by Jonathan Edward Doyle
The water was conspicuous in its absence, the emptiness a physical form with weight and meaning. The lining was surprisingly drab; the blue sheet pale and dull and unrecognisable from the brilliant shimmering presence it normally commanded. The pool was hexagonal in shape and not at all large, maybe six meters in diameter. He stood at the edge and peered in, the weathered wood decking already hot in the morning sun. The floor had a crease that was normally unnoticeable but now obvious and worrying. An assortment of twitching arthropods struggled with unknown futility to rise from the bottom of the damp pit, their legs exhausted and wings wet and bodies slowly cooking in the sun’s early but endless tirade. The walls were sheer and lined with a slippery green-white scum – the product of many sun-creamed swimmers and some algal species that could evade chlorine or whatever else they used in pools these days. He turned away from the scene and looked back at the house. It was long and boxy, a single story building painted white and yellow with deep orange ceramic features and wooden window frames. It was a fine house. The living area opened out onto a patio with plastic tables and chairs and a ‘roof’ of wooden beams and a tacked material for shade. A green lawn spread from the terrace and abruptly terminated about 50 feet out, a row of arylide rocks separating it from the wild dry scrub. There were no houses or buildings in sight from this side of the house; the (illusion of) complete isolation was strange and welcome and felt a little special. He saw the vague silhouette of someone inside and promptly the door opened. His nephew stepped out wearing bathing shorts that passed his knee and no shirt. He raised his hand in a small gesture and his nephew returned it.
The boy sat on a dark green chair scratching his belly and watched his uncle approach. He looked troubled in a distant way, but the boy didn’t ask why. He thought he already knew.
“Seen the pool?”
“It’s been emptied. A man named Jose came first thing this morning to do it for us. Apparently he always does it on the fourth.”
“Doesn’t he fill it on the fourth too?”
He shrugged and shook his head at the same time. “Apparently I’ve got to do it.”
The nephew was still scratching his belly. “We didn’t even swim in it yet.”
The uncle walked to the side of the house and began uncoiling the hose. The pool guy had taken a phone call, and, removing the draining tube and giving half-comprehensible instructions on amounts and concentrations of something called Tricholor, pointed madly at the hose pipe. The decidedly animated man had said ‘fill!’ several times before driving off in his van. He dragged a few armfuls of coils to the edge of the pool and returned to the source to turn on the tap. He saw the brightly coloured tin of chemical tablets lying nearby and found instructions (in English) on the back.
“Don’t you need gloves or something to do that?”
“Don’t worry about it.” He added the recommended amount and turned the water up full. “Easy peasy.”
The boy peered into the pool with a grimace. “That’s going to take a while.”
He got them each a glass of orange juice and they sat together in the shade. An egret landed on the lawn and waddled forwards with its head nodding and bobbing. It was a brilliant white in the sunshine and stood out against the patchy green surface and the surrounding backdrop of thirsty yellows and browns.
“Everyone is wondering about you, but you seem okay to me.”
“If you are okay?”
“Yes. I am.”
The boy nodded as if this was the only fair answer. “Yeah.”
The nephew and uncle sat and watched the bird wander across the lawn in a weaving pattern that looked as if it had no intended purpose. Water fizzed into the pool and he remembered that he had not removed the fauna from the bottom. A deep melancholy fell over him that he did not fully understand but had to endure all the same. The nephew averted his gaze to the gaping blue void.
“That pool sure looks sad.”
The boy looked behind him into the house to see if anyone else had stirred. He had wanted to go the beach early, the secluded one where there was nothing but sand and sea and cliffs and rocks, and watch the shadows shrink and the sun rise high in the endless blue sky of hope and escape. They hadn’t gotten up and it was too late. Besides, now they had to stay and fill the pool. An increasingly familiar sense came over him, a sort of strange homesickness that was not necessarily linked to the immediate present and could come and go at any time or place, home or otherwise. He was beginning to think that life itself was all just an overly complicated attempt to avoid this feeling. He asked again because he didn’t know what else to say.
“You sure you’re okay?”