Neddy Merrill decides one lazy fine Sunday to swim back to his home through all the swimming pools in the county. A funny idea. Almost a gimmick. But as Neddy gets home, summer has passed, the leaves have fallen, and Neddy’s confidence and youthfulness are gone and the gimmick has worn away. In darkness, he reaches his completely empty and abandoned house. That’s always what I remember first about ‘The Swimmer’. The darkness. As I’m reading it again, I get the sense of what is happening to Neddy, but I know I’ll lose the story’s meaning again. I can’t explain why. The story of Neddy Merrill’s emotional and financial downfall makes sense but the story slips away for me every time.
First published in The New Yorker, 1964, and available to subscribers to read here. Collected in The Brigadier and the Golf Widow, Harper & Row, 1964, and The Stories of John Cheever, Alfred A. Knopf, 1978; now Collected Stories, Vintage Classics, 2010