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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Lifeguard (11/09/06)

TITLE: Thanks, But No Thanks!
By Jan Ross


I’m going to die! She’s trying to drown me!

Suddenly, a hand wildly flailing in the air hit Adrienne on the head and pushed her under. With all her might, she tried to make it to the surface to gain control of the situation.

God, help me! She’s too strong! I’m going to drown!

Adrienne’s dad wanted her to take the final course offered by the local Red Cross. He was always proud of her accomplishments; she couldn’t stand the thought of disappointing him. But she knew he didn’t understand her fears or her limitations. She wasn’t lifeguard material—she was a good swimmer but she lacked the strength and confidence she so admired in her peers.

After weeks of training, intense instruction in resuscitation techniques, and strict dietary disciplines, the dreaded day finally arrived—the final test for Red Cross Senior Lifeguard certification. Adrienne aced the written exam, but certification required each student to rescue a drowning victim.

Adrienne was sure her instructor, Mrs. Showalter, sensed her fears and insecurities. She picked on her—the whole class noticed. Her lean, powerful body in itself was intimidating to everyone, not just Adrienne.

One by one each student was called to climb the lifeguard tower situated on a large raft anchored in the middle of the lake. Adrienne watched as each student ahead of her “rescued” Mrs. Showalter.

“Adrienne Koopman!”

Immediately her legs turned to rubber. Trying to hide her fear, she climbed the ladder, praying for swift victory. Once situated, she quickly assessed the situation. The water was murky from recent rains. There was a blinding glare on the lake. As she shielded her eyes with her hand, she was momentarily mesmerized by the seagull’s chatter. Her thoughts were abruptly interrupted by blood-curdling screams.

“Help! Help!”

Lord, help me!

Adrienne jumped into the lake, swimming toward Mrs. Showalter. Careful to conserve energy for the rescue, she swam at a steady but determined pace. The closer she got, the more her heart raced. Anxiety crushed her chest making it harder to breathe as she approached her victim and planned her strategy.

Mrs. Showalter was screaming—her arms were flailing in the air, then she’d disappear for a few moments under the surface of the water.

Once Adrienne was within arms length of Mrs. Showalter, she felt a heavy thud on her head suddenly pushing her down. With panicked determination to stay above water, her “victim” was holding her under. Adrienne tried to grab her arms to position her for a shoulder hold but to no avail. She was losing the battle.

In sheer desperation for her own survival, Adrienne remembered a move that was to be reserved for only the most desperate situations. She grabbed a handful of hair and began to tug. Finally surfacing, she was able to take command of the situation.

Still fighting, Mrs. Showalter tried to pull away. Adrienne pulled her closer and slapped her. She grabbed her chin, tucked it under her arm, and swam with all her might. She hoisted her “victim” onto the raft and climbed the ladder as the class watched with disbelief.

Adrienne took a few steps to where Mrs. Showalter lay on the raft and reached down to help her up. Their eyes met.

“Adrienne, I have to admit that I didn’t think you had it in you. From the first day you appeared to be anything but lifeguard material. I was wrong. If ever there was a young woman with strength and determination, you have it all.”

Adrienne was trembling, her knees still weak from the horrifying experience.

“Mrs. Showalter, I try my best never to disrespect my teachers, but I am so mad! You have humiliated me in front of everyone—I nearly drowned out there!”

“No, Adrienne. What you experienced was a dying victim, frantic for help, desperate for breath. You dared to do what no one else has ever done. You didn’t let your fear of me stop you from doing whatever it took to take control and rescue your victim. Well done!”


Later that week, Adrienne was hired as a lifeguard at a local pool. She received her certificate and badge in the mail along with a note:

“You have qualified to receive special training as a Red Cross Life Guard Instructor. Please contact Mrs. Showalter for further details.”

Adrienne folded the note, put it back in the envelope, tucked it in a drawer and went out for a swim.

Thanks, but no thanks!

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This article has been read 1086 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joe Moreland11/16/06
Well told. I love how you showed us her overcoming her fear and exhibiting strength under duress. Showing us how she prayed before she undertook the rescue was a wonderful portrait of someone putting into God's hands what she knew she could not do herself.
Peggy Bennitt11/17/06
I absolutely loved this! It brought tears to my eyes with the joy of Adrienne's success. well done!
dub W11/20/06
Well done. Very realistic. Thanks for sharing this.
Edy T Johnson 11/20/06
Very in-the-moment gripping story. I'm glad the little lifeguard had the courage to tell her instructor she was "mad!" For sure!
Jan Ackerson 11/20/06
Had me going--I was convinced Mrs. Showalter was really drowning. Glad you didn't take that route. Really compelling main character--great job!
Laurie Glass 11/20/06
This is so good. It's believeable and has a good message, too. Cute ending. :)
Betty Castleberry11/21/06
Most of us can probably relate to being picked on by a teacher/instructor. This story had great action and it held my attention. Well done.
Allison Egley 11/21/06
This was great. I was also sure her instructor really was drowning, rather than just giving her a run for her money. Great job.
Joanne Sher 11/21/06
Excellent, Jan! Loved the dynamic between the two characters, as well as the vivid detail - and what a PERFECT ending. And you think you're not ready for masters...;)
Sandra Petersen 11/22/06
In less than 750 words you managed to create two very strong characters, Mrs. Showalter and Adrienne. That in itself was excellent. You also wrapped it all together in a really neat story.

The only part I felt a twinge of disappointment in was Adrienne's reaction to the note. While I didn't expect her to take on the training to be an instructor, I was thinking she would want to treasure that note a little more because it came from an extremely tough teacher.

Anyway, my personal opinions aside, you did a wonderful job here.
Marilee Alvey11/23/06
I had a lifesaving class in grade school. We had a pool at the school, which is why I attended there. I'll never forget the short, stubby woman who taught us. She was the way you speak with me, but favored my short cousin. I was reliving it all with your story. I'm also glad that it ended realistically, like yours did. Too many would have gushed out a thanks and taken the "honor." This was more true to life! Great entry! Congratulations, Jan! Masters, here you come!
Sharlyn Guthrie11/23/06
Congratulations! I think this student learned a lot through her lifesaving class.
Val Clark11/24/06
Gripping story. Great characterisation. I also thought the instructor was really drowning! yeggy