by Vic Larson
The balcony is solid and large, built to Hank’s specifications years earlier. Vague memories of family gatherings and pool parties sputter for air as they race to the bubbling surface of his new perspective. Hank looks out over the backyard from his cantilevered vantage point, across a bench and safety railing. The swimming pool is gone!
He remembers assembling treads and risers on a hand cut wooden frame, lifting completed stairs into place with the help of friends. Firmly anchored between the balcony and a lower deck, the stairway needed minimal fastening to hold it in place, shoehorned between the other wooden structures. Each step toward ground level accompanies a change in elevation that alters his view of the changed yard, thoughts of the missing pool and other rogue thoughts from his distant youth.
A privet hedge still guards two sides of the rectangular space, now green where crystal blue once steamed in white windborne eddies on cool October mornings. Hank pauses at the bottom of the stairs and turns to measure the meters from house to rear fence, and recalls the countless thousands of laps he swam each evening during summers. What an ordeal the pool had been to build on a narrow suburban lot. But what a joy, floating and facing skyward on sweltering nights, stars and fireflies drizzling into the blue-green glow from illuminated water beneath his raft. Moments of bliss. Private. Secluded.
But his beloved swimming pool is gone, sold to strangers, forgotten for a time, and now destroyed. At what expense, he wonders, understanding the need to break the concrete to pieces before filling the gaping hole with soil and seed. An intact shell would rise like a ghost ship from the yard without the weight of water to counter hydrostatic pressure from beneath. Quite an undertaking.
Hank admires the lawn that spans the distance from spectral diving board to shallow fiberglass stairs. He heads onto the new lawn along the path where once he swam, suspended in water like a balloon in an Albuquerque sky. The grass is lush beneath his feet, sinking almost ankle deep in softness. It is disconcerting in its failure to support him fully, yielding to his stride as he approaches the middle of the yard.
Hank’s gaze and stomach fall as water rises to lap the sides of his shoes. The yard undulates in a dizzying response to his shifting center of gravity. The pool is not gone! A seamless layer of perfect sod floats on the surface of deep and nutrient-rich, sinister black water. He dares not move suddenly for fear of being dragged downward, swallowed by living lawn and held beneath the surface by his own weight. Remorse for building the pool and moving away cause him to tremble and then shake violently. Word of a fascinated toddler reaches him in his absence. The gurgling water beneath the sod chuckles with indifference and rises up to remind him of his sins.