Doyle Wilson, the narrator, is nearing the end of a career that has not yet fulfilled his childhood dreams. Archie Hayes, on the other hand, has reached the pinnacle â€“ the sport has brought him money, fame, and women. Doyle and Archie battle every day in practice. Doyle bets that his work ethic and brains will somehow, just once, prevail over Archieâ€™s superior talent. Doyle burns all his bridges to focus on swimming.
The bridges do not burn quietly. Two women are interested in Doyle. In the following excerpt he meets Camille Cognac, magazine model and best female swimmer in the world, in a dark hallway at the USA team dorm:
There was only one light in the whole hallway, halfway down, flickering. It took me a couple seconds to figure out what she really wanted. I was tempted. But I was scared.
I looked at Camille in that dark hallway in Brisbane, and what I saw was one of the magazine photos. The photographer had tried to make Camille look like Marilyn Monroe. It wasnâ€™t hard to do, with her chlorine-blonde hair and her bountiful pectoral region. Her lips were parted slightly as if she were whispering something, her eyes half open, her hair tousled. She was holding up two of her Olympic gold medals, which coveredâ€¦well, they didnâ€™t cover much. The thing that stood out most to me was the tattoo on her left hip. It was a shark. A twisting mako shark, ready to lunge.
I was NOT afraid of Camille. I was afraid of the shark.
In the excerpt below, Doyleâ€™s coffee pal Molly reappears in his life after he returns from a disappointing swim at the World Championships:
I looked up at Molly after stirring my coffee and she was grinning at me so hard it made me laugh. â€œWhat?â€ I said.
â€œYour hair! Whatâ€™d you do, buzz it in Australia?â€
â€œNot quite, but yeah, I wanted it short.â€
â€œSeems to be growing in kind of fluffy-like.â€
I reached up and felt it. â€œDonâ€™t you like it short?â€
â€œI do, I love it short.â€ She took a sip of her cappuccino. â€œWithin reason.â€
â€œOh hey, I brought you something.â€ I pulled it out of my pocketâ€”a platypus keychain. Not much of a gift, really, but I knew she liked monotremes.
â€œAwww. Thanks, Doyle. If I ever get a car Iâ€™ll know right where to put the keys.â€
I love small talk with Molly, but I became keenly aware that she was on a break and our time was limited. â€œI did get a crave,â€ I said, â€œbut I actually need some advice from you.â€ We both sipped our drinks. â€œI got fourth in the World Championships.â€
â€œNice,â€ she said. â€œI saw you on TV. I liked it when you knocked your headphones cockeyed.â€ Shoot, I was hoping nobodyâ€™d noticed.
â€œGetting fourth was bad news, Iâ€™m afraid.â€ Molly needs to have these things explained to her. When she plays video games, she doesnâ€™t care who wins. I suspect she loses on purpose sometimes so no one feels bad. Thatâ€™s one thing I donâ€™t like about herâ€”Iâ€™m usually on her team.
â€œIâ€™m 24 years old,â€ I continued. â€œFor a swimmer, thatâ€™s getting pretty old if youâ€™re not at the top. At some point Iâ€™ve got to start living a real life, and it looks like nowâ€™s the time.â€
She casually pushed her Natalie Wood hair behind her left ear. â€œAre you ready?â€ she asked.
Legendary Olympic swimmer Janet Evans says this about The Underwater Window: â€œThereâ€™s romance in this story, just below the surface. Whatâ€™s most endearing about Doyle is not the all-consuming pursuit of his swimming goals, but his growing awareness that thereâ€™s more to life, and that swimming is preparing him for it. I enjoyed this book immensely.â€ The Underwater Window is appropriate for ages 13 and up, women and men, swimmers and non-swimmers. Readers will be inspired by Doyleâ€™s Olympic quest, in which he comes to grips with the true meaning of friendship and finds something better than a gold medal.
Dan Stephenson is a lawyer and world champion masters swimmer. The Underwater Window, published by Untreed Reads, is his first novel. It is available in digital and paperback versions from Amazon.com, BN.com, and the Untreed Reads store.
- About the Author
- Posts in the Past
Dan Stephenson is the author of The Underwater Window, a novel set in the world of Olympic-level swimming. Dan is a world champion masters swimmer. The Underwater Window, published by Untreed Reads, is his first novel.