You could drown if you swam in there. It looked deep, even though the sides, stretching down ten feet at least, were overgrown with pondweed, dandelion, nettles and ferns, a messy hairdo of weeds and crumbling grey rock, bursting with vegetation and rotten soil fruited with beetles and worms. I shivered and looked down at my bony white knees.
My shorts hung from my hips like an overused shirt from a coat-hanger. The old blue towel, threadbare in places, patched with bleach stains from my sister’s home dye jobs was rolled up in my left hand, pressed tightly against my thigh. I shook with fear.
A mock swimming pool. A brutal mockery. Who would want to, who would dare, climb down the rusty ladder, made for men a century and half before, to move peat and soil from barge boats painted green and peeling.
Their breath must have smelt of stout and rotten meat in the cold muggy air. None of that mattered now though. Because I had to swim in there. I had to. It was a done deal. A sure thing.
Flinny and the others stood on the other side, their legs spread apart like four cowboys waiting to duel. Smithy’s lip curled up like Clint Eastwood’s.
“What you waiting for then, shitbag?”
They roared with laughter, shoving each other around, their bare feet making archaic bird-like impressions in the sludgy earth. One end of this ten foot basin opened into the river, with a curved bridge above it topped by a footpath for anyone who cared to walk along the damp banks into Salford.
I stepped closer to the edge. A baby snail crunched between my toes, squirming for life. I closed my eyes and half jumped, half tripped into nothing, pulling in as much air as I could into my lungs. My arms were flailing, I was out of control, my legs cycling in thin air. The water hit me like a fat slap.