We cut our summer vacation short since a boy drowned in our pool while we were down in Miami swimming in my in-laws’ pool. Life can be a real motherfucker dot com.
The kid was just some kid that lived in our neighborhood. My wife had seen him around, riding his bicycle, dirty face, hair in his eyes. We didn’t know his name or where he lived or who his parents were. The police report said he was nine and lived six blocks over on Henderson Street, next to the railroad tracks.
Witnesses that day saw him zipping through the alley, hat on backwards, wearing camo shorts and a ragged Spiderman t-shirt. When he didn’t make it home for dinner, his parents ate without him. They didn’t bother to call the cops until the next day. The cops found his beat-up little mountain bike leaning against our backyard fence. They found his shoes on a lounge chair, his shirt in a pile on the diving board. A beach ball buoyed the bloody scene. At the shallow end of the pool, a flamboyance of plastic flamingos floated over the dead boy’s shadowy corpse.
We skipped the funeral service amid rumors of a lawsuit against us. I thought we should have attended anyway, but my wife won that argument. The morning of the burial, I peeked through the living room curtains and watched a small procession of cars pass our house on the way to the cemetery. It was a cloudy day, but you could tell the sun wanted to come out.
In time, the police ended their investigation and the insurance company cleared us of responsibility for the accident. My wife was elated. There was still some summer left, so she invited some friends of ours over for a pool party the next weekend. It was a perfect day, the sky a shocking blue.The wives drank Cosmopolitans and lounged poolside under the beach umbrellas like movie stars.
I tried to enjoy myself that weekend, but mostly I stayed quiet and watched everyone else have a good time. When one of our friends proposed a toast, I went along with it even though I didn’t feel much cause for celebration.
I spent all week getting ready for that party. Draining the pool. Power spraying every inch of it. Cursing this life and how easily everything can be taken from us. Scrubbing and scrubbing that goddamn pool as if I thought I could scrub the death out of it if I scrubbed hard enough.
My drunk wife was laughing with her friends. I thought about those plastic flamingos. In the pool, my kids were playing Marco Polo. Their shouts joined those forever echoing in my head.