Tahoe Pine Nuts: The water clown and the homecoming queen
Special to the Sun
A friend recently asked me as we waded out of Lake Tahoe, “How on earth did you ever make the swim team at the University of Oregon when you are such a gulper?”
“I learned how to dive.”
Truth be known, I wasn’t any better at diving than I was at swimming, but at least I didn’t drown, and besides, diving was more fun.
I remember having trouble learning a new dive and hearing cascades of laughter as I landed in positions that a yoga master could not contrive, sometimes on my back, sometimes on my stomach, sometimes on my face.
I actually started attracting small crowds at four o’clock each afternoon during practice. It was embarrassing, really, especially when a certain Kappa Gamma that I had a crush on showed up, and I overheard her say, “You’ve got to see this nut.”
Not one to disappoint, I tried out a new version of a new dive, which resulted in a never before seen “splashdown.” As I climbed out of the pool, reeling from water up my nose, I heard the music of her laughter. What I really desired was not her laughter, but her affections.
Well, shoot, if I was going to draw a crowd at four o’clock each afternoon and she was going to be there, I was going to make her smile. So when the pool opened early the next morning and no one was around but the lifeguard, I pulled a cigarette from my duffle bag, cut it in half with a pair of scissors, and lit up.
Then, puffing like Thomas the Train, I climbed the ladder of the three meter board, walked to the end, and turned my back to the water. The lifeguard, busy cleaning the pool, took no interest in me.
Like a statue of Mark Twain, I fell backward in a dead man’s drop toward the water with that cigarette burning between my lips, then, with a flip of the tongue, I tucked that cigarette safely into my mouth.
The lifeguard glanced up as I climbed out of the pool and took a puff on that still burning cigarette. Her eyes stood out and she asked, “Am I seeing what I think I’m seeing?”
At four o’clock that afternoon, with the budding love of my life in the house, I repeated that feat with high hopes of winning her heart, whereupon I would ask her to the homecoming game.
Sure enough, she showed up at four o’clock along with a dozen or so others, and I lit up, did my dead man’s drop, climbed out of the pool, shot her my best James Dean look, and took a slow drag on my still burning cigarette.
Then the unexpected happened. I sucked a hot ash into my lungs and dropped like a stone to the deck in a coughing attack, which not only ruined the mood, but almost closed me out in the bargain.
Well, my girlfriend went to that homecoming game with a cheerleader and I went to that homecoming game alone. I remember Mel Renfro ran back the opening kickoff for a touchdown.
She would go on to be homecoming queen the next year, and I, well, I would go on to be a clown diver in a water show, to faithfully land on my stomach or my back, or sometimes my face.
I never did get the girl, but in the attempt, I did get to hear her beautiful, melodic, lyrical laugh, and that was enough.
Learn more about McAboy Layne at http://www.ghostoftwain.com.