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The Girl in the Pool (edited)

 
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deer of the dawn
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 08, 2013 7:41 am    Post subject: The Girl in the Pool (edited) Reply with quote

(Downloadable to your e-book reader here.)

The Girl in the Pool

That summer was dry. So hot and dry that the maples bled sap from their leaves, then the leaves fell and stuck all over cars and your shoes as you walked through them. The lawns were all brown and no one closed their windows day or night. Fans humming. People usually didn’t have AC back then, maybe one room. The town pool was packed every day.

I was ten that summer, turned eleven just at the end. Just too late to enjoy the birthday gifts because school would start and all I could think of was that new bike back home in the garage, or the baseball mitt smelling like new leather in the breezeway. It was too hot for baseball anyway. And my old bike got me to the pool just fine. Tom Arndt would go with me, I’d call and ask his mom and she’d say, yes, he’ll wait for you outside. So I wouldn’t even slow down, just swerve across his yard, pretending to aim for him, and he’d jump on his bike and off we’d go. Except we had to watch out for the maples, if you rode underneath through the leaves they’d stick to your wheels and your brakes, and it was a real pain.

At the pool we threw the bikes down with everyone else’s and flashed our pool card at the attendant in the booth, a college kid who listened to the pop radio station and gazed resentfully at the pool, which was a turquoise roil of wet hair and flailing limbs and brightly-colored swim suits. We always raced to dive into the deep end, and then swam to the shallow end to play Marco Polo. All you had to do was shout “Marco!” and in moments, you had a game going.

I was Marco that one day. There was a girl named Sandra and I had an eye on her. I wanted to catch her, so I was looking around underwater and aiming for her blue suit and dark skin. She was fast and elusive and after three or four dunks I became aware of the other blue blur in the corner of the pool. It had been there, hunkered down, for a minute at least.

“Marco!”

“Polo!”

“Marco!”

“Polo!”

I lunged for Tom, who had been taunting me nearby, and grabbed his arm. We laughed and he was already shouting “Marco” when I went under and swam for the corner. As the blue and tan blur came into focus, I saw arms wrapped around knees, light brown hair waving in the water, a smile of pleasure beneath a pair of pale eyes that turned to meet mine and froze. My lungs were bursting and I went up for a breath, gulped and resubmerged myself. But she was gone.

I followed a patch of blue through the water for a short way but there were just too many people. I went back to the game. Sandra was it. I let her catch me.

A few days later Tom and I went as usual. I had seen the figure in blue almost every time we were there but decided to ignore the girl who showed off and stayed under the water all the time. But I was secretly, almost without realizing it, trying to stay under longer and longer myself. And checking the edges of the pool with the corner of my eye. She was always there. But I knew if I swam close, she wouldn’t be there anymore.

That day my bike had a flat tire and I dropped it at the service station for repair. I borrowed Tom’s old, little kid bike. It was fun at first but then it was annoying, it was so short I had to ride standing and leaning over the little handlebars. Tom left early for something, and when I left the pool, I got a ride to the gas station and I forgot his bike there, parked at the rack outside the fence.

I got my bike and rode home, and remembered about his bike. I felt bad and decided I should fetch it. My parents were out at a meeting and my older brother dropped me off in my Mom’s car so I could get the bike and ride it home. Yes, in those days a kid could ride a bike at night and no one thought anything of it. So I just got out of the car at the pool and he drove away. I collected the bike and started back toward Tom’s house.

As I passed the fence, I looked longingly at the dark, un-crowded pool. The dim water gleamed placidly, reflecting the light in the parking lot and the one over the sign at the entrance. I saw a disturbance in the water. Someone had snuck in! My brother and his friends had told me how they had done so on occasion, but that was much later in the night. I stopped and watched to see who it was.

The fence was only about five yards from the pool on that side, the ground sloped up to the fence. I watched in the dark until I could discern a dark head. I remembered the flashlight in my pocket, my brother made me take it to walk with in the dark. I grinned with mischief and readied the flashlight.

When the dark head surfaced close to the fence, I made my voice as theatrically deep as possible and turned on the flashlight yelling “Freeze! Police!!” The head turned toward me with a tiny burble which was quickly muffled in the water. It was the girl from the corner of the pool. The head didn’t come up again.

After a minute, I called out softly, “Sorry!” Then I felt lame, and picked up the bike and rode it downhill to Tom’s.

It turned cloudy and overcast after that. The sky loomed overhead, seeming to press down. It brought no relief from the heat, just humidity. We went to the pool almost daily, just the same. One morning I woke and the pressure in the air was unbearable. I know storms come from low pressure, but that isn’t how it feels. It was early still but I decided I was tired of seeing this girl out of the corner of my eye. I realized that as long as Tom was with me, I would never approach her. It wasn’t something I questioned about myself, I just knew it. So I downed my usual mixing-bowl of cereal and milk, and told my mom “I’m gonna go ride my bike” and I was out the door.

The pool opened at noon for swimming, but the gate was usually open before that. The booth at the entrance was empty. “Pool’s not open yet, kiddo,” one of the lifeguards called from the far end, where he was skimming. “Yeah, I’m, uh, looking for my watch I lost yesterday.” He nodded his sunbleached head and turned away to empty the skimmer.

I walked around the rim of the pool slowly, gazing into the water. The surface bunched and stretched in desultory patterns over the turquoise tiles. The royal blue lane lines writhed downward into the deep end. I saw a patch of tan.

So that’s how she did it. The deep end of the pool was 14 feet, and the end of one of the lane lines crossed a drain cover. With the water moving, it was hard to distinguish anything that far down, but since I was looking, I could see her balled up on the round cover.

But then she wasn’t there. As if she dissolved.

I blinked and looked again. Then there was a hint of movement over by the low diving board that caught my eye. In the shadow, I saw for just a moment, those eyes.

“Find anything, kid?” I jumped as the lifeguard stood suddenly behind me. I felt protective of the girl in the pool, and told him “not yet”.

“Stuff like that always ends up down at the very bottom. By the drain cover. Bring a mask with you and dive down. You find all kinds of junk down there… I found a gold ring once.” I wasn’t sure I believed him, but said “cool” and he walked away. I laid down on my stomach and rested my chin on the smooth, bullnosed tiles at the edge.

Very slowly, she undissolved in front of me. Just beneath the surface, her eyes matching perfectly the reflection of my eyes. She gazed at me and I at her.

Unconsciously, I smiled, and she smiled back.

I waved my hand for her to come up out of the water. Only her face to her ears came out.

“Hey, I’m Peter.”

She boosted out of the water to bring her mouth close to my ear. Just a whisper, with no air to impel it, but I heard clearly: “I’m Sidra.” Then she sunk back into the water for a moment. She was coming back up, but I heard the flip-flops of the lifeguard approaching and she vanished. I reached a hand down to the water to touch it.

“C’mon kiddo, you’re not really supposed to be in here before noon. Sorry.”

I was strangely happy and as I got to my feet I said, “It’s okay. And thanks for letting me look.”

**

It turned rainy and cool, and the college kids went back to school. Pool hours were cut to noon to four, and it was firemen manning the pool, not inattentive young people. Tom and his family went to visit relatives.

The sun peeked out one afternoon and I was bored with everything at home so I went to the pool, hoping to find friends, maybe eat a hot dog. There were a few mothers with small children on their arms, standing in the shallow end and talking motherhood. I climbed the diving board and plunged into the deep end. I didn’t see her. Someone had left a snorkeling mask by the diving board and I “borrowed” it. Underwater everything stood out with sharp clarity, even the pink legs of the preschoolers clinging to their mothers at the other end of the pool. Nothing. I sighed, then gulped a deep breath and dove for the deep.

14 feet is a lot in water. I stroked my arms downward, hearing the “ping” in my ears as the drums flexed with the pressure. I saw a penny and reached for it. As I turned to push for the surface, she was there. Her face was clear to me through the mask and I saw that her eyes were green, not blue. I smiled, but her face looked regretful. She snaked a hand to the back of my head and pushed her face at me.

Her mouth came over my face suddenly and what scant breath was left in my lungs was sucked out in nothing resembling a kiss, more like CPR in reverse. My eyes went blurry and with no air I felt confused and tore the mask from my face. Clarity returned and I looked up to see Sidra’s legs kicking for the pool surface. I watched her torso and legs disappear over the edge of the pool, into sunlight.

I was slightly dizzy and watched the sun shimmering through the water. I realized I could hear my heart beating slowly, the filter pump running, the slow clink of the penny that I had dropped to the pool bottom. And that I had been down there a long time.

I swam for the surface then, but the water felt so much like home, I broke water almost reluctantly, only to be assaulted by raw air and sunlight, my sight and hearing a muffled blur, and I immediately gagged on the air that rushed like acid into my lungs. I floundered back down to the water with immediate relief.

A fireman leaned over the edge, checking on me. When he dove in, I instinctively dissolved… a handy skill when the police came looking and I saw my parents peering over the edge.

Although I understood then what happened, I did not blame Sidra, nor feel any real sense of injustice. I took my turn in the water, then as I knew that school was starting I chose an older woman who lived alone down the street from my house, and showed up at home and entered, smiling, the embraces of my family.

But on subsequent summers, I took no notice of the ephemeral figures around the pool’s edge, nor approached them. I’d had my turn.

April 2013
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Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle. -Philo of Alexandria

ahhhh... if only all our creativity in wickedness could be fixed by "Corrupt a Wish." - Linna Heartlistener



Last edited by deer of the dawn on Mon Apr 22, 2013 2:57 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Frostheart Grueburn
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I liked it; a really interesting twist there with the mer-ghost(?) stealing the breath of a living person to become one itself.

Quote:
the leaves they’d stick to your wheels and you’re your brakes


An extra pronoun there.

Quote:
Yes, in those days a kid could ride a bike at night and no one though anything of it.


Well, still common here for kids to ride their bikes home past 9 pm (or at "night", as it's such a relative concept anyway...five hours of daylight in December and almost 24h in midsummer). A shame that matters have changed so much on the other side of the globe.

Quote:
See, you wouldn’t just accept something like that. That a girl would be living in the pool, I mean, come on. All right, I’ll let him go on. I’m just saying.


This passage felt...out of place. Perhaps it's just me.


Could I possibly persuade you to read the rest of TLJOTL at some point? So difficult to get feedback here. Wink
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deer of the dawn
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FemaleRanyhyn
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 7:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Frostheart wrote:

Quote:
See, you wouldn’t just accept something like that. That a girl would be living in the pool, I mean, come on. All right, I’ll let him go on. I’m just saying.


This passage felt...out of place. Perhaps it's just me.
Yeah, I think I'm going to eliminate all the "commentary". Smile
Quote:



Could I possibly persuade you to read the rest of TLJOTL at some point? So difficult to get feedback here. Wink

Yes, and sorry. So busy and so much of it is reading and writing!! Embarassed
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ahhhh... if only all our creativity in wickedness could be fixed by "Corrupt a Wish." - Linna Heartlistener

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2016 6:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The lifeguard either knows more than he's telling, or never quite realizes what is really going on, I can't tell which!
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