(an excerpt)


Robert Kerbeck

 upstreet, Number 11, July 2015


I’m not a great swimmer, let me admit that right away. Even now, after all the practice as well as the instruction from a U.S. Olympian—well, almost Olympian—I am merely competent. Though to you, I’d be fast.

Let me clarify.

I’d kick your ass.

“Hey Joey,” a voice calls out. I force myself to glance up and wave, but draw the line at speaking. I come to the University of Iowa’s swanky fifty-meter lap pool to punish myself, not chitchat. But that doesn’t stop Dwayne. He stands far too close to me, then tilts his blond head up to the black sky visible through the natatorium’s glass ceiling. “Here comes the rain,” he says. “Looks like it’s gonna be a bad one.”

No shit, Sherlock. I’ve never seen clouds like this my entire life growing up in Southern California. I don’t particularly mind, however, since the tornado warning in effect has scared away most swimmers. Dwayne and I have the stadium-like aquatic center almost to ourselves.

I don’t know why, but I envision myself jumping on top of Dwayne in my racing Speedo and drowning the niceness out of him in the natatorium’s diving well. I used to be like Dwayne, well, a little bit, never Iowa nice, but for a Southern Californian, I was pretty damn kind. I am a Christian after all.

Did I mention Dwayne is my new boss?

I’m two months into my job as Director of Intramural Athletics, responsible for every university-run athletic activity that involves non-athletes. I run the Ping-Pong league (Iowa has three—A level, B level, and all-Asian level—guess which is best), badminton, kickball, dodgeball, you get the picture. Oh, I forgot coed flag football. That’s my biggest sport these days, the most competitive thing I get to touch after my reputation got scorched. My civil attorney said I should be grateful. The forgiving folk in Iowa were the only ones who offered me a job knowing my history.


To read the rest of “Breaststroker,” purchase a copy of upstreet Number 11.