So I decided that this year will be the year that I outswim the dolphin that lives in the river at the end of my lane. I mean, I say that as though I try it every year but I’ve never tried it once, if I’m to tell the truth; not once. I’ve always been too scared.

One year, I’d dipped my toes in the river but he poked his head out of the water and smiled at me with that knowing smile, with that ‘what do you think you’re going to achieve here?’ smile, and I got scared and waded back to the dock and ran all the way home, my wet feet slapping on the asphalt.

And another year, I went knee deep but then he did one of those back flip somersault things, big show off, and I was so intimidated that I peed myself a little and ran splashing out the water and ran all the way home, my pee-soaked trunks slapping against my thighs.

Last year I got in all the way to my chest but he was nowhere in sight…until I felt him bump his nose right up against my butt, cheeky thing! He gave me such a fright, I splashed my way right out of that river and hoisted myself back on to the dock and, well you know the rest…

I mean, if you think about it, how could I, a kid with arms so scrawny that my dog tries to bury them in the backyard, expect to win a swim race against a creature of the sea? But Pa says you have to set big goals if you’re to live big in this life, and I’ve decided that this is mine. And this year, this year, I’m going to do it! Swim my way past that waterlogged mammal, all the way to glory!

I told him as much, because Ma says you have to say your goals out loud in order to manifest them. So I went down to the river and I leaned out over the dock and, when he raised his head out the water with that funny little smirk on his face, I told him I would beat him this year. And you know what he did? I’ll tell you what he did. He just laughed and laughed in his chittery dolphin manner! Not unkindly, I suppose, if I’m to tell the truth – I don’t think dolphins have it in them to be unkind – but it’s clear he doesn’t think I can do it and it stung my ego nonetheless.

Why should it be so funny? Why couldn’t I win? It’s as perfectly feasible for me to win a swim race against a dolphin as it is for a dolphin to live in a river at the end of a row of houses in the middle of Northern Ireland.

And there in the river he is, so here I am and I am going to do it.

I’ve bought my new speedos and a set of flippers and some goggles, I’ve read all there is to know about dolphins and their swimming patterns, and every morning I remind myself that I am good enough, strong enough, and smart enough to do it.

This is the year I’m going to beat that dolphin right on his own turf.

All I need to do now is learn how to swim…

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