The Underground Synchronized Swimming Society

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

The Underground Synchronized Swimming Society

We just had a near life experience, fellas.” –Fight Club

Leon emerged from the crowded elevator and tried his best to avoid being jostled about.  He was tired from his late night activities, and therefore he didn’t see the umbrella until it was too late.  It didn’t jab him too hard, but the item connected with his torso in just the right spot.  Leon felt a searing pain in the side of his stomach as the metal tip stabbed him.  He didn’t flinch and he didn’t make a sound.  Leon was determined to carry the scars of The Underground Synchronized Swimming Society like a man.

Leon was living out the truth of his club’s fourth rule.  He had known before he arrived that he had been risking retribution.  He had made a mistake and had taken his punishment.

As he had changed into his swim trunks, Leon had hoped that no one would notice.  He should have known better.  The moment he set foot in the empty high school pool, he was challenged.  Bruce, the youngest of the bunch, called out, “Hair!”  The cry of damnation had been echoed by Henry, and then Vince, and the entire crowd had assembled around Leon as they shouted, “Hair!  Hair!  Hair!”

The shouting had been followed by punching in the chest.  It was as if the group thought that they could beat every single chest hair into falling out in defeat if they pummeled it enough.  Soon though, The Grand Poolmaster had approached.

The men had fallen silent and backed away from Leon.  The Grand Poolmaster had been silent as he looked to Leon.  Their leader was a powerful figure.  It was rumored that he had once been accepted to The Olympics, but had declined.  He knew that any public display of his prowess would jeopardize the society that he held so dear.  Regardless of what pool he swam in, The Grand Poolmaster had the physique to intimidate anyone.  He had a long torso, long arms, and burly muscles residing all over both.  Leon still remembered how his shiny dome had turned back and forth slowly in disappointment.

“Gentleman”, The Grand Poolmaster had begun.  “What do we have here?”

“Shameful chest hair!”

“And what is wrong with hair?”

“It slows us down”, the crowd had chanted back.

“Have we not waxed our chests as a means to further embrace speed?”

“We have”, they had bellowed.

“Have we not shaved our heads as a point of dedication to sleekness and a love of being aerodynamic?”

“We have.”

Leon still shuttered as he remembered The Grand Poolmaster walking up to him and poking at his chest that had stubble on it.  Leon had meant to wax before the meeting, but he had fallen asleep.  He often wished that The Underground Society of Synchronized Swimming didn’t meet at one in the morning, but as the newest member, he wasn’t about to make waves, certainly not when there were bigger fish ready to educate him.

Leon had gone through the ritual of shame.  He had admitted that he knew what he had done.  He had recited that, “The second rule of The Underground Synchronized Swimming Society is that you don’t get in the water with hair slowing you down.”  Leon had wanted to argue that it had only been a few days of growth, but the look on The Grand Poolmaster had not invited debate.

“What is the fourth rule of The Underground Synchronized Swimming Society?”

Leon had gulped before he had finally regained his composure and barked out the proper response.

“The fourth rule of The Underground Synchronized Swimming Society is that you pay the price if you don’t follow the rules.”

With that, The Grand Poolmaster had nodded and the payment had been rendered.  Each member had walked up to Leon and punched him firmly in the side.  His kidney felt like it had been put in a meat tenderizer.  The pain would be with him all day, but at least his face remained presentable.  There was a civilized air to his brotherhood; they understood that you were out all night cursing, shoving, and punching each other as the water in the pool rose up in massive waves and the chlorine stung at your eyes; but in the morning a guy might have to walk a group of people through a business presentation.  Leon’s face had gone untouched, but his lesson had been learned.

Other people, boring people, would never understand why Leon took to the group so quickly.  He had been walking around town one morning, bored and unable to sleep.  His life had become dreary and pathetic.  Then he had heard sounds of splashing and grunting.  They had been coming from the public pool.  He had known that the pool was never open that early, so he had scrambled up the wall and looked inside though a dirty, smog-caked window.  There, he had found his new purpose.

On the one hand, Leon was an artistic person.  He lacked the skill of applying oil on canvas to convey an emotion, but he still wanted to create things that enhanced the world.  Another side of Leon craved danger and excitement.  In The Underground Synchronized Swimming Society, Leon found both.

The Grand Poolmaster accepted nothing short of perfection.  He wanted each dive and every upraised arm to perfectly gel with all other members.  The dazzling routines that he came up with were majestic and confident, and he demanded they be exhibited with the care that they deserved.  The society was one in spirit and they worked relentlessly to move as one in the pool.  The men all wanted the same thing; a winning display unerringly executed.  It didn’t matter that they outside world would never see their performances.  They weren’t doing it for the world.

Of course, with any society worth belonging to, the group had its hardships.  Leon wished that he was allowed to grow hair on top of his head when the winter got crisp and the wind blew harshly.  Rat tails weren’t officially sanctioned, but they were not they banned either.  Leon had often felt the wet snap of a towel across his back.  Yet, at the end of each meeting, they all huddled together and formed a tight circle as they floated up and down in the water as a single entity.  Each member had earned the respect of everyone else in the group.

Bosses would nag Leon about his tired eyes.  Meetings would drag on long.  First dates would disappoint and bills would pile up in Leon’s mailbox.  But The Underground Synchronized Swimming Society got him through such meager matters.  Even as Leon sat down at his desk, opened his e-mail and stared at the grey walls around him, he let his mind wander back to the water and the way it always welcomed him and buoyed his soul.

Leon put his hand to his ribs one more time.  He wondered if one of his ribs might be cracked.  He pressed a little harder and winced as the pain shot through him.  He would push through the pain.  He would join The Underground Synchronized Swimming Society again tonight.  He would rise above the agony of the wound.  He would push through the pain.  The thrill of the club was what kept Leon going.  It was as The Grand Poolmaster always said, “You can live like everybody else does, or you can strive for better; the manly way, or the wussy way.  Synch or swim.”

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About anecdotaltales
He's a simple enough fellow. He likes movies, comics, radio shows from the 40's, and books. He likes to write and wishes his cat wouldn't shed on his laptop.

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