[This story, dated 30 June 2013 and recently rediscovered, is another of a few that I wrote for my kids when they were in grade school in the hope of inspiring them to write their own stories.]
I have a secret power. I’ve never told anyone, but in the summer I sometimes like to show it off, just a little. Not enough to freak anyone out, just enough to impress them. When my friends come over to play in our pool, I challenge them to breath-holding contests. One by one they submerge, and one by one they come back up gasping. Twenty seconds. Thirty. Forty-five. Then it’s my turn. I stay down for sixty seconds or seventy. After that people start to get scared, so I don’t stay down any longer than that. But I don’t really have to come up. I can stay down as long as I like. I’m an amphibian.
I know that sounds impossible. I’m obviously a human boy, and everyone knows humans are mammals, and mammals are not amphibians. Some mammals can stay underwater for a very long time, but only because they can hold their breath. I don’t hold my breath, and I don’t breathe the water through gills like a fish. I don’t have gills. But I never feel the need to come up for air. Amphibians can breathe through their skin, and I guess that’s what I do.
Of course when I do my holding-breath trick I make sure to gasp for air when I come up even though I don’t need to. It would be too weird for everyone if I didn’t.
One day a new girl moved into the neighborhood, and to help the new family feel welcome my mom made me invite her over with my friends for a pool party. She didn’t know anyone, and I’m a little ashamed to admit my friends didn’t include her in things as much as they should. Neither did I.
Inevitably my friend Billy insisted we do the breath-holding challenge again. He’s the one who can stay under the longest, besides me, and he always thinks he’ll beat me someday. Maybe one day I’ll let him, but on this day I didn’t plan to. I guess I wanted to show off a little bit for the new girl.
Once more we took turns going under the surface. Once more we compared times as we came up. I stayed under extra long this time, seventy-three seconds. When I came up, I was a little self-conscious about my fake gasp, maybe because of the new girl, and maybe I didn’t quite do it right, because the new girl gave me a curious look. After everyone congratulated me as usual, the new girl blurted out, “Let’s have a long-jump contest.”
That was a new one on all of us. We’d never tried a long-jump contest. But the side of our pool deck was the perfect spot for it, and I had chalk to draw a jumping line, and to mark where everyone landed. One by one we jumped. Some jumps were far, some weren’t. Mine was somewhere in the middle. Poor Billy, who wanted to be best at something, wasn’t best at jumping either.
Then it was the new girl’s turn. Since the rest of us were boys, and boys are stronger than girls, we didn’t expect much from her jump. But she sprang from the ground right at the jump line and sailed right over everyone else’s marks! At the last instant before touching the ground she seemed to… glide a few extra inches, stretching it out, as if she’d stopped falling back to earth for an instant.
There was a lot of wounded pride, and some of my friends tried jumping again to beat her mark, but they couldn’t. It was my turn to give her a curious look.
A short time later the party broke up and everyone went home. I couldn’t stop thinking about the new girl. Had I imagined that extra little float of hers? Had anyone else noticed it? Could she be concealing a secret like mine? I have amphibian powers. Could it be that she’s hiding… bird powers?
I never thought much about girls before, but none of them were ever special before. I want to find out a lot more about the new girl. Maybe we can be friends. Maybe I can tell her my secret.