The qualities that Roger embodied made fifty percent of the town hate him, and for those same exact qualities, the remaining fifty loved him. The way in which he would sit in the church’s gazebo, legs always crossed and lacking sunlight, tended to border on two hours. The look permanently engrained on his spotted face, which gave one the impression that he was only aware of his surroundings until they inspired him enough to turn his attention inward. And also his tendency to ride his root beer-colored cruiser bike along the side of the road without a shirt.
There was a modesty to everything that Roger did. From the microwave French bread pizzas, he ate for dinner each night at six, to the way in which each conversation he ever held revolved completely around the person with whom he spoke. Roger prided himself on the value that he placed upon talking with people. But in rare cases, Roger found the company of people a bit overwhelming.
It was in the early weeks of summer when Roger found himself at the town’s recycling center. The abundance of brand new sport utility vehicles that filled the parking lot conflicted with the numerous garbage trucks and dumpsters in the yard, each of which Roger estimated to be within the ballpark of his age. The sun shone down from the sky more aggressively than usual today, and it seemed to pay extra attention to Roger’s sensitive bald head and his white mustache. Upon emptying what little recyclables he had into their respective garbage trucks, Roger noticed what he thought to be a circular structure, lined with a pale blue tarp, half-visible out of the top of the “miscellaneous” dumpster. He approached the yard attendant, Mike, who he spoke to each time he dropped off his Pepsi bottles, each time for much longer than Mike would have liked to. Roger’s habitual attendance at the town’s weekly council meetings was made aware to Mike, as Roger always spoke to him of the latest ordinance under review or the current list of street lamps that needed new bulbs.
“Hey Mikey, whaddya got in there?!” Roger exclaimed.
“What do I have in where Roger?”
“That big blue thing in the dumpster?”
“Oh that’s an above ground pool some jackass got rid of this morning”
“Must have holes in it then…?”
“Nah, not even close, the guy said he had it in his yard for two weeks before his kid said she wanted an in-ground pool, unbelievable.”
“So you mean to tell me that that pool is only two weeks old?”
“You want it, it’s yours.”
“Yeah! I think I’ll take it off your hands. I’ll just need another favor before I take it…Think we can stick it in the hopper of a truck and drive it over to my house?”
“Sure thing Rog, I’ll have Miley drive it over your place when he finishes his route.”
“Aw Mikey that’s really somethin’, you’re a good guy you know that.”
“Yeah, Rog.” Roger took note of the abrupt conclusion of their conversation imparted by Mikey. Never one to take things personally, Roger wrote it off as a tendency of most of the people in town.
So Roger drove his white Kia Soul back home, a car which only saw blue skies and black asphalt when Roger had an errand to run. He did not travel far from the garage after parking his car, as his favorite rocking chair was situated right next to where the car lay parked. He watched the stillness of his backyard, with its long gravel driveway, infrequent patches of overgrown grass and weeds scattered about, and canopied in maple trees, which clogged the gutters but flooded his eyes with wonderment. As he monitored the trees he would marvel at the occasional blue jay gliding in and out of the trees’ branches and bases. He referred to the jays as ‘traffic cops’; they were noticeably more aggressive than the rest of the birds, and they had a propensity for causing trouble. As he surveyed the gravel, he sat in silent excitement at each passing squirrel and each fleeting chipmunk. These wingless critters were entirely more skittish than the birds, seeming to scamper off only during moments of calamity in Roger’s silent ecosystem. His union with nature was abruptly severed when his ears perked up to the sound of the hissing air brakes of Miley’s truck. Roger eased himself up out of his rocking chair and meditatively made his way down the driveway, but before he got even halfway to the curb, Miley noisily jogged through the gravel and met Roger.
“Where you want this thing man?!” Miley explosively let out, Miley always seemed to be in a hurry, especially at the end of his route, as he had a second job he had to get to, driving a tractor trailer… Roger thought to himself.
“Hey whaddya say there Miley?”
“You want this pool or not?”
“Yeah, yeah, let’s get to it!”
Roger and Miley made their way over to the truck, Miley arriving at the hopper much sooner than Roger. The two dragged the pool across the rocks of the drive, any of which could have easily punctured the tarp lining. Miley dragged from the front, and Roger guided the rear. Once the pool had been placed in the first location which appeared remotely appropriate to Miley, he was on his way; Roger’s “Hey I gotta thank ya there
Miley” heard only by the birds in the trees, and Roger had an inkling that they would not be saying, “You’re welcome”.
Roger took the next phase of pool installation into his own hands. He wiped the medley of fallen leaves and pollen off of his garden hose, placed its spout into the pool, and turned the rusted spigot until he heard the water making its way through the hose and into the pool. The thought crossed Roger’s mind of going to a pool supply store, and purchasing chlorine tablets and other potential necessities for his new pool, but that notion was quickly dismissed, as it was an idea, if put into action, that would require spending money and driving on the highway. He opted to have another sit down in his rocking chair until the pool was ready for him. As he examined the pool in its new home, Roger couldn’t help but imagine all the people who might like to join him in enjoying it. He thought about his cop friend Larry, and how he might like to have a swim and a chat. After enough sitting and thinking to relax an old man, and enough water running to fill a pool, Roger turned the spigot to the off position, ran his fingertips through the pool’s chill water, and decided he was ready to fetch his bathing suit. Once in appropriate swim attire, Roger wasted no time in cooling off on this hot day. He could stand on the bottom of the pool, feeling the gravel of the driveway beneath the tarp, with his head completely above water. So there he stood, waving his arms to and fro in the water, scanning his surroundings from this new perspective. He was not scanning for long until his eyes happened upon Larry. Larry always found time to pop in at Roger’s during his shift, always knowing that more often than not, Roger would be found in the backyard.
“What the hell’s this Rog?!”
“What’s it look like Larry?”
“Ya got a pool, whattya need a pool for? You’re always complaining about cleanin’ your gutters, paintin’ the house…Whattya need another headache for?”
“Well when someone offers ya a free pool, I suppose ya don’t really think about the headache right away, Lar. I’m gunna go inside and get a Pepsi…ya want one too?”
“Yeah sure, I’ll take a Pepsi.” Roger used his new pool ladder to emerge from the water, not expecting to get any kind of reaction out of Larry.
“Whoah! Whoah! Rog! You’re blindin’ me!” exclaimed Larry, half laughing and fully shielding his eyes.
“What’re ya talking about?” said Roger, at this point wondering what he could possibly be displaying to a set of eyes that he figured had caught sight of some disturbing images on the police job.
“You’re bordering on naked in front of another man!” Roger looked down at his dripping, bare body, seeing nothing wrong with wearing a Speedo during swim time.
“Ah, You got body image issues!” shot Roger back at Larry. “You want that Pepsi or not?”
“I don’t think I’ll be able to enjoy it until you put some clothes on.”
“Ah you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You know what Rog, I’ll just come by and talk to ya another time, hopefully, one where you’re not showin’ quite as much skin,” Larry said, turning his back to his friend and making his way down the driveway to his patrol car.
Afternoons came and went for Roger, each one providing adequate relaxation time in his newfound creature comfort. He concocted a buoyant sitting device by super-gluing empty milk gallons to a lawn chair, and he would sit in it atop the stagnant water, which he noted was collecting debris from the trees with each passing day. Every now and then Roger would look out through his trees and see a patrol car pass by. On each of these occasions, he would hope that it would slow down, and make the turn into his driveway, but Larry had not paid a visit in quite some time. Larry was different from other people in town, Roger thought to himself. Everybody was always in such a rush, never having the time to have a good talk. He figured that maybe it was because most of the people who lived in town were a good deal younger than himself. Having to work from nine to five, running children around to soccer practice or scout meetings, people were busy; they always looked busy. Roger thought about his days as a teacher, he always seemed to find the time to set aside for a good heart to heart, or an in-depth analysis of a friend’s problems. He thought for a moment how most of his friends his age were either dead, or had retired and moved out of the state because of New Jersey’s high taxes. Would they talk to him? But Larry would talk to him. Just not lately. Where was that son of a gun?
After a solid month of floating, and the occasional moment of treading water, which Roger assumed was good for his joints, Roger decided enough time had gone by. He was going to pay Larry a visit. He knew when Larry took his lunch, and since he wasn’t stopping by Roger’s at that time lately, Roger figured he would try him at the station. Looking through the cracked door of Larry’s office, Roger saw that Larry was very much there, and very much alone, good.
Roger gently knocked on the door as he entered, “Hey Lar, ya been hidin’ out in here?” Larry cleared his throat as he looked up from the overtime card he was filling in.
“Been busy Rog, what’re ya doin here?”
“Well, I figured you haven’t been comin’ by me, so I’d come by you.”
“Yeah, about that Roger. To be honest it was a little much to see ya prancin’ around in a Speedo last time I saw ya.” Larry looked back down at his overtime card and started scribbling.
“Ya want me wearin’ a wetsuit instead?” Roger joked.
“Just a pair of shorts that reach the knees, and we’re in business.”
“It’s a shame ya never come enjoy the new pool with me Lar, I figured you’d really get a kick out of it.”
“What about this Rog… My wife’s been tryin’ to arrange a family reunion for us for some time now, but she hasn’t decided on a venue yet. What if we had it in your backyard, I’m sure the kids would love your pool.”
“Yeah, yeah, that’s a fine idea. When you wanna do it?”
“Ya got time this weekend?”
“I always got time. Bring the whole gang by this Sunday morning, I’m up early so whenever you’re ready, I’ll be too.” The two exchanged a smile and a handshake, and Roger left the station with a lightness to his step.
The Sunday morning of the party finally came, and Roger spent his first waking hours laying out the six-foot sub he ordered from his favorite deli, filling bowls with potato chips, and filling old dusty coolers with ice and Pepsi bottles. He skimmed the pool water with his homemade screen, which he constructed out of a square of window screen and a broom handle. The idea of bringing his radio outside passed his mind, but he negated it, as a party with such a fine family should be free of distraction from the conversation. As Roger stood there stroking his mustache, he heard the closing of a car door. He smiled as he watched Larry, his wife Anne, and their two young daughters, June and July, walk up the drive. Anne went right for the sandwich without even a nod to Roger. The girls, already adorned in swimwear and snorkels, quickly got into the pool. Just as Roger opened his mouth to exchange his first words with Larry, Larry beat him to it. “I think my family is here.”
Roger spent the next hour greeting guests at the foot of his driveway. With each approaching child, Roger grew more nervous, wondering what exactly the pool’s maximum capacity was. Each handshake and kiss on the cheek grew more and more unsettling to the host, as he began to wonder how much time he would actually get to spend with his favorite guest. When fifteen minutes went by, void of another guest’s arrival, Roger slowly made his way up the drive and began integrating himself among the party guests. Roger meandered aimlessly throughout the sea of people, taking short, conscious breaks to exchange pleasantries with each of Larry’s family members. But upon the conclusion of each exchange, Roger came away feeling more anxious, and more convinced that there was no way Larry could be of the same bloodline as any of these horrid people. If Roger had to hear one more complaint about jeans not fitting right, or one more comment about Will Smith’s marriage, he would surely snap. Roger figured he would take a break from social interaction, by means of a piece of the submarine sandwich, there was one slice left, the end piece…his favorite. This stroke of luck eased Roger’s mind for a moment, as well as settled the pace of his heartbeat. The sandwich’s journey from table to mouth was harshly cut off by a violent splash of water from the pool. The sandwich was now saturated with pool water and laying in the gravel of the driveway. Roger glared at the overweight red-haired kid who created this grave injustice. The boy did not realize he was under scrutiny, so Roger moved on. Roger spotted Larry, and he felt hopeful that he would save him from what was turning out to be a most dissatisfying social gathering. Roger listened intently to the conversation Larry was having with his cousin Eddie, a cop in a neighboring town. Eddie had a kind face, like Larry, but he did not speak kind words. He was telling his cousin a story from the job, about helping a divorced housewife cross the street, and looking up her skirt after she turned her back. Larry and Eddie laughed heartily and elbowed each other in the ribs. Roger was not amused, by the story, nor by his dear friend’s reaction to it. Roger found his favorite rocking chair unoccupied and had a seat to see if he could overcome the pain in his chest that was now developing. He closed his eyes for a moment, and only a moment, as the splasher had now shifted his mischief from inadvertent to very much purposeful. The chubby boy tip-toed behind Roger’s chair, with Roger’s car washing bucket filled to the brim with pool water. Careful not the spill a drop until he was ready, the boy unleashed fury upon the resting man. Roger sprang up from his chair and shook himself dry, noting the splasher’s body jiggling as he ran back to the safety of the pool. Roger had reached a threshold, there was no possible way that he could get any more worked up, so he did what had to be done. He walked into his kitchen, dripping wet, drank a couple of cap-fulls of cough syrup, and made his way back to his rocking chair, this time sure he would get some rest.
Roger awoke the next morning to find his backyard in worse shape than it had ever been in all his years living there. Soda bottles and little bits of lettuce and tomato littered the grass and gravel. The perimeter of the pool was lined with crushed up potato chips, puffed up with pool water. Roger rubbed his sleep-heavy eyes and began to ready himself for the big clean-up. When he opened his eyes, he saw Larry walking towards him in his uniform.
“Some party, eh Rog?!”
“You certainly got that right, my friend.”
“Everyone had a blast, and the kids really loved the pool, it was all really nice of ya buddy. How can I get ya back?”
Roger stared into Larry’s eyes intently and paused before saying anything. “I’ll tell ya what you can do…got your pistol handy?”
Larry put his right hand on his belt, right above the handle of the gun. “Give it to me,” Roger said with a tone of strength and calm.
Larry, perplexed by his friend’s questionable request, unhooked his gun from his belt and hesitantly handed it over to Roger.
Roger studied the gun in his hands, then proceeded to take the safety off.
“Rog, what’re you doin’…?”
“It’s about time this all came to an end.” Before Larry could say anything else, Roger began firing away at the walls of the pool. He had only shot a gun once before in his life, but there was a degree of authority to his stance and his shot which could have only been achieved through taking out a deserved victim. Roger gently placed the pistol back into his friend’s hand, as water steadily drained out of the pool, and trickled into the earth.
Roger never humored the idea of getting another pool. It was gone and gone for good. The bed of grass which once supported it remained dead for the rest of Roger’s life. His friendship with Larry remained fulfilling for the same amount of time.
Danny Landers is a skateboarder and fiction writer, residing in Ridgewood, NJ. A graduate of Ramapo College of New Jersey, he majored in Literature, with a concentration in Creative Writing. In his spare time he enjoys creating illustrations, filming skateboarding with friends, and spending time with family. His stories have appeared in Trillium and Entropy Mag.