N.J.’s Secret is Out

Nightswimmer Junior didn’t want to become famous.
That wasn’t what drove her forward toward crossing
Lake Michigan. She needed to maximize her strength.
She was sick of nothing happening, so she tried
endurance swimming. Trained for years, then met her goal.
On the beach at Manitowoc, she faced a wall of cameras.
They carried the last mile of her swim live
on the station out of Green Bay. She could barely breathe
but they had to have a statement, a soundbite quip
for the viewers out there lounging in their homes.
Her friend, Nightswimmer (Retired) tied the follow-boat
to a dock’s cleat, asked a reporter where they could
find a high-protein breakfast. It would be
a while before they challenged the waves
on the long return trip home. Was N.J. okay
following her phenomenal feat? After a minute
she cracked jokes for journalists. She was a hit
as the unknown heroine. If they stayed a day
she could be a studio guest on Inside Wisconsin.
No thanks, she told them, but thanks though
for the option to be even more well-known.
She might have to quit her pub job, if she’s mobbed there.
This may prompt strangers to interfere
with her midnight exercise. And how did they know
someone such as her, from way off the radar
chose this particular day to make the sixty-mile swim?
“Not me,” said ole Nightswimmer, a proxy
of an older brother to her, a fellow traveler.
N.J. hits the newspapers, the pub-tender who could.

Todd Mercer writes from Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was nominated for Best of the Net in 2018. Recent work appears in The Lake, Leaves of Ink, Mojave River Review and Praxis Magazine.

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