Coatikit is 19 now, and he did eventually learn how to swim. And no, of course Coati had done no such thing, and never ever would have. But dying sort of short-circuits parts of the brain.
After several hours in a hot car with two preschoolers, Coati and Tiger were looking forward to the motel pool. It was unlit, but both parents swam, as well as Tigercub. But Coatikit was only three, and so he and Tiger played horsie in the shallow end.
As Coati stayed with the ecstatic Tigercub in the deep end, Tiger happily bounced around with Coatikit on her shoulders. But instead of the usual gradual rake, this pool's transition between shallow and deep was a steep and sudden fall. Tiger couldn't swim with 30 pounds of kid on her shoulders; and down they both went under the black water.
She struggled frantically. Coatikit had reflexively tightened his grip for literally dear life, and she couldn't dislodge him. She could hear him scream desperately for help: At least for the time being he was above water, and she held her breath as well as she could; but it took too long and too much energy, and she breathed in water. She intellectually noticed her lungs' outrage at being filled with non-air.
This is drowning. I am going to die. Oh God, Coatikit is going to die too. Oh no no no no. She flashed on a future news story: It was on the bottom half of page two of some local tabloid: Mom and Toddler Drown in Tragic Motel Pool Accident. She could see their blurry pictures from some happier time. Coatikit was as usual joyously showing his dimple. His ringlets were Coati's dark blond; his eyes were Tiger's dark brown. Oh no no no. Not my Coatikit.
Where was Coati? Couldn't he hear Coatikit scream?
Finally, she shook Coatikit free just long enough to surface and give one desperate yell for help–and down she went again in despair. But Coati came and grabbed Coatikit, and she was able to choke and paddle her way to the side of the pool, where Coatikit was howling hysterically.
Back in the motel room, Coati was wrangling the two frantic children (Coatikit was blessedly completely fine) while Tiger coughed and cried alone on the edge of the bed. She felt abandoned and frightened.
"Why didn't you come earlier?" Tiger gasped. Coati logically explained that Coatikit yelled for help ALL the time–for imaginary dangers; that it wasn't until he had heard Tiger's own plea that he realized that it was for real; and that he was just about to head back to her when Coatikit was safe.
But even the breath of Death puffs away reason, and for a long time the terrifying thought slithered in the back of her head: Their marriage was less than perfect. Had he left her there to drown?