For the past couple of months my partner and I have been going swimming a couple of times a week in a vague attempt to build some sort of core stamina to see us through the coming apocalypse. We generally divide our time between three different pools (depending on the timing and location of various post-work activities). At one of these, we often encounter Competitive Dad. This is a thing inspired by his terrible chat. I hope his poor daughters rebel hard.

Competitive Dad appears at the pool with his daughters in tow.

There’s a fun lesson on with floats and games but they have to do some hard work first, no I don’t care that none of the other kids have to do this let’s go.

Competitive Dad lowers smallest into the shallows ignoring protestations; splashing and kicking and raw nervous energy.

She’s a scrawny kid with wonky goggles, completely submerged even though on him it’s only waist deep.

Competitive Dad says, “you have to keep swimming, otherwise you’ll drown.”

Competitive Dad says, “you’ve got to go faster or you’ll sink.”

Competitive Dad says, “come on, you have to try harder than that.”

Competitive Dad says, “you’re just not good enough.”

Good enough for what, wonder the other swimmers, meandering up and down the pool. They avoid eye contact.

Competitive Dad eyes them with distaste, slow slow slow, setting a bad example for his girls

Competitive Dad picks up his youngest, places her on the poolside.

He will show her how it’s done.

Competitive Dad ploughs up and down for a while, a flurry of flailing limbs, a strong but artless front crawl

Competitive Dad remembers the old days when he was a better swimmer than this

Competitive Dad wishes, not for the first time, that he had never left the sea to follow the woman with the black braids

Competitive Dad wonders again what she did with his sealskin, before she died and left him with two half human children who would embarrass him if he ever took them home

Competitive Dad thinks about how nobody would recognise him anyway, not without his skin

Competitive Dad says, “you have to keep swimming, otherwise you’ll drown.”

Competitive Dad says, “you’ve got to go faster or you’ll sink.”

Competitive Dad says, “come on, you have to try harder than that.”

Competitive Dad says, “Forget it. You’re just not good enough.”

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