Monday, December 01, 2008

The Perils of Chlorine

The old man got the idea of a backyard swimming pool into his head back in 1975. Why, I have no idea. After all, this was the old man; he who darkens the house through basic electrical work, thinks two acres, a ton of crushed stone and a shovel and wheelbarrow are fine ingredients for a memorable summer vacation.

I still believed in him back then and allowed myself to get excited about the idea of a pool, albeit a 24 foot above-ground, but a pool nonetheless just six feet outside of my bedroom window.

Pools came either professionally installed back then, or in a series of big cardboard boxes and a Gutenberg Bible instruction manual for the handy do-it-yourselfer. Like the old man imagined himself to be. Of course we were going to do it ourselves, what other way was there? The first thing to do was to get a 12 foot string, find the center of the pool site and draw the circle that would eventually be filled with several thousand gallons of glorious pool. We did that dutifully and I grabbed the next shovel and started to dig like I had the worst craving for Chinese food the western world had ever seen. Stop! Ordered the old man and of course I was surprised because I was only trying to help. But I had committed the unthinkable and caused the needle of the funometer to move ever so slightly. Can't have that. People might smile now and again.

Nope, the chore was now NOT to actually dig a small indentation in the permafrost for the pool we'd eventually use from the end of June to mid-August. No, it was to cut the lawn, sod and smile when you say that, into identical usuable squares such that this valuable crab grass could be transplanted elsewhere on the postage stamp to ensure uniform, perfect green covering for the six weeks of summer we'd be getting. Which we did, slowing the pool's completion down by several weeks as the old boy went about picking up squares from the site and wandering about the property looking for the perfect place to plop them into place, mound dirt around the edges and water gently until they took. Then repeat. At this rate, I was looking at college junior year before we'd actually have a 24 foot diameter hole back there upon which we could put a freaking pool (above ground).

That was until God smiled upon me and summoned St. Ernie, patron saint of the futile who set forth to visit a pox of grubs upon the front yard. Problem solved, waning faith restored and the rest of the pool patches o' grass found a home in the devastated front yard.

With the pool built and filled I found out right quick how many good friends I had in the neighborhood. We became the social mecca that summer until the next door neighbors had their pool finished at which point the lemming run re-directed itself to their house. That didn't bother me, I got my piece and quiet and ability to swim and snorkel in the cool water until my skin turned the color of the liner and wrinkle like the old man's brow every evening he'd come home to find that I hadn't painted the house, dug a drainage ditch or paved the driveway, all things he did in his summer vacations when he was my age.

The neighbor's pool was in ground, unlike ours. It was a "real" pool, the kind you'd jump into out back of motor lodges in Georgia only to find that there was enough chlorine to blanche your testicles or the thing was really more pisswater than the men's room after the family of thirteen from Ohio had just gotten out. It was delayed in getting built that summer because the concrete wouldn't dry in the four feet of groundwater that kept filling the space or the blue paint was the wrong shade or some such thing. But when it was done everyone went for a swim over there and noted that, while nice, the water was frigid enough to have your previously blanched testicles withdraw back into your body cavity. So far in fact that you thought you could feel them hiding behind your lungs, hoping not to get sent out there again. No matter, it was later in the season and the water would be cool until next year when it would be warmed by the sun for a full season.

And that's pretty much where we left it that year. We closed up the above grounder, they closed up the in grounder, we all raked leaves, went to each other's Christmas parties and waited for spring, which eventually came along the same time my first blush of pubescent hormonal escalation showed up. Also arriving on track three was Mrs. InGround who had turned into a girl sometime over the winter and now thought that a bikini for the rest of the summer would be just a fine and dandy thing to come.

See, this isn't about pools, its about first lust. Actually its about both as I soon found my favorite spot in our pool just by the hedges abutting Mrs. InGround's yard, where I would lurk around laundry day and hope that she would do the sensible thing and hang the wash out in the fresh air.

This was just not fair. Instead of Mrs. InGround living next door, couldn't Mrs. Downthestreet move in? Thinking about her naked would make those weekly exhortations to consider the priesthood as a vocation seem quite sensible and reasonable. Nope, instead I got Mrs. InGround and her bikini and her husband and kids that I would secretly hope get kidnapped by gypsies.

That never happened as did Mrs. InGround never invite me over for a gin and tonic and a quick dip. Not to say I never swam there. As a courtesy since her kids had used our pool the summer before while theirs was under construction and ours was done, so too could I come over once to have a swim. I thought this heinously unfair because of course Mrs. InGround hadn't been a girl last summer, just a neighbor, her kids could continue to use my pool if it freed up their pool for that dip and G and T Mrs. Inground had been planning in my imagination.

But the most unfair, the most unjust part of that whole pool episode came when the same God that I had drawn grub-laced strength from sent St. Horatio, no doubt the patron saint of cooling off because you'll have a lifetime to be an ass in front of women, down to ensure that the inground pool never got above sixty six that entire summer.

The temperature never bothered the kids, the adults really only used the pool as a backdrop for tiki-festooned cocktail parties and it didn't stop Mrs. InGround from sunbathing at its edge. It did however, and here's where I'll cite intervention, divine or otherwise, cause me to lose a whole lot of momentary interest in Mrs. InGround when I took a dip and my nuts headed for the warm spot behind my lungs.

Bunny on.


Blogger cog said...

The summer we built a deck has been reduced in my memory to a single vision of my father hitting his hand with a hammer and then launching said hammer into the neighbors' back forty.

I probably remember it because I had to go find it, our only good hammer.

12:48 PM  

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