Twenty wine barrels of varying sizes were lined up and standing under the large Willow Tree in the backyard. The afternoon sun was just peaking through the long branches, causing shadows on the barrels as the light breeze blew.
“You just need to dunk your head in” my brother told me. He was standing beside one of the largest barrels. My uncle’s prized wine barrels were off limits whether empty or filled with his sweet honey wine he would share at special occasions.
“I can’t reach the top of the barrel” I answered back. My older brother was in my eyes, wise and wonderful. I looked up at him standing beside the barrel intent on his mission. The non swimmer was going to give his younger sibling a swimming lesson. We didn’t have a plastic pool or a tub. My brother suggested the lesson would be in a wine barrel.
“I’ll get a chair and you just need to step up and dunk your head in” he said in his confident voice. He looked around and then went to pull a thatched lawn chair over to the barrel. The wobbling legs should have made me realize this was not a good idea. However, in my youthful innocence I did not question my brother’s wisdom. Afterall, he was in grade three already and could ride a two-wheeler!
“All you have to do is step up on this chair, bend down and dunk your head in the water”
“Is the water clean?” I asked. Even as a child, I did not like to get dirty.
“Of course, it is,” my brother smirked, “And if you open your eyes when your head is under water, you can see it’s clean!”
“How long do I have to put my head under?” I looked around. No grown ups in sight. No one to suggest this would not be a good idea.
“No worries” my brother replied, “I will help keep your head down.”
“HOW LONG?” I was getting a bit worried.
“I’ll count to ten.”
“No, not ten” I was getting a bit anxious. The wine barrel seemed to be growing as my brother took my hand and helped me stand on the thatched lawn chair.
“Okay, I will count to five” he said, “Just stand still, bend over and then remember to open your eyes!”
“Okay,” I said.
I took a breath and then slowly leaned forward. Inches from the edge of dark water staring back at me, I tried to struggle and free myself from the enchanted magic this wine barrel had over me. It didn’t work. The wine barrel’s darkness and my brother’s forced tap to my head made me plunge my head and half my body into the cold water.
I opened my eyes and saw nothing. What was it I was supposed to see? There was nothing in the water and nothing in the barrel. I tried to move my head up but, I couldn’t. I seemed to be trapped inside the wine barrel. I kicked my legs, which, caused the chair to fall over.
In the panic, my brother pulled at my legs while I pushed in the barrel. The splashing commotion alerted my uncle who came running over to help pull me out. However, the struggle caused the barrel to topple over, causing the others to wobble and fall in domino fashion.
I fell out of the barrel as it crashed to the ground. Splashing and laughing as my uncle’s face looked bewildered.
“WHAT were you doing?” he asked.
“Swimming, “I said, “and I had a lesson in underwater swimming too!”
My uncle’s wine barrels would continue to be out in the backyard being cleaned and prepped for his famous honey wine however, they would never again be unattended. And as for swimming lessons, my mother signed me up for them at the Y.
B.A. Schlosser Hill has decided to give writing a chance, having previously had many different careers. She enjoys writing classes and is gaining confidence in her creative abilities. She lives in Kitchener with two wonderful teenagers and her supportive, loving husband.
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