Some stories are so well written, so layered that they can’t help but stay with the readers. Of course, it takes a great writer to do that and I’d have to say that John Cheever really shot it out of the park with his short story, “The Swimmer”. My first experience with the story was the 1968 film of the same name, starring Burt Lancaster. Years later, the story hadn’t left me and so decided to read Cheever’s story. At the beginning, Neddy Merrill decides to swim his way home from a friend’s outdoor party; from one neighbor’s pool to another. He recruits a young girl to go with him, who years earlier had a crush on him. He talks freely of his life with his wife and daughters. Neddy seems to have it all, he’s a handsome middle-aged man and as you can see from his surrounding neighbors – he lives in an affluent area. As he progresses from one pool to another, meeting up with old friends and acquaintances, you begin to feel an edginess overtaking you and a sudden awareness that all isn’t what it seems in his world. Each neighbor reveals more of the puzzle until the extremely dramatic ending, which I won’t spoil if you haven’t read/seen it. I remember being quite shaken at the end scene, Burt Lancaster’s face stricken with pain. If you’ve never read the short story, it’s brilliant — I highly recommend it. It can be found in the book, “The Stories of John Cheever”.
Pic: Burt Lancaster in Columbia Pictures, “The Swimmer” 1968.