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Like Swimming
by Jeff Landon

art by Robinson Accola
art by Robinson Accola
Angie Watson sits waiting for me on the front porch of her mother's Mexican-style home. I'm leaning against my bike, a black ten-speed that my mother discovered at a yard sale last weekend. Angie jogs out to the street to greet me in her clunky green boots. She's wearing a jean skirt and a baggy sweatshirt. No bra. She's eating glops of potato salad from a green plastic container, and I am trying, and failing, to maintain eye contact because she isn't wearing a bra. Her boobs are small, but that's not important to me.

"Want some?" She waves a spoonful of potato salad under my nose. "It's tasty."

"I'm sort of hungry," I tell her.

"When I was five, I poked my eye with a fork-it was gross." Angie looks at me with this deadly serious expression. "Isn't that the saddest tragedy you've ever heard? Don't you feel sorry for me?"

"Sort of," I say. "I guess it hurt."

"Sure it did," Angie says, touching my arm. "But I'm a survivor, Lewis Mason."

We amble back to the shed in her sprawling backyard. Angie yanks her red bike over a riding mower, and we leave. I like her bike. It's at least thirty years old, with a metal basket and a bell.

We drift all about Arcadia Springs, stopping for a Dr Pepper break at the Hop-in. Springtime has returned to our town; cars flash by with windows open wide to let out the music and stale air. We glide downhill through Wasena Park beside the Mechunk River. On this muggy day, families gather in pools of shade to open picnic baskets and shoot hoops. Horseshoes clang and dogs bark. Angie hums along with the soul music pumping out from a line of just-waxed cars. The song is called Betcha By Golly Wow. Angie strains to hit the high notes. Her face gets all scrunched up and serious from the effort.

We stop to rest beside a ruined swing set. Angie cradles her hand around the nape of my neck for a second.

"Aren't my hands cold?" she asks. "I swear, I'm part reptile."

I can smell Angie's shampoo and her perfume, musky and sweet at the same time. I lean in closer to that smell. We're both sweating a little bit. I keep staring at Angie's boobs under her damp T-shirt. She catches me staring, and she lets me stare, for a moment.

In spring, the Mechunk River is the color of a slightly used basketball, and these families around us seem happy with the day, normal families with big dogs and towheaded youngsters fighting over toys and cupcake icing.

I follow Angie up the steep, curving mountain road that opens to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Sunlight fades, and we give up near the top of the hill and walk our bikes the rest of the way. Angie talks about her gym teacher, a psycho, a sadist, the biggest, meanest bitch in America. Clouds block the moon, but we see a few stars and, I think, Venus. Angie sings an old Todd Rundgren song that we both like, and I sing off-key beside her. We walk close to each other, touching some. This is almost a perfect night. Behind us, our city lights up to fight the darkness. They're playing minor league baseball tonight at Howsley Field. Truckers roar down the highway with their high beams on. Farther up the road, parked at all the lookout points, couples make out in shiny cars and smashed-up trucks. In one car, a cherry red Camaro, a woman's bare legs poke out the passenger side window. She's laughing real loud and kicking her legs like someone swimming underwater and upside down.

"Like Swimming" was originally published in Pindeldyboz. It appears here by permission of the author.

All content in SmokeLong Quarterly copyright 2003-2014 by its authors.



Jeff Landon lives and teaches in Richmond, Virginia. His stories, online and print, have appeared in Mississippi Review, Crazyhorse, Another Chicago Magazine, Other Voices, New Virginia Review, Pindeldyboz, Hobart, FRiGG, SmokeLong Quarterly, Night Train, Quick Fiction, Phoebe, and other places.

Read the interview.

Robinson Accola creates artwork for SmokeLong as needed.
Issue Twenty-One (June 15, 2008): Paper Mouse by Bob Arter «» The Folk Singer Dreams of Time Machines by Matt Bell «» The Bone Orchard by Randall Brown «» Disease Relics by Blake Butler «» We Decided to Make Porn by Brian Allen Carr «» The Baby Drop-Off by Natascia Casey-Dean «» The Cougar by Dave Clapper «» Anointed by Myfanwy Collins «» Sister Earth by John Colvin «» Soap by Katrina Denza «» The Interpretation of Light by Murray Dunlap «» The Hole by Ashley Farmer «» Repair Man by Kathy Fish «» In the Kitchen She Wakes by Stefanie Freele «» American Gothic by Scott Garson «» Lobster Girl by Alicia Gifford «» Pen and Notebook by Natalie Goldberg «» Memento Mori by Rosanne Griffeth «» BiC by Steven Gullion «» Parting by Evelyn Hampton «» Tuesday by Lindsay Hunter «» Waiting on Lombard Street by W.P. Kinsella «» Johnny by Nance Knauer «» Like Swimming by Jeff Landon «» Feeling Sad by Darby Larson «» Alone With Cooper by Ellen Meister «» The Angel's Visitation by Corey Mesler «» South Dakota by Mary Miller «» California Fruit by Meg Pokrass «» Home Made by Bruce Holland Rogers «» Handful of Dirt by Jim Ruland «» Steam City Girl by Paul Silverman «» Sugar by Claudia Smith «» The 13th Toast by Amy Sparks «» Gathering by Kelly Spitzer «» Tiny Shadows by Maryanne Stahl «» Double-Exposure by Thomas White «» Epistemology by Joseph Young «» Why This Isn't a Good Story to Tell by Shellie Zacharia «» Liquid by Michelle Zellers «» Real Estate by Bonnie ZoBell «» Interviews: Bob Arter «» Matt Bell «» Randall Brown «» Blake Butler «» Brian Allen Carr «» Natascia Casey-Dean «» Dave Clapper «» Myfanwy Collins «» John Colvin «» Katrina Denza «» Murray Dunlap «» Ashley Farmer «» Kathy Fish «» Stefanie Freele «» Scott Garson «» Alicia Gifford «» Rosanne Griffeth «» Steven Gullion «» Evelyn Hampton «» Lindsay Hunter «» Nance Knauer «» Jeff Landon «» Darby Larson «» Ellen Meister «» Corey Mesler «» Mary Miller «» Meg Pokrass «» Bruce Holland Rogers «» Jim Ruland «» Paul Silverman «» Claudia Smith «» Amy Sparks «» Kelly Spitzer «» Maryanne Stahl «» Thomas White «» Joseph Young «» Shellie Zacharia «» Michelle Zellers «» Bonnie ZoBell «» Cover Art "Five Years of SmokeLong" compiled from art by Marty D. Ison, Robert Dornberg, Malina, and Rebecca Gullickson «» Letter From the Editor
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