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.