But Tropical Storm Jimena is sending out winds, and on the day of the race the Pacific is a treacherous hostess. Of the 947 swimmers who start the race, 590 can't finish and 361 have to be rescued, some by helicopter.
"This is the strongest current we've had in 34 years," Roughwater committee president Ted Sheppard will tell The Honolulu Advertiser.
I was frantic with worry.
"They made us quit," Cary says to me by phone, in disgust, the following day. "We went off in stages, and my group got the worst current. We were passing people, and everyone was going backward, but we were going backward slower than they were. I'd been swimming for over two hours when they stopped me, and I was just getting to the easy part."
In a pool Cary can swim a mile in about 18 minutes; 2.4 miles in probably 50 minutes. In this race she still had more than half a mile to go. But she would have made it. No question about it. My worry all along was that she wouldn't stop. Even with a tidal wave on the horizon.
Somehow I am now an assistant coach for Z's football team. Before I took that three-day-a-week volunteer job, I watched one practice from my car, reading newspapers. Then, two days later, on a gorgeous afternoon, I watched while seated under a tree, mesmerized by the smell, the light, the timeless machinations of this hormonal coming-out party before me. "Hey, Mr. Telander," said one of the rec-center staff members pleasantly, startling me in mid-reverie. That was all it took to sign me up.
My key west team, Blossom's Grocery, is playing a night game at Perry Court near the naval housing over by Garrison Bight. On my team is Richie Powell, the younger, larger brother of former major league player Boog Powell. Richie goes about 6'4", 280. He's a sweet guy. Between innings he sits in the dugout and smokes cigarettes and drinks beer. He has a catlike quickness, even at his size (he was once a grand discus thrower) and in this slo-pitch, limited-are league, when you throw him a strike, he will hit it out of the park. The ball just goes. Guys on both teams always laugh at the sound of the concussion. The ball, when Richie hits it in one of these night games, will leave the ring of diamond light and disappear into the black sky before reappearing in descent—almost an afterthought—awhile later, far, far on the other side of the fence.
But the pitchers in the league are no longer pitching to Powell. They intentionally walk him—with the bases empty, loaded, no outs, two outs, anything in between. Powell has been walked four straight times tonight, on pitches he can't reach even by jumping across the plate and flailing at like a man trying to smack a moth with a newspaper.
"I'm not going," he tells the ump after the final ball four. He stands. He looks down. He hits the plate again and again with his bat and then digs up dirt with his shoes and covers the plate so that it is invisible.
"No," Powell says. "No more."