It's been a busy summer. Found out that Stella won't go in a pool, but will gleefully toss fistfuls of sand into her open eyes and mouth. #Kidsarestupid.
Earlier this year I entered a contest Geist magazine holds every year. 500 words based on a postcard. Didn't win or even receive a Participants badge with frayed edges. (Bastards.) Anyways, here's my entry, a story based on a postcard. This was sent by my Grandpa Henderson to his wife and son (my Grandma & Uncle). He was in the navy at the time. He was my favourite.
On the first day I tried the pool. The water is Jell-O blue with a reflective skim of greasy coconut oil dancing in the sun. One misstep into the deep end and I was done. Frantically wiping my face with the rough hotel towel, I’d scurried back inside, leaving behind dancing footprints set too close together.
The sun here, creeping and sharp, is too much. It sizzles hair on my legs I’m not allowed to shave and buzzes along my hairline, hungry for something I don’t have. I hide in the covered bar. The bartender, with his slow nod and thick freckled arms, lets me take the cracked stool on the end.
“Which one’s yours?” I swivel to the voice, stool almost toppling, grab the scuffed leather edge of the bar to right myself. He wears the resort robe open loosely over tight maroon trunks. His chest is broad and the colour of pennies.
I scan the deck for her. There. Flat on her belly, bathing suit bottom slowly rising up and down. Pink paperback smashed face down. A wind kicks up, fluttering the book jacket and making her shudder, like a dog having a bad dream. I don’t want to belong to her.
A long sip of my drink. (Shirley Temple – a few tips of liquid resting on half a jar of sweetly fluorescent cherries.) “I’m here by myself.”
He cocks an eyebrow. Long swallow of muddy brown liquid. Chews ice noisily. Narrowing his eyes, he nods to the far corner of the pool area. “In the hat, that’s my wife. She’s pretending to relax.” Under a wind-whipped striped umbrella a very long woman with long pink nails quickly picks her way through a magazine. A plane buzzes overhead, like a large unholy insect, making her head snap up. Large black glasses cover most of her face but I can tell it is beautiful.
My mother is not beautiful. Eleven months of the year in a hairnet, the only warmth coming from a kitchen heat lamp crouched over plates of ready beef, softly oozing oil and blood. Tips tucked away carefully in a childhood Indian cookie jar, daydreaming about a slippery bottle of sun oil and a refilled margarita sloshing around in a damp cup.
I watch him silently order another drink. A slow crack in my chest opens. I want to go home with him, with them. The first night tucked into creamy soft sheets, the bottom so efficiently tucked in my feet have to splay out. A goodnight kiss that makes me ache. Hushed voices breaking into comfortable laughter. A dark bedroom with a cracked door spilling warm yellow light across thick carpet.
Boys in the pool whoop and send an arc of water splashing out. I imagine the sun roasting my mother’s skin from buttermilk to black. See the next breeze whisking her whole body, a large loose pile of ash, right into the bright red open mouths of the boys.
Smirk. Sip. Sigh.