Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Chapter XVIII: Poolside

Bill sat by the pool and smoked a cigarette. He watched the grey smoke curl up into pale blue sky and dissipate against a backdrop of white puffy clouds. A pair of children swam and splashed in the tiny hotel pool. They laughed and jumped around and screamed. Bill watched them and shivered. The air felt far too cool for swimming, but he understood – knew it from their accents – that the family was made up of snowbirds who had come down to Florida for an escape from the chill of the northern climate. The mid-seventies might feel cool to a nearly lifelong Floridian such as Bill, but to the northerners it would be sweltering.

The mother of the children sipped from a can of beer. A cigarette smoldered in an ashtray on the armrest of her faded blue plastic chair. Her thick pink fingernails glinted with sunlight. She was too thin and too tan, almost orange. Garish red lipstick stained the filter of her cigarette. Her wiry arms gave her a corpselike appearance. Thin, mottled skin hung from her bones. She nodded to Bill and smiled. Bill smiled back to be polite and looked away.

Bill rested his head on the back of the chair and felt the cool plastic. It told stories of mothers much like the one in front of him. Thousands of mothers watching their children, slathering themselves with suntan oil, adjusting bathing suits and postures to look just right, looking at men, looking for men, enjoying being looked at by men, or being disappointed when men looked away. Some of these women were simply happy to feel the sun, and Bill vicariously enjoyed the feel of the sun through the cipher of the plastic chair’s stored memories.

“Hey, Bill. Got you some coffee.” Benny sat down next to Bill.

The woman across the pool looked over the top of her sunglasses towards Benny. Benny turned away and faced Bill. Bill saw Benny was blushing. The woman across the pool smiled.

“Beautiful day, huh?” Benny nodded up to the sky.

“Yep.” Bill took the cup of coffee from Benny’s outstretched hand. “Not hitting the mini-bar tonight?”

Benny shook his head. “Nah. It’s the Sabbath.”

Bill smiled and nodded. “That it is. So, let’s take it easy.”

Benny nodded. He leaned back in his chair.

Bill reached out his hand holding the pack of cigarettes. “Want a smoke, man?”

Benny shook his head. “The Sabbath.”

Bill nodded. “Fair enough. Where’s Gloria?“

“Taking a bath. I guess she needed some alone time." His voice became distant and hollow.

Bill held the cigarettes out again. “Sure you don’t want one?“


Bill shrugged his shoulders. He extracted another cigarette and lit it from the burning cherry on the butt of his previous smoke. He inhaled deep and exhaled. He coughed. “Stuff isn’t good for you anyway.”

Benny nodded. He had his eyes closed and appeared lost in though. “Nothing fun ever is.”

The too tan woman continued to steal glances at the two men sitting across the pool from her.

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