Highly Commended Story - The New Stroke
“The New Stroke” by Maya Mourshed, Roscoe Nix Elementary School, USA, is the Highly Commended story in the sub-junior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2019.
Maya loves to write stories, songs, and poems. She plays piano and often develops her own compositions. She is a big fan of animated movies with a message, including ‘Inside Out’, ‘Toy Story, and ‘Finding Dory’. Maya also loves science and math, and aspires to be a general surgeon.
The New Stroke
Yasmine had always been fascinated by how fish glide through the ocean, moving their fins effortlessly. She had spent hours watching them at the local aquarium and dreamed about learning to gracefully cut through the water, just like the fish did. So when she turned six, she asked her mom to sign her up for swimming lessons at the pool.
On the day of her first lesson, Yasmine eagerly put on her new butterfly swimsuit. She had begged her mother to buy her this swimsuit because she loved the bright blue background and the colorful butterflies flying across it. On top, she wore her flower cover-up dress, and she completed the outfit with purple water shoes.
Yasmine’s mom drove her to the pool while Yasmine’s thoughts drifted to becoming a master swimmer and then a scuba diver. As Yasmine walked in, she saw her swim teacher and beamed.
“Hey Ms. Natalie, I’m so excited for my first swim lesson!”
“Let’s get into the water!” said Ms.Natalie, matching her enthusiasm. Yasmine peeled off her cover-up and shoes, and stepped into the shallow end of the pool. She felt the warm water lapping against her legs. She kept walking in, until the water reached her shoulders.
“First thing to learn is nose bubbles," instructed Ms. Natalie.” You just put your head under the water, and exhale out of your nostrils’’ Yasmine gave it a try, and felt air bubbles coming out. She dunked again and again, exhaling each time. Then, she felt her eyes and lungs start to burn, the sharp stings making her gasp for air and rub her eyes uncontrollably. She felt heat spread across her arms and legs, and looked down to see an angry red rash breaking out on her body.
Yasmine grabbed Ms. Natalie in panic. "What is happening to me?" Yasmine asked in a terrified voice. Ms. Natalie propped her up, dragging her towards the edge of the pool and pushing her up the steps. She tried to calm Yasmine, "Focus on your breathing. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale."
Yasmine saw her mother move towards her in concern. “What’s wrong?” she asked. Her eyebrows furrowed as she saw the bumps on Yasmine’s body. “Yasmine got a rash, and she is having some difficulty breathing,” rushed Ms.Natalie. “I’ve seen this before. It is a chlorine sensitivity. Let’s quickly get her in the shower to wash off the chlorine. She’ll be ok” Ms. Natalie reassured. Yasmine’s mom and Ms. Natalie shepherded her rapidly to the bathroom. They shoved her under the shower and Yasmine felt the cold-water jets running over her body. The burning of her eyes and lungs began subsiding, but the rash still covered her arms, legs, and chest. As her mother toweled her off, Ms. Natalie said, “You should call her doctor and ask if Yasmine needs an antihistamine for the rash.”
Hours later, Yasmine was back home lying flat on the couch. Her mother had called the doctor, gave her an antihistamine, and put cold compresses on her body to cool the red bumps on her skin. There was one constant thought running through Yasmine’s mind. “Mom, will I ever be able to swim like all the other kids?” she asked in a small voice. Her mom looked at her gently and sat down beside her, “Everyone’s body is different. You have a sensitivity to chlorine. So that means you have to be extra careful.” Yasmine’s eyes welled with tears. “How can something that I love hurt me? I’ve been dreaming about swimming for so long, why is this happening to me?” Her arms smacked down on the couch cushions in frustration. Yasmine’s mother dabbed her tears and gave her a tight hug.
“We just need to be a little creative,” her mom whispered in her ear. “You have a sensitivity to chlorine, not to swimming. Maybe we can try you swimming in the lake? There is one 30min from here.”
“Do you think that will work?” asked Yasmine hopefully, wiping her tears with the back of her hand. As her mom nodded, Yasmine nestled in her embrace, and thoughts of the gliding fish once more ran through her mind.