‘The Lifeguard’ by Mary Morris

The Lifeguard by Mary Morris, 1987

The magic trick:

Establishing a reiterating a theme as the story’s foundation

“The Lifeguard” moves in some unexpected ways as the plot twists and turns. But one theme is established from the start very clearly: the advantages of youth. Life is good for our young protagonist. Physical attraction is a transaction made by the minute and personal tragedy is but a mere curiosity. By the third paragraph, our narrator is already contrasting himself against the previous lifeguards who have already gone flabby. Everything is framed through the lens of youth vs. time passed. With that theme as the story’s bedrock, the reader is able to consider the dramatic plot as not some crazy, unrealistic twist, but rather as another variation on the established ideas on youth.

And that’s quite a trick on Morris’s part.

The selection:

That summer the girls would not stay away, and I’d have to hold them at bay. They’d offer to buy me things – Cokes, hot dogs – and rub cream on my back while I sat like an idol perched in my chair. I liked being above them because I could see down the front of their bathing suits, and even though they knew I was looking at their breasts, they did nothing to hide.

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