Vallie Lynn Watson

Can’t Have a Swim

It took a long time for Veronica to move her eyes from the neon blue sign to the red dress that had appeared, blow­ing on the side­walk beneath it.  It was Maggie, lean­ing against the curves of a black antique car and watch­ing her cast mates begin to film. When the rain thick­ened, a tall man stood over Maggie with an umbrel­la.  After a few min­utes Veronica pulled her phone from her pock­et to check again for Dylan, and when she looked back up Maggie was gone.  Veronica’s jeans were becom­ing heavy from the rain.

The cou­ple she’d met at the bas­ket­ball court said, “Marianna,” and sat down beside her, and she real­ized after a moment that they were broth­er and sis­ter.  The crew took almost a half hour to pre­pare for a new scene, and Veronica didn’t look away until Maggie’s red sur­faced just to the side.  Her dark hair and pale skin blend­ed with the weath­er, her dress and red lips seem­ing to be the only thing that moved.

Maggie rehearsed falling, an actor in a tux catch­ing her on the way to the ground. Veronica couldn’t hear what they were say­ing through the hum of rain.  When the cam­eras start­ed, a gun­shot star­tled her and the cou­ple sit­ting next to her, and the three leaned togeth­er for a sec­ond.  Half a block away Maggie fell, the man caught her and gen­tly laid her down, some­one yelled cut, and Maggie start­ed to laugh.  Veronica want­ed to feel relief that Maggie seemed hap­py.

They did the scene twice more, the gun­shot sur­pris­ing Veronica each time, then Maggie dis­ap­peared into a build­ing across the street from the church, the same side of the street Veronica was sit­ting.  She took her phone from her jeans pock­et again.  The met­al-like plas­tic was damp, and she couldn’t make any of the but­tons work.  At 2:13 a.m. it lit up with Dylan’s name and she tried the answer but­ton, but it still didn’t work.  It was the first time he’d called her in almost a year.

~

Vallie Lynn Watson’s “Can’t Have a Swim” is an excerpt from her debut nov­el A River So Long (Luminis Books, June 2012) and her work appears in dozens of lit­er­ary mag­a­zines such as PANK, Atticus Review, and FRiGG.  Watson teach­es cre­ative writ­ing at Southeast Missouri State University.