The summer I turned thirteen, my family's summer vacation was a visit to our relatives in the mountains of North Carolina. My cousin Jim, who was my age, took me down to his favorite swimming hole along the river. It was a deep pool under a high canopy of leaves. From the top of a twenty-five-foot cliff we looked down into the shimmering water and across to a sandy beach.
Standing beside us on the edge of that cliff grew a big white oak tree, with its roots sunk deep down into the rock. And hanging from a limb that stretched out at just the right height and angle, was a rope swing.
"Look here," said Jim. "This is the way you do it. You got to get a running start. Then you grab the rope and swing out and up as high as you can, and then you let go and fall to the water. Here, I'll show you."
Jim made it look easy, and when his head surfaced in the bubbling water he hollered up, "Now it's your turn!"
I was certain I was going to die, but at thirteen dying is better than looking bad. When I came up sputtering, Jim smiled approvingly and we swam a few strokes to the beach, lay on the hot sand for awhile, and then swam back across the pool to do it again.
Jim and all of his friends always wore the proper North Carolina swimming attire, for skinny-dipping was a time honored tradition among boys throughout the mountain states. Sometimes I felt like I was a wild boy, or a beaver sliding through the water. Jim said he felt like an otter, since he loved to turn and twist in the deep pools and could swim under water a long ways.
Jim's family was Baptists. On Sunday, Jim's mom made us dress up in straight-jacket white shirts and strangle-hold ties, marched us down the street and filed us into church.
"You must be baptized, by water and by the Spirit" the preacher thundered. That water baptism sounded mighty good. I sat there dreaming of the river and waiting for the wonderful moment when the sermon would be over and Jim and I could go running down the path to the river.
On the tails of the closing prayer, Jim and I flew out into the sunny day and home for a quick sandwich. Then we plunged down the trail into the woods alive with the hum of cicadas hanging thick in the branches of the burr oaks and hickories.
When we got within a hundred yards of the rope swing, Jim said, "I'll race you!"
"You got it!" I replied.
We dropped our clothes right there and tore down the trail to see who could get to the rope swing first. I was a fast runner, but Jim was faster. He pulled ahead of me and dove for the rope. With a shriek of victory, Jim swung out over the water and up, to the very top of the arc. In perfect form, Jim let go of the rope and looked down to see where he was going to land.
But there - not twenty yards away on the beach - stood the preacher and two dozen of the faithful, performing a baptism. I could see they were looking straight up at Jim with their mouths wide open.
As fervently as Jim prayed to fly, he quickly descended from the heavens. Jim abandoned his plans for a graceful swan dive and instinctively assumed the cannonball position - known for its magnificent splash.
The whole congregation got baptized that day. But Jim never saw it. He broke his record for underwater swimming and was around the bend and out of sight while the congregation stood stunned and speechless on the shore.
"Don't worry, Jim," I consoled him later. "I'm sure everybody thought you were an angel, and besides, it turned out fine. You got the river dunking you wanted, and those folks will never forget that baptism."
2011-03-07 09:15 编辑：kuaileyingyu