he is seven feet tall, he probably wouldn’t fit in the bathtub.  Did he really have on goggles?”  We were laughing so hard about this dry-land fish, we were both crying.

Terry never did learn how to swim and he gave up on his swimming lessons at the YMCA.  I never went back to Penny and Terry’s house and since I no longer work with Penny, I rarely see her.  After I saw Terry swimming in the living room that day, I thought about him quite often.  Day after day thinking of Terry doing the breast stroke; Terry doing the butterfly; Terry doing the back stroke and Terry gasping for air;  Terry doing all of this on dry land.   A couple of years later, LP and I were sitting on the couch watching television one night and I don’t know why, but Terry ran through my mind and I started giggling.  I got up from the couch and laid down in the middle of the living room floor and started imitating Terry doing the breast stroke.  LP looked at me like I had lost my mind and said, “What the hell are you doing?”  I smiled and said, “Oh, I thought I would just take a little dip in the pool here!”  Then I died laughing.  😛

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