“Oh, dive, Wemedge, will you?” Kate said. “Do a good dive.” They were sitting together on the dock leaning back against one of the big piles.
“Do a noiseless one, Wemedge,” Odgar said.
Nick, dripping, walked out on the springboard, remembering how to do the dive. Odgar and Kate watched him, black in the dark, standing at the end of the board, poise and dive as he had learned from watching a sea otter, in the water as he turned to come up to the air Nick thought, Gosh, if I could only have Kate down here. He came up in a rush to the surface, feeling water in his eyes and ears. He must have started to take a breath.
“It was perfect. Absolutely perfect,” Kate shouted from the dock.
Nick came up the ladder.
“Where are the men?” he asked.
“They’re swimming way out in the bay,” Odgar said.
Nick lay down on the dock beside Kate and Odgar. He could hear the Ghee and Bill swimming way out in the dark.
“You’re the most wonderful diver, Wemedge,” Kate said, touching his back with her foot. Nick tightened under the contact.
“No,” he said.
“You’re a wonder, Wemedge,” Odgar said.
“Nope,” Nick said. He was thinking, thinking if it was possible to be with somebody underwater, he could hold his breath three minutes, against the sand on the bottom, they could float up together, take a breath and go down, it was easy to sink if you knew how. He had once drunk a bottle of milk and peeled and eaten a banana underwater to show off, had to have weights, though, to hold him down, if there was a ring at the bottom, something he could get his arm through, he could do it all right. Gee, how it would be, you couldn’t ever get a girl though, a girl couldn’t go through with it, she’d swallow water, it would drown Kate, Kate wasn’t really any good underwater, he wished there was a girl like that, maybe he’d get a girl like that, probably never, there wasn’t anybody but him that was that way underwater. Swimmers, hell, swimmers were slobs, nobody knew about the water but him, there was a fellow up at Evanston that could hold his breath six minutes but he was crazy. He wished he was a fish, no he didn’t. He laughed.
“What’s the joke, Wemedge?” Odgar said in his husky, near-to-Kate voice.
“I wished I was a fish,” Nick said.
“That’s a good joke,” said Odgar.
“Sure,” said Nick.
“Don’t be an ass, Wemedge,” said Kate.
“Would you like to be a fish, Butstein?” he said, lying with his head on the planks, facing away from them.
“No,” said Kate. “Not tonight.”
Nick pressed his back hard against her foot.
“What animal would you like to be, Odgar?” Nick said.
“J. P. Morgan,” Odgar said.
“You’re nice, Odgar,” Kate said. Nick felt Odgar glow.
“I’d like to be Wemedge,” Kate said.
“You could always be Mrs. Wemedge,” Odgar said.
“There isn’t going to be any Mrs. Wemedge,” Nick said. He tightened his back muscles. Kate had both her legs stretched out against his back as though she were resting them on a log in front of a fire.
“Don’t be too sure,” Odgar said.
“I’m awful sure,” Nick said. “I’m going to marry a mermaid.”
“She’d be Mrs. Wemedge,” Kate said.
“No she wouldn’t,” Nick said. “I wouldn’t let her.”
“How would you stop her?”
“I’d stop her all right. Just let her try it.”
“Mermaids don’t marry,” Kate said.
“That’d be all right with me,” Nick said.
“The Mann Act would get you,” said Odgar.
“We’d stay outside the four-mile limit,” Nick said. “We’d get food from the rumrunners. You could get a diving suit and come and visit us, Odgar. Bring Butstein if she wants to come. We’ll be at home every Thursday afternoon.”
“What are we going to do tomorrow?” Odgar said, his voice becoming husky, near to Kate again.
“Oh, hell, let’s not talk about tomorrow,” Nick said. “Let’s talk about my mermaid.”
“We’re through with your mermaid.”
“All right,” Nick said. “You and Odgar go on and talk. I’m going to think about her.”