It was a beautiful day. The sun was beating down and there was hardly a breath of wind.
“Let’s go swimming,” suggested Jenny.
“I’m afraid I can’t take you,” apologised Mum. “I’ve got too much to do today.”
“Can’t we go on our own?” begged Jenny. “The outdoor pool is going to be closing soon.”
“All right,” said Mum doubtfully, “but take care, and be home in time for tea.” David raced from the room to get his trunks, and Mum looked at Jenny. “Keep your eye on David,” she said.
Little did she know that it would be Jenny who would need looking after.
When they got to the pool Tag flew up and sat on the roof while they went and changed. He gazed down at the people enjoying the fine weather. There hardly seemed to be room to move at the shallow end of the pool, where huge numbers of children shouted and played, but there was plenty of space at the deep end.
David and Jenny quickly found some friends and started by seeing who could make the biggest splash when they jumped in. Then they started to play fishy-in-the-middle. This was just like piggy-in-the-middle, with two people throwing a ball to each other while the person in the middle tries to catch it, but much harder because everyone was swimming. Tag soon joined in – he was very good at swooping over the water to catch the ball, and sometimes they ended up playing dragon-in-the-middle.
Then they had a competition to see who could stay underwater the longest. Tag was enthralled. He had often been swimming on the pond in the park, pretending to be a duck, but he had never thought of swimming under the water. The children were fascinated to see Tag down there with them. It was a bit like watching him flying, but instead of spreading his wings he made them short, and kept them tucked in close to his body.
On the bottom of the pool were some hoops, weighted down so that people could swim through them, and they watched Tag as he weaved in and out, his body twisting and turning, his tail following like a snake.
They started a diving game, racing to pick up a locker key from the bottom. Tag was always the fastest. He would often catch the key while it was still drifting down through the water. They didn’t mind – it was fun watching him. Then David and Jenny and their friends tried tricking him by dropping all their keys in together, but Tag was still too quick for them, zooming round collecting them in his mouth. He looked very funny with the keys sticking out at all angles, as if he had goofy teeth.
When they got tired of that game Jenny went off to chat to some friends who were playing in the shallow end. It was when she was swimming lazily back down the pool that the disaster happened. She had got most of the way back, and was well out of her depth, when a group of boys ran straight in off the side of the pool, laughing and shouting. They were so busy playing that they forgot to look first to see if the water was clear. Jenny found herself in the middle of a mass of arms and legs and bodies. Something heavy landed on top of her and her world turned upside down.
The blow knocked the air out of her and she found herself twisting over and over under the water. She had no idea which way was up and which was down. She thrashed wildly around, kicking for dear life. Everything was so confused that she didn’t even have time to think “I’m drowning!”
Across the pool Tag was enjoying himself trying to force the dragon-in-the-middle ball down to the bottom of the pool. It was too big to hold in his mouth, so he tried using his four feet to hold it beneath his body. But despite his best efforts, he had hardly started to swim downwards before it rolled off his round tummy and bobbed to the surface. He tried to trap it beneath his wing, but it quickly slipped out as soon as he started to descend. He was determined to solve the problem, and had decided to try holding it beneath his chin. This was more successful, and he was managing to push himself down lower and lower in the water. Then he heard a disturbance from the other side of the pool and peered through the murky water to see what was happening.
He could see Jenny, drifting downwards. But she wasn’t enjoying herself diving, she was twisting around, arms and legs waving uselessly.
Jenny! She was in trouble!
Tag released the ball and streaked through the water with powerful strokes. Faster, faster! To him it seemed that he was hardly moving.
Getting across the pool to Jenny seemed to take for ever. Tag leapt out of the water to breathe, and the nearby children blinked as a red shape appeared in front of their eyes and plunged back in, with scarcely a splash.
After what seemed an age, but was actually only a few seconds, Tag was beneath Jenny, pushing her back up to the surface with all his strength. She was waving her arms and legs, but her movements were weak and she didn’t seem to know which way to go. He got her to the surface and held her there as hard as he could. He could feel her body jump as she gasped and coughed. He himself was getting short of breath, but he had to keep supporting her. Why was no one else helping?
In fact, there was a lot going on at the side of the pool that Tag didn’t know about. People had seen Jenny splashing and sinking and had called the lifeguard. He had run round the pool towards Jenny, and even now was reaching down to her with his long pole. Something hard and smooth pushed Tag roughly out of the way as the hook on the pole went round Jenny’s body, and the lifeguard pulled her towards the steps. Tag bobbed to the surface and watched as she was hauled out and made to lie down at the side of the pool.
David came racing round the end of the pool, sliding and slipping. “Is she all right?” he asked, breathlessly.
Jenny was lying there, her eyes streaming with pool water and tears.
“She’s fine,” replied the lifeguard, “but we’ll just keep her here for a few minutes.” He kept chatting until Jenny seemed ready to sit up.
The lifeguard hadn’t noticed the boys jumping in on top of Jenny, and when her colour started to return he gently warned, “You really shouldn’t be in so deep if you’re not a strong swimmer.”
David was annoyed. “She’s a brilliant swimmer,” he said.
“In that case,” replied the lifeguard without looking up, “she should concentrate on swimming instead of playing with her toys and ending up in trouble.”
“What toys?” asked David.
“That blow-up dragon that you’ve all been playing with all afternoon,” said the lifeguard. “If I had my way you wouldn’t be allowed to bring toys in here. When I was pulling her out it was floating at her side. That one – the one under your arm,” he added, as he looked up and caught sight of Tag, who had jumped out of the pool and come to David.
Their argument was interrupted by the sound of Jenny beginning to cry.
“You’d better go home,” added the lifeguard, more kindly. “How did you get here?” David didn’t want to admit that they were there on their own. It had seemed OK while they were enjoying themselves, but now he rather wished that Mum and Dad were nearby. He went off to get the locker keys, and the lifeguard led Jenny away towards the changing rooms.
“Did you have a nice swim?” asked Mum when they got home. “Oh dear, your eyes look very red. Did the water sting them?”
David and Jenny decided not to say that Jenny had needed rescuing, but they paid Tag a lot of attention that evening, rubbing his special oil on to his skin so that it shone. Jenny made him a tiny medal, and popped it round his neck on a ribbon. It said “Life Saver”.