N.J. tells Nightswimmer she wants the supreme challenge—
to cross Lake Michigan. This is fifty-something miles.
He nearly advises she not try it, remembers in the nick
how reverse psychology functions. Nothing guarantees
a decision like dissuasion. He neither supports
the idea aloud nor discourages it. N.J.’s objective
remains set. Then it’s late August. Her training routes:
Charlevoix to Beaver Island, circles around both Manitous.
Further than civilians swim, but short of fifty miles.
Summer’s slipping off. There’s far, then there’s too far,
a limit. He keeps this concern contained,
packs it as a flotation device. “We go,” she declares,
as he caulks the follow boat, loads back-up fuel.
He blunts unexpected jealousy— it’s her not him
attempting to cheat death, to master Michigan.
Since the swim is on though, he’s all in. She needs a witness
to this otherwise completely private enterprise,
should she land in Door County, Wisconsin. A win.
He’ll be present should she tire and need assistance.
N.J. says “Tonight.” That’s it. Competent adults
do what they wish. Few are swayed by outside input.
Friends can watch or look away. This friend
pilots a lifeboat, harbors doubts but refuses to flake.
Todd Mercer (b. 1969) was nominated for Best of the Net in 2018. Mercer won 1st, 2nd & 3rd place of the Kent County Dyer-Ives Poetry Prizes and the won Grand Rapids Festival Flash Fiction Prize. His chapbook Life-wish Maintenance is posted at Right Hand Pointing. Recent work appears in: The Lake, The Magnolia Review, Praxis and Softblow. Mercer and his wife Michaeleen Kelly adopted an awesome rescue dog (Garpur-Bradley) who only talks when it is important.