Pine Nuts: Clown diver misses pool but lands on his feet |

Pine Nuts: Clown diver misses pool but lands on his feet

Miramonte High School didn’t have a swimming pool, so we students got together and dug one, well, we collected enough money from the community to dig one, and the entire village turned out for the dedication.

Dean Callan asked my friend Andy and me to put on a clown diving show. We didn’t know any clown dives, but everybody laughed at our regular dives, so I guess that’s how we got invited.

Well, Andy and I took to inventing dives nobody had ever seen before. I suggested that Andy act as my coach, and coax me out to the end of the high board where I would protest that it was too high, turn, leap to the low board, and dive in from there.

“You really think you can jump that far?” Andy asked.

“Sure I can! Don’t a cat know by the length of his whiskers if he can squeeze through a picket fence?”

“You don’t have any whiskers, and you should practice it first.”

“Andy…I only want to do it once.”

Our parents were packed in like sardines for the grand opening, as the entire village of Orinda was seated right up to the coping at the edge of the pool when the show began. Andy, now my coach, coaxed me out to the end of the three meter board where I hooked my thumbs into my armpits, turned and jumped for the one meter board below.

I made it, but, I had not taken the physics course that might have told me what was about to happen. These were brand new Duraflex boards, the springiest diving boards ever made, so when I landed on that low board it bent down, and down, and down some more, until it came close to touching the water. Then it stiffened-up, straightened-out, and flung me up higher than I had started out, and I found myself hurtling through space toward the audience.

I tried to run backwards, but that didn’t do any good, and it was looking more and more like I was going to miss the pool entirely. I remember seeing a fellow in the front row open his mouth so wide I could see his uvula. And I suppose my eyes were standing out like a couple rolls of quarters, as this had developed into a tense moment.

Well, as good fortune would have it, I landed standing-up on the narrow twelve inches or so of coping between the people and the pool, and a hush filled the natatorium. One individual started to clap, then thought better of it. Andy broke the silence by shouting, “Are…you…OK?”

I was OK, but soon found myself sitting in the Dean’s office feeling pretty low.

Dean Callan told me I had cost the school an important insurance policy, and if I were to find myself in his office again I would be expelled on the spot.

About that insurance policy I can only say…I’m still sorry.

The last time I visited Miramonte as Mark Twain I went to have a look at the diving pool and my eyebrows went up when I saw the diving pool was still there, but it no longer had any diving boards. I guess that’s what happens when a clown diver misses the pool. Andy, my coach, meanwhile, went on to fly for the Air Force and United Airlines.

All’s well that ends well…

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at

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