This is an edited piece from another group’s prompt: “Water gives life. It also takes it away. Write a short piece – fiction or non-fiction – inspired by one or both of these statements.” So, without further ado, this is Drifting.




Gently undulating.

The sun dimmed ever so slowly. The summer day’s brightness was replaced by a hazy, darkening sky. He accepted the feeling—listened to the distant sounds echoing through the water around him.

Trips to the lake house always brought with them exuberance. The wonton, carefree air washed over the twins. School had turned it’s final page, ending that chapter. Summer opened it’s first and greeted them with a warming kiss and hugged them full of excitement. They had what seemed like an eternity of guilt-free, heedless exploration before them.

As they had every year, they aired the cabin out. The white sheets once covering the furniture now hung on the line, waving lazily in the breeze. Their belongings were stowed away. The grill now emitted the smell of freedom.

It didn’t take long before the gauntlet was cast down.

“I’m going to win this year.”

“Like, hell, you piss-ant. You think those swimming lessons are really going to get you anywhere? You’re going to lose. Just like every other year.”

“It’s gonna happen this time.”

“We’ll see.”

The race was always the culmination of a year’s worth of one-uppance. Who had the better grades—who the prettier girlfriend. Regardless, it always seemed to come down to this.

They could see the long-abandoned buoy bouncing playfully at the turnaround point. It called to them. Out a quarter-mile from the shore, it pleaded for a visit.

“You want to get your ass kicked now or in the morning?”

“Let’s do this. You are going to lose this time, I’m telling you.”

After shucking their clothes down to their trunks, they stood at the edge of the water, poised, full of determination. One of the teens had always been a stronger swimmer, but it wasn’t truly about the win, it was about the race. The water brought them both to life. They chuckled in the mirror still, remembering checking their necks as children, looking for the gills their father said they were going to grow one day.




“Call it.”


The shimmering surface of the lake exploded into a million glittering droplets as the boys hit the water full-forced. Arms flailed. Legs kicked at a violent pace.

He glanced to the side. He was ahead of the stronger brother, but not by much.

Push… PUSH!

The buoy was only a short distance away, but the teen’s lungs were aflame, his muscles swelling, numb, heavy—spent. He looked around frantically. He was alone. He reached for the buoy, but it was much too far yet. Panic, instead, reached back out for him. His limbs cemented themselves. They had no other option.



Gently undulating.


The sun dimmed ever so slowly. The summer day’s brightness was replaced by a hazy, darkening sky. He accepted the feeling—listened to the distant sounds echo through the water around him. There was beautiful tranquility that followed the panic. A divine calmness enveloped him as he released all remorse for not allowing himself anything to return to shore on.

An instant before he lost his vision completely, he saw a white form glide toward him. It was saying something to him, but he couldn’t make out the voice. The form grabbed him and shot upward, pushing him above it. He smiled internally, knowing which “way” he was going. The light disappeared as he lost consciousness.

The stronger brother dragged his limp body as quickly as he could toward shore, where their panicked father took over. That would be the last Summer they raced to the buoy. In fact, that would be the last time they competed over anything.

Years later and irregardless of being separated by jobs, distance, or life, they all gathered each Summer to relax at the lake house. Though they never spoke of that year’s incident, at some point they all looked at each other, then out over the crystalline water at the buoy, safely from their place on shore. In silent reverence, they thanked God that the former teen’s life was spared that day.


Photo credit: Nomadic Lass / Foter / CC BY-SA


The Beginning
About Brandon P. Duncan

Brandon is a dad, husband, US Soldier, and co-founder of Dads Round Table.
When not knee-deep in one of those things, he can often be found tinkering with a woodworking project, writing, drawing, or Photoshopping something... or napping... or he's hurt himself again... or... something...

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  1. Kelly says:

    Oh! No. No, no, no.

    We have so many lakes around us..and I felt like I was right there!!

    Great, great job!!!

    • Thank you! It wasn’t all brimming with suspense like YOURS, but I do appreciate it! 🙂

  2. I had a feeling yours wouldn’t have a happy ending….

    I see we both like buoys…

    I love this, the description, the grill smelling of freedom. The floating

    My only complaint are the pronouns. I was confused at first if it was a father floating with the “he” then referencing “the twins.” It was as though you tried to write from both of the twins perspective (always using “them” or “their” but never viewing it from “his brother”), but I was left wondering if it was the same one throughout or if it switched view points – at least until the end.

    Wonderful job.

    • Hmmm… good call. You are right, that could have been adjusted… it never switched POV’s – I assumed the ‘one was a stronger swimmer…’ took care of that…

      Good eye! Thank you so much for the comment. I’ll be watching for that a little better in the future!

  3. Andrea says:

    Wow. That was really good. Powerful writing. I really enjoyed it.

    I do get what the first commenter was saying, I did go back to make sure HE was one of the twins, for a split second i thought he was the father of twins and lost a child who was swimming, but then we lost him. Wow. Really loved this. I kind of have a lump in my throat after reading … Well done.

    • Thank you! Yeah, after reading, I can see where it might be confusing. Hopefully that won’t happen again! Got a little sucked in on this and missed the obvious! It happens… 🙂

  4. Your descriptions are amazing, it felt as though I was right there on the lake, experiencing all the tastes and smells.

  5. Jack says:

    Very nicely done. I need to tweak mine a bit- I liked the flow of this, the way it cascaded along kept my interest.

    • Thanks, Jack! I needed it to flow quickly and I was trying some new things… I appreciate the comment! I will be sure to look for yours. Make sure you check out JR’s and @KPugs posts. Great ones!

  6. Lydia says:

    Ugh, really like this but it took me by surprise (even when the possibility of a drowning lurked in the corner). That being said I like the contrast between the lighter carefree beginning and the darker, sadder ending. Great job.

    • Thank you! You have been such a great supporter! I always appreciate the comments!

  7. Great imagery – I feel like I’m at the lake-house, just opened for the first time this season – I’m watching the boys stand at the edge of the lake, ready to dive – I see the one floating gently to the bottom of the lake, shivers – with the prompt – I’ve been expecting death – you did it gracefully.

    • Wow! Very detailed! Thank you so much! Never thought that I would be able to do a graceful death… (just not a comment you think you’re going to hear!) 😉

  8. Carrie says:

    Your imagery of the lake was beautiful. I really enjoyed the opening piece. And the ending was a good balance to the beginning for imagery.

    I was also confused by whose POV it was and the sudden drowning definitely caught me by surprise. I think it could have used a little bit more as a transition…

    • Thank you! Yeah, I got caught up in the emotional part of the story… missed some easy fixes. When you read your own works, sometimes you miss stuff – the whole, ‘I know what I’m saying thing…’ All good, though, that’s why we do this, right?

      I appreciate the comments!

  9. Your description is always amazing, Brandon. My favorite descriptive sentence of this piece came just after the Go!
    “The shimmering surface of the lake exploded into a million glittering droplets as the boys hit the water full forced.”
    I could picture that so clearly.

    Nicely done!

    • Thank you so much! I am really working on my descriptive skills. The prompts really help to flex a little. 🙂

  10. angela says:

    Your descriptions are excellent, and I really like the flow of the piece. I feel it reads a little like a wave crashing in, then slowly out again, which works so well with the water imagery. I could feel the drowning lurking around the corner, but I thought it worked well in the piece without seeming contrived.

    • I can’t see the wave, as you put it (this piece is hard for me to read) but thank you so much, that is very flattering! I appreciate you reading!

  11. I loved the opening, the description of the lake, the rivalry. It was all very tangible. Great post!

    • Thank you for the comment! I appreciate you reading today!

  12. I agree with the chorus of voices about how strong the beginning of this piece was, I was right there with the boys routing for the underdog (as usual) and I too felt a drowning lurking around the corner. I did find the boys transition to drowning jarringly peaceful, I felt I needed a little more resistance, but I loved this line for all of its structural beauty: ‘A divine calmness enveloped him as he released all remorse for not allowing himself anything to return on.’

    • Thank you so much! Again, great criticism – very useful. I attempted to capture his fatigue to tie in to the lack of resistance, but it can still use some work. Good stuff!

  13. CDG says:

    Hey, so… sad!

    You coming out swinging, all that rich description, I love it! The water is tangible, the house very real–the feeling of freedom from responsibility.

    I could sense the drowning, but I couldn’t see how it would happen, and here’s where we get to it. You say the boys do this every year, and that they practically “have gills.” What is it about this particular event that makes it so hard for the one boy to finish?

    Also, I get that they’re racing, totally competing, but how can one of them just vanish and not see the other’s in distress?

    And one spelling thing: wanton.

    Okay, now I’m done. Except to say that I love the way the ending echoes the beginning, especially once we know how it turns out.

    • I was waiting for you, lol! Ok, I don’t normally ‘fight back’ if you will, but I like our discussions on writing…

      – The boy always loses. Every time. He doesn’t hold anything for the return this time, therefore, completely burned out.

      – Maybe the one DOES and cannot get to him? Too far back from a spectacular, one-time loss?

      – Wanton is spelled correctly. 😉

      – I was hoping the end had that effect. Never tried to write with a repeated verse. SO glad it turned out well!

      Thank you so much! You are going to be a valuable resource! I’m glad I met you! 🙂

      • CDG says:

        Aw, that’s not fighting back.

        That’s a conversation.

        I can dig it.

  14. Jackie says:

    Well, that was an ending that I didn’t expect!!

    You’re a great writer and I loved how descriptive you were with everything!

    • LOL! You might be the only one. Apparently everyone else expected me to kill someone off… 🙂

      Getting quite the rep around here for that, I guess!

      Thank you for reading and commenting!

  15. Brandon, your writing is better and better everytime I read a post.
    This is so full of description and layers.
    The drowning didn’t feel scary or sudden it felt almost beautiful and accepted

    • Thank you! Wow, I honestly do not know what to say! I appreciate your comments!

  16. Katie says:

    I love the word “undulating” and that they stripped down to their “trunks”.

    I hated the drowning…but only because I hate drowning. I knew I would have to read about them today. blech. but I LOVE how you didn’t make it violent or awful…it fit with the beauty of the rest of the post.

    • Aww, thanks. I know it was probably not the ending you wanted to read. Sorry for that! I do appreciate you stopping by though! 🙂

  17. Deb says:

    Very lovely. I’m with Jennifer… I love the line “A divine calmness enveloped him as he released all remorse for not allowing himself anything to return on.” But the line before that? “There was beautiful tranquility that followed the panic.” took my breath. Well done Duncan. 🙂

    • Thanks Deb! Sounds like you went through two seconds of rather steep emotions, there! 🙂

      I appreciate you stopping by for a visit!

  18. There’s a really nice flow with this one. The beginning was so beautiful (my favorite line was actually the one about the smell of freedom on the grill) and then the ending sneaked up on me. I wasn’t sure if that’s the direction you were going and when it became clear, it made my heart pound.

    I think what I liked too was that drowning is a silent death, and that’s how you wrote it.

    Good job, man!

    • Thank you Mandy. I appreciate the comment!

      I’m TERRIFIED of drowning. I don’t think mine would be silent ONE…LITTLE…BIT… 😉

  19. tracy says:

    I saw it coming and didn’t want to read it..but your incredible writing drew me in.

  20. Stacey says:

    I thought that’s what was going to happen, but I didn’t want to believe it until the end. Oy! Your last paragraph was so beautiful. The perfect ending to a tragic story!

  21. Amy says:

    Great story! I could see it coming but was hoping he would be saved. Great writing!

    • Thanks for stopping by and reading it! Much appreciated!

  22. Some lovely descriptive writing, Brandon. I liked the line about the grill smelling like freedom because it so does.

    But where was the other twin? wouldn’t he have noticed since they were racing? and if they were good swimmers, wouldn’t he be able to float on his back for a bit at least?

    Inquiring minds want to know! 😉

    • Thanks Cheryl, I appreciate the comment!

      CDG asked similar questions – Sometimes when there is an unexpected, spectacular loss, people give up… maybe he did see and it was too late? Maybe when you compete and just absolutely do not save anything, you simply find yourself not being able to do anything about the fatigue?

      I do know that I have felt the terror when you get to this point and go under… not a good feeling… 🙂

  23. Ash says:

    Love the grill reference and the thought of white sheets being removed. Your details are superb. Not crazy about the ending, but only because I have two sons of my own :). Brotherly competition can, most certainly, be deadly. Very well done.

    • Thank you so much! I have twin boys also, so yes, I can see your point very well. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by.

  24. My goodness, it took a while to get through all the comments. I love the way you bring it full circle, but to be honest it felt just a line or two short, as though we got back there a little too quickly. You have great descriptions though. I love the line about the gills their dad told them they’d sprout.

    • You might be right. I was playing with one word snippets that elevate emotions. If I were writing a book, I wouldn’t have done it like this. Thank you for reading! Good to see you back. 🙂

  25. “The shimmering surface of the lake exploded into a million glittering droplets as the boys hit the water full forced.”

    I’m pretty sure that was my favorite line. You have such an amazing way with words…they paint a perfect picture. My only real critique would be that it felt like something was missing. One minture they were racing and the next he was drowning. Maybe it has something to do with the one words snippets that you talked about above. However, please know that it didn’t take away my enjoyment of the story. I can’t wait to read more of your work!

    • brandon says:

      Yes, wordcounts are very frustrating at times, however, I’m sure you can see why doing prompts with wordcounts can make your writing better? It’s very difficult to paint a full, vivid picture in 5-600 words.

      Welcome to Story Dam. You already have a good start, Lisa. You aren’t afraid to critique, so that’s good. You’ll be a welcome addition to our community.

  26. I enjoyed this. I think I missed it the first go round, but it was a nice read now.

    • Thanks, Steph. No words of wisdom? Or did they all get covered?

      • Not this time. I just read it for enjoyment. I like to do that sometimes too (actually I’m more of a pleasure reader than a critiquer, but I’m trying.)

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