Fifty Bucks

I wouldn’t call myself a slave to the work, because the work has brought me joy, but I have been galloping since May while working on a big project and on the fifth of September I suddenly felt my world slow down.  I was eating dinner with a film crew on the edge of the lake in McCall and I let myself relax.  I felt it in my bones, in my neck muscles and shoulders — something easy passed over me and my work-hardened spirit softened.  At some point, after our table had been cleared, I looked out into the night where a floating trampoline sits in the lake and I asked the crew (who are my real life friends) and Robert (he was there, too) what it would cost them to swim out to the trampoline and do a backflip.

Someone said, “A thousand dollars!”

Some other numbers were tossed out and we mulled it over for a time and I spoke the words, “Fifty bucks.”

One of the guys reached into his wallet and pulled out a wad of cash, set it on the the table and we all sat there and looked at the money for a moment.

Then I stood up, climbed over the stone wall that separates the dining patio from the beach and I took off my corduroy pants and button down shirt and waded out into the lake in my underwear beneath the night sky.  When I was hip deep, I submerged myself and began to swim, thrilled by the feeling that comes with being in water in darkness in the summertime.  When I reached the trampoline, I climbed up the ladder and jumped around for a bit while my friends laughed with delight from shore.

The water was warm.  The act felt young and true and free of the responsibilities and seriousness that comes with being thirty-five years old.  I swam back to the restaurant, stood dripping on the patio, wrapped in a down jacket, smiling and shivering and Robert said, “Well guys, I guess we’re going swimming.”  They, too, left the table, stripped down to their underwear and swam out, eventually doing backflips off the trampoline into the lake.

I never did pocket the fifty dollars that my friend set on the table.  The money wasn’t my reason for swimming.  Nor did I do it for attention.  I did it to make a memory with the hopes that my friends would choose to make a memory, too.  I did it to feel young and free and wild.  I did it because I knew should not, because it’s not considered ladylike to publicly take off your clothing and swim around in your undies while people eating in a nice restaurant are watching.  I did it with the hope that others would follow in my mildly outrageous footsteps and find themselves ageless for a moment.  I did it so we could all swim out and feel the night surround us, paddling with childlike strokes towards distant lights.


  1. You and I… kindred spirits. I LOVE this story of yours!


  3. Smiles. I need a fifty dollar dare.

  4. Carmela daParma says:

    I can only ever love you more.

  5. Had a similar moment with some dear ladies this spring, early June, in a cold cold Yukon lake- skinny dipping at 2 in the afternoon. XO Wild memories are the best!!

  6. Anita Blair says:

    I love it! Have some similar episodes in my past. Sometimes the tale resurfaces many years later in more stuffy company. But I could tell they wished they had done something like it when they were young.

  7. Elizabeth Weston says:

    I’m a longtime reader, first-time commenter. I read this post a couple of days ago and it stuck with me. And then: I had the perfect opportunity just last night to take your message from my brain into my heart and limbs. After a sweaty outdoor women’s lifting session we went out on the river in a pontoon boat and watched the sunset. Then someone mentioned jumping in the water to cool off. No one responded immediately. And then I said, yes (yes!), I’ll jump with you. Two more joined. Without a bathing suit I stripped down to my undies, climbed the ladder to the top of the boat, held my friend’s hand, and we jumped together, plunging into the delicious water and darkness. What refreshment! What thrill! What a gift. (R.E.M.’s Nightswimming pulsed in my mind as I treaded water.) We hauled ourselves back onto the boat, dripped dry and commenced a dance party all the way back to shore.
    To sum this up: thank you. For these words and so many others. What a ripple effect.

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