Play 13, Day 13 – “Teach Your Kids To Swim”
LIGHTS UP on THE PREACHER, a man in a dusty back suit.
He is standing, incongruously, at the bottom of a large
swimming pool. The marker behind him indicates he’s
in the deep end. Next to him, a ruddy faced boy who looks
annoyed rather than pleased, at being the guest of honor.
A sign on the side of the pool says: “Teach Your Kids To Swim.”
Blessed are the plucky. Ten’ll get you twenty.
With a quirky smile, the PREACHER crosses himself, opens
a Bible to a page marked with a ruler.
I’m happy to see so many of you here today, whom I have seen
and known from so many Empty Pools, so many Shab-baths.
This Shab-Bath, I preach upon the topical homily announced
on the banner behind me. “Teach Your Kids to Swim.” Indeed.
We have a couple of other texts, all Biblical and all.
In 1 KINGS 18:22-40, when Ahab dies, “they washed
his chariot at a pool in Samaria (where the prostitutes
bathed), and the dogs licked up his blood.”
ISAIAH 35: 7-11 “The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs. But only the redeemed
will walk there.”
JOHN 5, where Jesus bids a life-long invalid finally enter
the pool of healing waters at Bethesda, and JOHN 9
where Jesus bids a blind man bathe his eyes in the pool
of healing waters at Shiloh.
So, that’s what the concordance had to offer on the subject.
PREACHER puts the ruler in the Good Book, closes the book. He regards his surroundings.
I was baptized in this very pool, back before the Great Drought, when baptism wasn’t just a metaphor but a literal act. Magic, like transubstantiation. Water into wine, wine into blood. Blood into
water. You know the drill.
I learned to swim here, used to teach swimming in this very pool. Back when swimming was a skill almost everyone learned in their neighborhood pool.
For those of you too young to recall it, you can never fully appreciate the metaphor of swimming, for you never experienced the literal fact of it.
PREACHER cloese his eyes.
You stopped flailing around in the air and relaxed into the
Body of Water. You floated. You can’t imagine what that
felt like. You were on the verge between air and water,
between oxygen that sustains us and the oxygen locked
away from your lungs in water. You could just lay there,
in what was called “Deadman’s Float.” Pain went away,
your share of it carried by the weight of the water.
Water held you, like a congregation of hands, entrusted to
suspending you in the ether. You were moving in a strange
element, yet you were moving in the element you were born in.
You made it your friend, you blended with the element.
Air seemed thin and puny by comparison. Water didn’t just
caress you, it buoyed, it sustained you.
PREACHER opens his eyes.
At the beginning of the Water Wars, when the first Water
Hostages were taken, I came back to the Y as part of my
National Service. That’s when this pool, which now serves
as our chapel, was drained. When most pool were drained.
What’s now our compound was once the YMCA parking lot.
What’s now the holding cell, used to be the sauna.
What is now my pulpit was once the deep end of the pool
I vacuumed as a teenage boy.
This was the Young Men’s Christian Association. It became
an induction center. This is where I became a soldier.
This is where today’s guest became a soldier. This is where
almost all of us did. We all swore our oaths in this same
And this is where he learned as a boy, as I learned, before him,
the homily before us:
“When the Lord sends rain, take the high ground and teach
your kids to swim.”
In military terms, high ground gives you the advantage of gravity,
a whole vertical dimension denied to your enemy. Find yourself
not holding it, and your enemies will pour down upon you like…
like pharoah’s drowned chariots, at the bottom of the Red Sea.
At the very least, your battle will be uphill. So, “Take the high ground.” Yes.
“And teach your kids to swim.” When deluge comes, many a sinner will find themselves flailing in waters too deep to find any footing. Unless you can part the seas and flee pharoah like the Istraelites of old, youd best learn to swim.
The young man we honor today embodies that homily, yes?
I’ve known him since he was a boy, here, before the Drought
and the Water Wars. I may have taught him to swim. I can
tell you that he has always taken the high ground, and he has learned to make his way through any amount of rough waters.
But I’m not the one we all want to hear from. We want the hero
of the moment, the man of the hour. Ladies and gentlemen of
the Central Y congregation, North Central Division, I give you Captain, now Major, Noah Masters.
NOAH steps up, looking very apprehensive. Polite applause.
Thank you, Preacher. When I learned to swim here, it may
very well have been you who threw me in.
Unless you were the one with the pole.
“Take the high ground” is a good slogan, but it could have
two meanings. Depends on what kind of storm God is sending,
When you’re dealing with a dam or aqueduct, as I did as a
Water Ranger, it takes on another meaning. Water seeks
its lowest level. You wanna stay out of those.
“Teach your kids to swim,” likewise, could have two meanings.
“Cause it’s too late for you to learn” might be one of them.
PREACHER shifts uncomfortably.
I’m sorry. I know the community wants to pin a medal on me.
I found that reservoir, and that aqueduct; I claimed it for my community, and that meant a whole lot of water for my people to drink. And I’m greeted like a savior for knocking over an aqueduct.
But my only real accomplishment was stopping a small group of hold-outs, before they could poison the water in their own reservoir, poison it with their blood, just to ruin us when they were already dying.
I accomplished that.
I stopped them. I secured everyone’s ration. I saved the day. I’m a hero, I know.
But don’t ask me to speak on the subject of water. I can’t. I can’t.
NOAH hangs his head. PREACHER, uncomfortable, tries to comfort.
BLACKOUT. END OF PLAY.