By John Cheever (1912-1982)
It was one of those midsummer Sundays when everyone sits around saying, "I drank too much
last night." You might have heard it whispered by the parishioners leaving church, heard it from
the lips of the priest himself, struggling with his cassock in the vestiarium, heard it from the golf
links and the tennis courts, heard it from the wildlife preserve where the leader of the Audubon
group was suffering from a terrible hangover. "I drank too much," said Donald Westerhazy. "We
all drank too much," said Lucinda Merrill. "It must have been the wine," said Helen Westerhazy.
too much of that claret."
This was at the edge of the Westerhazys' pool. The pool, fed by an artesian well with a high iron
content, was a pale shade of green. It was a fine day. In the west there was a massive stand of
cumulus cloud so like a city seen from a distance—from the bow of an approaching ship—that it
might have had a name. Lisbon. Hackensack. The sun was hot. Neddy Merrill sat by the green
water, one hand in it, one around a glass of gin. He was a slender man—he seemed to have the
especial slenderness of youth—and while he was far from young he had slid down his banister
that morning and given the bronze backside of Aphrodite on the hall table a smack, as he jogged
toward the smell of coffee in his dining room. He might have been compared to a summer's day,
particularly the last hours of one, and while he lacked a tennis racket or a sail bag the impression
was definitely one of youth, sport, and clement weather. He had been swimming and now he was
breathing deeply, stertorously as if he could gulp into his lungs the components of that moment,
the heat of the sun, the intenseness of his pleasure. It all seemed to flow into his chest. His own
house stood in Bullet Park, eight miles to the south, where his four beautiful daughters would
have had their lunch and might be playing tennis. Then it occurred to him that by taking a dogleg
to the southwest he could reach his home by water.
His life was not confining and the delight he took in this observation could not be explained by
its suggestion of escape. He seemed to see, with a cartographer's eye, that string of swimming
pools, that quasi-subterranean stream that curved across the county. He had made a discovery, a
contribution to modern geography; he would name the stream Lucinda after his wife. He was not
a practical joker nor was he a fool but he was determinedly original and had a vague and modest
idea of himself as a legendary figure. The day was beautiful and it seemed to him that a long
swim might enlarge and celebrate its beauty.
He took off a sweater that was hung over his shoulders and dove in. He had an inexplicable