Swim Unit  

Hunched, shivering, goose-pimply and bare, I assembled with other pubescent boys on the wet, slippery, and slimy concrete of our Junior High locker room after a pre-swim rinse. I could smell the dry chlorine in the air, and had already started prophesying to myself the inevitable ashy dander that would ensue that afternoon in the form of an anhydrous itchy epidermis.

I could see our commanding gym teacher strolling towards us from his office while whistling a confident but unidentifiable and ugly tune. (Why did he always do that?) He was carrying an orange 5-gallon pale and a clipboard for roll-call.

When he got near, he dropped the bucket from a distance too high to be considered careful, and as it hit the concrete, it startled us and made an echoing and hollow thud which reverberated through the cavernous shower room.

Each of us stood quietly wide-eyed, anticipating the unknown thing we would be forced to do next. Then, without notice, he dropped his clipboard to his thigh, turned his right foot 90 degrees outward, shifted his weight to his left hip and assumed an awkward pose that seemed as though he were about to demonstrate a textbook touch-pass.

With his extended right foot, he kicked the pale of tiny, cold, wet, Speedo swimsuits to the center of our mass, and said unsympathetically as though he were a raspy-voiced and condescending army sergeant who yelled and smoked too much, "Strap 'em on, boys".

After entering the pool, we sat impatiently to be inspected for Scoliosis. The girls (who where just finishing their own swim unit) skittered past us like a set of nervous ants trying to orient themselves to a nest that didn't exist.

It was at this point, as I looked down the row of us boys, observing our varying reactions to the girls that were walking by, that I realized that there were two kinds of people in my class: those that were popular, confident, and coordinated; and those that had an inborn mistrust of their personal adequacy as men.

I was an accepting member of the latter, but wished dearly that I could somehow skip adolescence before my weakness could be solidified further. Unfortunately, as I would find out, I would just have to wait.

— More Stories—

Jayber is a collection of stories and observations, published by Mark Benson since 2004.


Welcome to Jayber, a collection of stories and observations, by Mark Benson.


The following is a list of observations I've made while in airports, out with the neighbors, at county fairs, in my dreams, or at the local dental spa. You're welcome.

  • 26 Aug 2013

    The sandwich lady at Subway just vigorously shook the chipotle mayonnaise and accidentally sprayed 4 customers across the face.

  • 20 Jul 2013

    Yesterday I found myself standing fortuitously alone in front of 4,000 pieces of bacon without a plan and without an accountability partner.

  • 17 Jun 2013

    Spotted a speed-walking pedestrian with a samurai sword at Glenwood and Penn in the Harrison neighborhood today. Happy Monday in the hood!

  • 11 Jun 2013

    Listening to soft rock with a random Bolshevik man in a NJ cab. Last time, I came to meet 8 Siberian physicists. Is everyone here Russian?

  • 11 Jun 2013

    In St Louis. Just had someone semi gently pour a full cup of hot coffee directly into my crotch. Feeling awesome.

  • 03 Jun 2013

    Someone who looked exactly like a surfer Keanu Reeves just greeted me whimsically in the Target parking lot by saying, "Hello, random dude."

  • 24 May 2013

    I would rather hammer hollow-point nails soaked in rooster sauce into my kneecaps than listen to Bridge Over Troubled Water one more time.

— More Observations —