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Stranded on the Coldest Day of the Year | A Cold Day for a Swim

Phil smiled. “Training for the Winter Olympics,” he said.

That night the Coast Guard reported that the boat could not be found. So Roger’s brother, Orin, went looking on his own. He found it run aground on Great Wass Island a few miles from the ledge. He recovered the shells in the boat, took them to market, and had a check waiting for Roger and Phil when they left the hospital the next day. The first thing Roger did before he took the boat back to his mother was put an anchor in it.

* * *

In the year since, Roger and Phil, who had worked together only a few times before their ordeal, have become inseparable. Phil’s friends call Roger, “Phil Jr.” Phil has become like an older brother to him, both teasing and protective. Roger takes Phil’s advice and endures his jokes.

Phil will always joke about that day. He laughs about his nightmares, his numb feet. But in Phil’s apartment there is a little clipping from the newspaper. It is dirty, crumpled, tucked away in the bottom of an overstuffed manila envelope that will someday be a scrapbook. The headline reads, “Maine fishermen treated after swim to beach.” At the bottom Phil has printed in black block letters: “January 25, 1991. I AM ALIVE.”

Excerpt from “A Cold Day for a Swim,” Yankee Magazine, January 1993.

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