The Pool

by Jasmine Pressley

 

            On my third day in the pool, the neighbors started to show up. At first it was just acquaintances. Allison from two doors down who liked afternoon rain and BLTs from the third closest deli from our neighborhood. Mark, who lived with his much older girlfriend next door.

            They came individually, with tight smiles and copious questions.

            “You’ve been in there for a while, huh?” Allison noted, while holding a plastic bag from the deli.

            “Have I?” I tilted my head and proceeded to backstroke my way to the other end of the pool.

            Allison said something that I couldn’t hear over the sound of my swimming. I swam two more laps before stopping to tread water, and to my surprise she was still standing there. Her smile had gotten tighter.

            I asked her to repeat herself.

            “I said do you think you’ll get out anytime soon?”

            “Probably not.”

            “Aren’t you tired of the water yet?”

            “I don’t think so.”

            “Aren’t you hungry?”

            “Are you offering?” I asked, nodding to the plastic bag.

            She left soon after that.

            A couple hours later, Mark strolled into my backyard while I was swimming the sidestroke.

            “Still going at it I see,” he said, unsuccessfully attempting to keep the irritation out of his voice.

            “Yep.”

            “Do you think you could keep it down a bit? Linda is having trouble sleeping with all of your splashing.”

            “It’s six-fourteen isn’t it? And isn’t she deaf, anyway?”

            “Partly- deaf,” he snapped. “And how could you possibly know the time?”

            I pointed up, “The sun.”

            Mark opened his mouth to respond but stopped himself. He pulled out his phone and glared silently at the screen for a couple moments. Then he made an audible grunt.

            “Whatever, so what? She likes to go to bed early! Just keep it down!” he barked, stomping away.

            Two days after that, neighbors I vaguely recognized began to make their way into my backyard. A lady whose son sometimes peed on the marigolds in my garden when he thought I wasn’t looking. A teenage boy who spent last summer constantly biking up and down my street, only slowing down when Allison would walk into her house, plastic deli bag in hand.

            The lady with the urinating son was kinder than I expected.

            “Are you tired?” she inquired.

            “Nope, I can sleep fine.”

            The golden watering can of a little boy furrowed his eyebrows and looked me up and down. “How?” he demanded.

            I spread open my arms and lifted my legs so I was floating. I closed my eyes and made a big show of snoring.

            I smiled after hearing both giggle wildly.

            “What do you eat?” the boy asked.

            I pointed to the back end of the pool where a dozen or so boxes of crackers were lined up in a row. A case of bottled water lay next to them.

            “That’s it?” he asked.

            “That’s it,” I replied.

            His mother frowned, and they said goodbye for the day.

            The sun was almost down, when the teen boy came. He alternated between taking pictures of me for his social media and looking over his shoulder for any signs of Allison.

            “So, like, how long do you plan on doing this?” he said, glancing down the street.

            “I don’t know, four—maybe five years?”

            “That’s cool for real,” he said, still looking over his shoulder.

            “Yeah, I figure soon, I’ll just evaporate into the atmosphere.”

            “Tight.”

            “Then I can turn into rain—make Allison’s shirts really wet and clingy.”

            He spun around, tripping over his feet and falling face first onto the grass. He pulled himself up and wiped dirt from his chin.

            “You’re sick, you know that man?”

            The news crews came five days after.

            “We are life folks, in the backyard of an extraordinary individual. This local has spent the last ten days in his pool, not stepping out for a second. For those at home who are curious, the record for longest amount of time spent in a pool is thirteen days. Which means this hometown hero is mere days away from breaking the world record! Now we tried to speak with this tenacious spirt, but it appears that absolute concentration is needed to complete this goal, because we were denied an interview. However! If you wish to cheer on our hero, you can come down and personally witness the record being broken in real time!”

            I listened to the reporter as I floated and wondered if it was legal to give my address on a live broadcast.

            It turned out legality didn’t matter, because hours after the reporter went live, my backyard was filled with people. It seemed the entire district had taken up the reporter’s invitation.

            The crowd was much too large to fit in my backyard, so many people took to celebrate in my street. They carried signs with my name and banners that preemptively celebrated my breaking of the world record. Someone must have brought beer for the preemptive celebration, because soon there was yelling and laughing. Music filled the air, as someone played electric dance music through a speaker.

            As the days passed, the party grew increasingly wild. On the day of the record breaking, even more people began to show up, all bringing some type of alcoholic beverage. Beer after beer was consumed. To my right, a very drunken man attempted to limbo with one of my preemptive celebration signs. I turned away from the scene and began to float so I could get a better view of the stars. A loud splash brought me back down to Earth. I turned to see the drunken man, who had apparently failed the limbo, splashing and flailing around in the water. I was so engrossed in the scene in front of me that I was taken completely by surprise to see a single cracker float by me. It was then I noticed several of my boxes of crackers floating in the water. I swam hurriedly to the boxes, but the damage was done.

            The drunken man was roughly and hastily expelled by other, less drunken people.

            I sighed and removed the soggy crackers from the pool. As I tossed the last of the wasted food out of the pool, I heard the music’s volume increase even more.

            The deep bass resonated throughout the neighborhood, and it didn’t take long for Mark, who had just returned several hours earlier from his romantic Senior-discounted cruise trip, to burst his way into my backyard.

            “HEY!” he screamed, only barely audible over the music.

            I placed down one of the few dry boxes of crackers I had been munching on. I swam over to him. He had his arms tightly crossed and was glowering down at me. In his left hand, he was gripping a small paper bag.

            “Yes?” I said at a normal volume.

            Even though I knew he could not hear me, he continued to scream.

            “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?”

            I took a quick glance around the party. I shrugged.

            “YOU BETTER STOP THIS RIGHT NOW! LINDA NEEDS TO TAKE HER MEDICINE!”

            “You should give her the medicine,” I advised, still speaking at a normal volume.

            “WHAT ARE YOU SAYING?”

            I pointed to the bag, pointed at his house, and made a pill-popping gesture.

            “SHE NEEDS TO SLEEP AFTER TAKING THE MEDICINE.”

            “Even if she is deaf, I don’t think she can sleep through this,” I said.

            “I CAN’T HEA—YOU KNOW WHAT? I’M CALLING THE POLICE.”

            Before I could respond, he once again stormed away. Seven minutes later, red and blue lights took over the neighborhood. The music was replaced with grumbles and shuffling feet.

            The actual day the record was broken was, by contrast, very calm. I practiced my freestyle stroke and ate an entire box of crackers. Two days after that, a confused-looking delivery man wandered into my yard while I was performing the butterfly stroke. He tried to avoid the litter of bottles and trash the preemptive celebration party had abandoned.

            “Are you the pool dude?” he guessed.

            “Probably.”

            “Well I have a package for you,” he said as he pulled out a brown, rectangle-shaped box. I swam over to him and signed for the package, ignoring his irate expression after I accidently drenched his clipboard with water.

            He handed me the package and quickly left. I opened it and saw it was a framed certificate that read: THE LONGEST AMOUNT OF TIME SPENT IN A BACKYARD POOL

            I tossed the certificate next to my crackers and returned to swimming.

            The next morning, I was awoken by a light trickling sound. I stopped floating and directed myself towards the noise. The young boy whom I had believed enjoyed only urinating in my magnolias, had apparently expanded his interests. We maintained eye contact as he emptied his bladder into my pool.

            With as much force as I could muster, I drenched him with the pool water. When his mother entered the yard a few moments later, carrying a large platter of crackers and cheese, we were both equally wet.

            She looked back and forth between the two of us and began a quiet giggle that progressed into bellowing laughter. We both joined in, however the young boy’s laughter stopped abruptly after his mother revealed that he was to help her clean up my yard.

            The boy grumbled as he picked up crumpled preemptive celebration signs and empty beer bottles. His mother and I chatted, and I learned that her name was Denise and her son had OAB.

            I suggested diapers and the boy began to unzip his pants. Denise snatched him before he could assault me with his overactive bladder. She apologized with red cheeks and a leaking son. I waved goodbye to her back as she briskly shuffled away.

            Three months later, a very bald man came to visit me. He wore a bright orange tunic with equally bright sandals. With a gleaming smile on his face, he knelt down in front of me.

            “I have travelled a long way to meet you. I have heard tales of your incredible discipline and I wish to study under you. Please, it would be a great honor to learn from someone with such amazing fortitude.”

            “Yeah, sure.”

            For the following month, Tony the aspiring monk joined me in the pool. He followed every stroke I performed. He slept when I slept. He ate crackers from the plates Denise brought over daily.

            One day, Linda came with her walker cane. She looked over to where Tony and I were doing the doggy paddle. She glowered down at us and cleared her throat.

            “Excuse me, neighbor, but just how long do you plan on keeping this charade up?” she snarled.

            “Ma’am, as you can see we are swimming right now, and frankly it would be really difficult to play charades in the water,” I explained.

            “You’re going to die. Do you know that? A person can’t just spend their life in a pool! It’s not natural,” she said, louder than necessary.

            Tony stopped doggy paddling and swam over to her. “With all due respect, I disagree. I have learned so much, swimming here the past month. The trees, the squirrels, even the water itself is a form of life. When I float at night, I see the impossible amount stars in the sky and it reminds me of the ants on the leaves and the tiny salt that is sprinkled onto each of these crackers,” he said gesturing at the leftover platter from yesterday.

            He paused a moment before continuing, “And it is these small things that build up something wonderful.” He swam over to me and grabbed my hands until they began to hurt.

            “I understand it now! I understand what this all means,” he laughed. “I will go off in search of the tiny but marvelous things. The things that people overlook but are responsible for so many wonderful things! Thank you!”

            Tony swam to the end of the pool, and both Linda and I watched him attempt to pull himself up for a full sixteen minutes. Eventually, he managed to lift himself out of the pool. He began to crawl away but stopped himself before he left. He crawled his way to Linda and pointed at her cane. She looked back between Tony and the cane before releasing a deep sigh and handing it over to him.

            “Good bye! Thank you for everything!” Tony called as he left slowly with Linda’s cane. Linda shook her head and returned home.

            When winter came, Denise began to get worried.

            “What if you get hypothermia?” she asked.

            I shrugged and asked her to pass me a cracker.

            She did, but then she followed it up with, “I love you, you know.”

            I asked her for a bottle of water.

            She left.

            One afternoon, when the water at the edge of the pool began to freeze, Allison stopped by with an extra plastic bag. She set it down near the edge of the pool and we sat and ate while the snow fell around us.

            “You’re gonna die,” she stated.

            “Why do you go so far, for such a mediocre sandwich?”

            “It’s comforting,” she replied, “some things are just comforting.”

            When there was only a couple of feet of unfrozen water left in the pool, Mark came to yell at me.

            “Do you know what a dead body does to the property value of a neighborhood!?”

            “Probably lowers it.”

            “Jesus, you are such a selfish jerk!”

            “Don’t you have to give your deaf girlfriend her medicine?”

            “She’s only partly—you know what?” Mark inhaled deeply and exhaled for what seemed like a full minute. “Have a good life, however long that is.”

            I had woken up one morning to find the water completely frozen around me. My legs and arms were spread out wide, in the floating position I had gone to sleep in. I could only see the grey sky, so when a squeaky voice called my name, I was relatively surprised.

            Peeing Peter, Denise’s kid was audibly sniffling. Ever since she had left that day, Peter had been tasked with bringing me the crackers.

            “Peter? Are you crying because you’re sad or because you’re cold?” I asked.

            “Cold,” he lied.

            “How’s your mom doing?”

            “Okay,” he lied again.

            “Can you pass me a cracker, please?”

            I opened my mouth and waited, but all I heard was crying.

            “Peter, can I tell you a joke?”

            A deep sniffle echoed through my yard. “Yes,” he blubbered after a moment.

            “Okay, which animal is the best swimmer?”

            He sniffled again.

            “Elephants.”

            “I don’t get it.”

            “Because they always have their trunks.”

            He chuckled a bit.

            I took a deep inhale of the cold, sharp winter air and screamed, “DO YOU GET IT? BECAUSE AN ELEPHANT’S NOSE IS CALLED A TRUNK.”

            This time he burst into laughter. I joined in, and we laughed until we both started to cough.

            “You should probably head on home, Peter,” I said softly.

            He was quiet for a moment, then responded, “Okay, but do you want some crackers before I go?”

            I thought it over.

            “No, I’m not hungry anymore.”

 

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Jasmine Pressley is a reluctant graduating senior at the University of Maryland, College Park. She guilted her way into the Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House a year ago and they have been trying to get rid of her ever since. Jasmine enjoys crushing other aspiring writers in writing contests and dreams of becoming the best-known author in all of existence. If you would like to help her achieve this dream please email your advice to jasminepressley1997@gmail.com.

Art by Mark Dwyer.