Something Comes to the Surface at The Sheboygan Freediving Competition

Submitted into Contest #155 in response to: Start your story with a character facing a situation that isn't awful, but isn't great.... view prompt


Drama Fiction

Every kind of animal, including humans, is enclosed within its own unique sensory bubble, perceiving but a tiny sliver of our immense world.

-Ed Yong

Marcia looked at the distant gray waters of Lake Michigan and hoped her husband Bob would enjoy himself that day. Bob was ranked 37th in the nation in Freediving - CWT division. Well, that meant about 10 people in America knew who he was, but she understood how important this was to him.

“You look a bit off today,” Marcia said, seeing Bob slumped in his chair.

“I’m fine. Why did you say that?” Bob said opening his eyes wide.

“You just look a bit tired, but I’m sure you will do great today,” she said trying to cheer him up.

Bob still looked agitated. “In the Sheboygan Deep Divers, they're all helping each other.”  

“Well the competition seems fair to me,” she said, “after all, it is based on your own maximum depth right, honey?”

Bob complained a lot about the organizers of the competition.

“But if only they treated me fairly, I could move up to at least 30th place.”

“Would that make a difference?” She gave him the warmest smile she could muster, “And they’re just being nice to each other. You can be a bit bristly. if you were a bit more approachable, maybe they could do you a favor sometimes too?”

Bob raised his voice, “Why are you always taking their side and not mine?” 

Marcia saw this conversation was headed nowhere pleasant so she pretended to be busy cooking their pre-dive breakfast, Cheddar cheese omelettes and hash browns. Maybe INFP personalities like her’s just thought about the world differently.

While she wasn't checking the omelettes, she reminded herself of how dependable Bob was compared to her first husband. She was married right out of high school and a few months later found out he was still sleeping with his previous girlfriend the whole time. Bob, at least when he wasn’t diving he was at home working on something.

Later in the morning, they boarded the Go-Between with 15 other people from the Sheboygan Deep Divers. The 47 footer chugged for hours into deep water for the competition. 

The water was rough, too turbulent for anyone to be breaking Lake Michigan free diving records in the low visibility.

She hated the Edmund Fitzgerald folk song that was on full blast again. In Wisconsin, especially anywhere around boats, they loved to play that song, even though the Fitzgerald sank way up in Lake Superior by Minnesota. But Wisconsin makes an appearance in the song lyrics, so go figure.

In the racket caused by the weather and the boat engine, no one was talking. In her boredom and to take her mind off the dizzying smell of diesel, she studied the sign on the wall, probably hung up by Mike, the overly gung-ho and very loud organizer of the Sheboygan Deep Divers:

“Competitive freediving can be a great way to meet new people in a positive and supportive environment. Together, as a group, you can be safe.”

Bob tapped her shoulder. “Herbert Nitsch dived to 253 meters when he got the world record,” he said, “they should take the boat out past 250 meters today just in case.”

“Maybe next time?” Marcia said putting her arm around his shoulder. She was worried about the weather conditions today, “And Herbert Nitsch can’t walk now.”

“He’s fine!” Bob said.

“You know Herb had 3 strokes after that record dive. He might be in the record books but he needs someone to hold his arm when he walks not to topple over. Probably someone like me. I don’t want that to happen to you baby.” 

“He must have had a preexisting condition,” Bob said and looked out the window. She knew he must be mulling over a longer counterargument about Herb’s current medical condition.

The boat slowed. Loud Mike got up and talked to the Captain, and the Go Between anchored itself 30 miles off the Lake Michigan shoreline. After the equipment checks and safety warnings were complete, one by one the 11 free divers on board had their chance to compete. Warm ups. Stretches. Deep breathing. Pre-dive checks. And then fins up and down they went. Around two to three minutes later each diver popped back up to the surface.

Marcia felt a pang of fear when Bob disappeared beneath the water. The pressure built up in her chest each second as she spent, what felt like an eternity, waiting. Staring at the cold waters made her think of how the vast power of nature, can take a thing full of vitality and life, and quash into a lifeless object in an instant. She shivered. She had seen Bob’s father's gray motionless body last year at his funeral.

Suddenly Bob surfaced in a burst of water and motion and flailing arms and the sound of gasping for air. He was dazed but conscious and alive. He wiped the water out of his eyes and gave the ok sign with his fingers, and said “I am ok” as the Free Diving rules required. 

Marcia glanced at the three judges.

“Red card. Touching face before the ok signal,” one announced holding a stern unwavering expression.

“What?!” Bob shouted and tried to wave his arm but was too tired to lift it.

They pulled him up into the boat. He slumped into a chair inside and for the rest of the trip Bob sat with a scowl. It took hours for the free divers to all finish competing, then for the safety divers to come up and stow away their scuba gear. Marcia couldn’t find anyway to cheer him up.

When the last diver was back onboard, Loud Mike opened a can of Coors Lite, asked for everyone’s attention and proclaimed, “No records were broken today, but it was a great dive for everyone. And happy to have Marcia with us even if she’s not diving today,“ he nodded toward her and then back toward everyone, “When we’re happy we dive, when we’re sad we dive, and when we’re bored we dive, we are the Sheboygan Deep Divers!” Everyone clapped and whooped it up until they became quiet again.


When they got back to shore and loaded all their heavy equipment into the car, Marcia said, “How about Schulz’s?” 

Bob nodded and she drove to Schultz’s Brat House, their usual post-dive lunch. Their friends called it a ‘dive bar’ restaurant. A waiter took their order, brats and sauerkraut and a plate of cheese sauce covered nachos. Bob ordered a beer. Marcia declined, saying she wanted to focus on the drive back home in the unpleasant weather.

Bob lamented, “The judges were rushing me pre-dive.”

“Maybe,” Marcia replied with a smile.

“Getting a red card is so embarrassing,” Bob said as his faced turned red. “I feel like I never want to join them again.”

 “Every diver makes mistakes, no one blames you,” she said, trying to appeal to Bob’s rational side.

“Every diver makes mistakes?” he said, repeating her words. “It sounds like you don't care about my failure.”

Bob ate his pancakes for a while, then his face changed expression and he looked up with something to say.

“I don't think I can be happy unless you finish your CPR certification.”

“Why are you bringing this up now?” Marcia said suddenly feeling unbalanced.

“I have done mine. Why haven’t you done yours?”

“What?” Marcia said, still confused as to how the topic shifted to CPR training.

Bob said insistently, “I can’t stand being with someone so selfish.” 

“Relax, Bob,” Marcia said as she felt herself getting irritated. She thought about walking out as she has done a few times before. But that only made things worse.

Bob as usual didn’t back down, “Relax? Relax? I think we need to break up.”

“Ok. I CPR.. certification.. training.”

“If you can do that, maybe I can stop being so angry.”

When he got this way it usually just took time for him to cool off. Marcia avoided him as much as she could for the rest of the day. Hopefully, TV would get him thinking about other things later.


The next morning, Bob woke up smiling and looking refreshed.

“I found a webpage with tips to help with my anger management.”

“That sounds good, Bob,” Marcia said, feeling exhausted from talking about conflict. She wished things could be simpler for a change, especially now.

“Why don't you sound happier? I thought you would be happy to hear I’ve looked into the thing you asked me to.”

She looked out at the distant sliver of Lake Michigan in the kitchen window and pretended to be busy cooking breakfast. When Bob looked relaxed again, she thought she would tell him how his arms and chest had really filled out from his workouts, and then get into what she really wanted to talk about today.

July 22, 2022 06:39

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Lily Finch
03:30 Aug 17, 2022

Hi Scott, enjoyed your pace. Felt sorry for Marcia. Bob needs more than anger management classes! Personality types and reality that ends with either way for Marcia. I think she will finally stand her ground and talk about it. Thanks for the great read! LF6


03:37 Aug 17, 2022

Thanks for reading! I just had the thought that after reading so many 'inspirational' fiction stories with magical parables at the end on how to live better,etc.. the reality for most of my relatives and friends is more just about getting on and living with differences. Yes, I think Bob will calm down with his competitiveness as he get a few years older, and Marcia will stand her ground.


Lily Finch
15:41 Aug 17, 2022

That sounds good to me! LF6


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05:25 Jul 27, 2022

First, I love that you reference a meyers briggs personality type. Second, its awful reading these stories and knowing there are real couples like this. Everywhere. I feel like you gave a bit a hope at the end, that she would stand her ground, but Im sure that wont happen. Loved your characters and setting.


05:48 Jul 27, 2022

Thanks for reading and commenting! I was aiming to write reality, how everyone just needs to tolerate some difficult aspect of their partner and find happiness instead of the magical journey sort of fable where everything is fixed at the end. But I was indeed contemplating a more hopeful story arc when the time ran out. I think this couple will be ok when Bob gets a bit older and more mature.


05:55 Jul 27, 2022

btw I love all the websites about mbti types.. as an INFP/INTP.. it def gives me insight to what other people are looking for. I might research other types in the future to generate character and story ideas, that would be fun.


05:59 Jul 27, 2022

Yeah I love the mbti types. Ive done the actual tests and the websites. I always come up as INTP, should you need any insight into that type lol. Its really the only thing ive found that most people agree is accurate.


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Michał Przywara
21:13 Jul 26, 2022

The main impression I get from Marcia is "walking on eggshells". And then for Bob, "lashing out". He definitely seemed on edge throughout the whole story, and while initially I thought he might have had a point (perhaps there was unfairness) he also took things too far. Looking for problems where there were none. The whole CPR/divorce thing really drove home how unreasonable it is. Finally, we do learn that he's struggling with anger, and things make sense. This ties nicely to the quote at the beginning. Bob is very much stuck in his tin...


23:53 Jul 26, 2022

Thanks so much for reading and understanding the story, Michal. Rather than the usual framework of a clever twist showing the MC a secret path to happiness, I wanted to paint a picture of how so many people in reality just need to live with tolerating anger in someone they know. On the hopeful side, after reading a psychology book about the stages of maturity a few years ago, I learned that a lot of troublesome behaviours like acting out and narcissism are just a stages of life people eventually grow out of. Marcia is pregnant, which might...


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Tommy Goround
00:47 Jul 25, 2022

maybe give next draft "version 2.0" so we can see all the changes. Might get the award for most tenacity. :-)


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Tommy Goround
04:28 Jul 24, 2022

Updated other thread. Now let's chat about "free diving" and stuff (for the rest of your fans). Read about a guy that scrubs the underside of a SS ...maybe 15 years ago. How funny it was to find myself in Monterey and wanting a weird job. Yes. That job exist and actually pays. ..100-300 a foot and you get to dive all day. (Do the math and that is lawyer money around 200k/year if you have enough business). (*You can really dig into that job and see the new tech with Robots and Environmental remediation, etc). The point is tha...


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Tommy Goround
02:57 Jul 24, 2022

John Cheever. The pool story: man sneaks into a hundred pools in the Hamptons and delightfully engages in swimming. Husbands run him out. I don't think it is a religious experience at all (unlike other commentators). The whole thing is about having sex with other men's wives in their back yard between the hedges. John Cheever. -Love the dive context. Love learning new jobs/hobbies/details and surrounds. Keep keep. -Love "dive bar"; red card over technicality is interesting. Love "shultz" and Edmond Fitgerald reference (2 points for Gordo...


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Mike Panasitti
14:11 Jul 23, 2022

Is Freshwater Freediving an officially recognized sport? The story seemed somewhat truncated. You suggest a possible crisis (a health problem during a dive), a resolution of the crisis (the wife's CPR training), and, then at the end, the precipitating factor for the crisis (Bob's anger issues). Perhaps if you start with Bob's failure at anger management, then follow up with a diving emergency and conclude with Bob's being saved by Marcia, you could have a more compelling story. All the elements are there, it's just a question of recom...


14:40 Jul 23, 2022

Thanks for your feedback Mike, the main theme is repetitiveness of dealing with a close relative with anger issues, and how they can project their frustration into finding fault in the people around them (thinking that his wife needs CPR training takes his mind off his own mistake in not completing the dive correctly), and sometimes in reality there's just no solution for others but to just let it go and tolerate it. Marcia loves Bob and just finds she needs to ignore his moodiness. A few weeks ago I watched 'The Bear' which deals with some ...


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12:44 Jul 23, 2022

Great story and Good topic to discuss in a short story , really nice


15:22 Jul 23, 2022

Thanks for reading and commenting!


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