(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

As an unnamed adolescent girl practices diving into Lake Erie, a crowd of people watch her on the beach. The girl concentrates so fully on perfecting her dive that she does not notice a tear developing in the side of the worn, black bathing suit that she is outgrowing.

One of those watching the girl is a fat man who lolls in the water talking to his friend Freddy about business; both ogle the girl lustfully, making remarks about “biting off a piece” of her. Other watchers include an old Polish woman and her overweight friend, who talk about caring for their parents and who criticize the girl for having no shame. Also on the beach is a pretty young girl with a junior-miss nose who hugs herself the way her favorite starlet does. The men are not interested in the pretty girl on the beach; they sense that she would fear to dive into the tricky, polluted lake water. Her mother declares, with some satisfaction, that the diving girl will get an earache because of the organisms in the water.

The diving girl has fled all the billboard schemes of a pretty girl in order to focus on a grand design: perfecting her dive. Although her exercises are simple, she has an idea of what they should be and she has the will of perfection. The men who watch her from the beach think that her self-sufficiency is a pity and a waste, and it makes them sad. The women on the beach envy her youth and devotion to her art, but consider themselves morally superior to her....

(The entire section is 464 words.)