“Oh, what do you do in the summertime …” three-year-old Katie was singing at the top of her voice.
“Softer,” Angela scolded. “It would be lovely if you sang softer.”
But Katie just screeched all the louder.
“Three-year-olds!” fumed Angela as she closed the door to her room.
Why doesn’t someone write a song about how to get out of doing what your mother wants you to do in the summertime? Angela asked herself. “Maybe I’ll write one,” she muttered. “Then I’ll make a record of it and become a rich and famous songwriting singer. Then Mother will say, ‘Angela, dear, you don’t need to take swimming lessons. Why should a rich and famous songwriting singer take swimming lessons?’ Then I’ll write songs all day and—”
“Angela, dear,” a voice called from downstairs. “Are you ready? Hurry. It’s time to go.”
“I’m coming,” Angela called back. She trudged to her dresser, pulled a bright pink swimsuit from the drawer, and slowly closed the drawer. “Hey, wait!” she cried. Jerking the drawer open again, she shoved the suit inside and raced to her closet. Rummaging in a box, she pulled out a ragged, once-navy-blue swimsuit. Giggling, she put it on, slung her beach towel over her shoulder, and waltzed out the door.
“My goodness, Angela,” Mother gasped. “Where did you get that swimsuit?”
“In my closet,” Angela answered nonchalantly.
“It’s all worn-out. It’s too little. And it has holes in it.”
“But it’s very, very comfortable.”
“Well, if that’s what you want. Come on, let’s hurry. We’re late.”
“What?” Angela couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Mother was supposed to say she couldn’t go looking like that.
“Come on, let’s hurry,” Mother repeated, taking Angela by the hand. Stunned, Angela let her mother pull her through the house and out to the car. Then, as she climbed into the front seat, she had an idea!
A bright smile erased the frown from her face as she broke out in song: “A mother is such a lovely person to have around your house. She keeps you happy and makes things snappy and always has a smile.” She sang the keeps you happy especially loud.
“How lovely, Angela dear,” Mother said as she backed out of the driveway. “Did you make that up?”
“I wrote it myself,” Angela answered proudly. “And if I didn’t have to go to swimming lessons, I could write a lot more songs about my beautiful mother.”
“That would be nice. But maybe you could write them on the way to your swimming lessons. It’s very important that you learn to swim. Everyone should know how to swim.”
Angela watched her house shrink smaller and smaller and then disappear as they drove away. “If I could just disappear, too!” she whispered.
“What did you say?” Mother asked.
“I should have stayed home to tend Katie so Robbie could go swimming. Robbie loves swimming. Maybe you should take me back and let Robbie take my lesson. I really wouldn’t mind,” Angela said.
“Robbie already knows how to swim. That’s why he loves it.”
“But I really think I’m allergic to chlorine. Melanie told me it turned her hair green. If it turned her hair green and she’s not even allergic to chlorine, imagine what it will do to my hair—and my skin! Oh, I just know my teeth will fall out!”
“Angela,”—the softness had left Mother’s voice—“your teeth will not fall out.”
“Maybe not with my braces on, but think of all the money you and Dad have spent to fix my teeth. Now they’ll turn green, and the minute the braces come off—plink, plink, plink—out will fall all my green teeth.”
“Angela, my dear”—Mother paused, letting the softness back into her voice—“are you afraid of the water?”
“Me? Afraid? Of course not! I’m allergic, that’s all.”
“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” Mother said.
“Oh, I know that. All my friends can swim. They go swimming all the time. They tell me all about it. I’m not afraid. Not me. Never. It just doesn’t interest me.”
“Well, just think. After you take lessons, you can go swimming with your friends.”
“Not if I’m all green. I don’t think they let green people into swimming pools.”
“Here we are.” Mother sounded more cheerful than necessary. “Now promise me you’ll do what the teacher asks.”
Why do mothers make you promise things like that? Angela wondered. But she promised and then slowly, very slowly, climbed out of the car.
“I’ll be back in an hour,” Mother called as she drove off.
Angela looked down at her faded swimsuit. “I wonder who invented swimming anyway,” she muttered.
The voice startled Angela. Looking up, she saw a girl about her size who was almost hidden by a small fir tree.
“Eve?” Angela repeated, staring at the girl’s worn, swimsuit.
The two girls stared at each other for a long moment. Finally Angela asked, “Are you going in or coming out?”
“Going in. Mine was the car before yours.”
“Do you swim much?” Angela asked cautiously.
“Nope. I’m allergic to water. It makes my toenails curl the wrong way. That’s why I always shower—I never bathe. Less water that way.”
“My name’s Angela.” Angela couldn’t remember ever meeting anyone she liked so well so fast.
“Do you live around here?” Angela asked.
“We just moved into the yellow house with the huge pine tree in front. It’s by the school.”
“Hey, that’s on my street!” Angela exclaimed with a grin.
A whistle sounded. “Girls! Girls!” the swimming teacher called. “It’s time to start.”
“What about your allergy problems?” Angela asked Mandy. “How are you going to swim with your toenails curling the wrong way?”
“I don’t know.”
“You’re allergic, too?” Mandy asked in amazement.
“Yes. My teeth turn green. It’s the chlorine. I’m afraid it will make them fall out. After my braces come off, that is. You know—plink, plink, plink—until they’re all gone.”
Mandy grinned at Angela. Then they both giggled.
“Come on,” Angela sighed. “I guess together we can suffer it through.”
“Sure,” Mandy said.
Taking deep breaths, they started toward the pool.
“By the way,” Angela asked, “do you write songs?”
“Oh, yes!” Mandy answered. “I wrote one just this morning.”
“Maybe we could write one together, about people who are afraid—I mean allergic.”
Mandy smiled. “Do you think we could become rich and famous?” Angela grinned. “I think maybe we could.”