A Dip in the Pool
“Arlene, what have you done?”
Brendon held court in the kitchen, leaning against
the counter. Hands
clasped over his burgeoning pot- belly, thinking himself paternal and wise, I’m
sure. He nodded towards the dinner-plate sized pool of blood on the floor
before him. The blood barely touched the left toe of his new sneakers.
“Aw, that’s not my mess.”
I state as I stand defiantly in a
super-hero pose. Balled fists on hips, legs solidly apart. Makes me feel
empowered. “Must be one of yours.”
“Arlene, you did this.” He
waves a hand over the pool, which was
now the approximate size of a serving tray. Yes, I think my Aunt Elsa’s
sterling silver serving tray would fit exactly in that pool. It was a wedding
present she received in 1958, when she married her first husband. The one the
family never mentions.
I tiptoe around the pool. Bend over to get a better
look. “Damn. It’s
getting in the grout,” I say, straightening up. “That’s gonna take some serious
scrubbing to get out.” Brendon goes pale. “Don’t worry,” I say as I look him in
the eye. “As if I’d expect you to do it. I’ll be the one doing the hard
work.” I can’t help but scoff and add, “Like always.”
He drops his arms to his side, obviously relieved.
What a baby, always
finagling to get out of helping around the house; a trick he honed as a boy, to
escape doing chores. His mother gave him his allowance, anyway.
The pool is now the size of a bath towel. I hop
up on the counter, sit
with my ankles crossed. Have to say, I’m pleased I can still hop up here, like
I used to do in high school. Being athletic when you’re young pays off when you
start getting old. If you don’t let yourself get soft and sloppy, that is.
Brendon looks at me, with his mouth open just the slightest bit. Shocked, I
think is the word; no way he could hop up here so easily.
I think I see tears in his eyes. He always cries
at the drop of a hat. He
was a theater major in college, so I never take the weeping seriously. He cries
over TV commercials and Broadway musicals, for God’s sake. I stand up on the
counter. I’m petite enough that my head is nowhere near the ceiling. The pool
of blood is now the size of a plastic backyard kiddie pool. And maybe about as
deep. Is that possible? Looks that way to me.
Like an acrobat, I hold my arms out for balance
as I walk, one foot in
front of the other, down the length of the kitchen counter. I’m lost in
thought, calculating how to jump to the chair pulled out from the dining table.
As usual, Brendon interrupts me. Always, always horning in on my private
thoughts. “What?” I hiss impatiently.
“Why?” He burbles. “Why . .
.” His head droops dramatically.
“Why? Why, I betcha I can jump from this
counter to that chair.” I squat
and leap and—yes!—nail the landing. Let’s see the flabby Little Prince do that.
The blood pool is now even higher—I reckon
about two feet, and covers the
entire kitchen area. As kids we used to pretend the floor was covered in
bubbling lava, and jump from one piece of furniture to another. Climb up on dressers
to get away from certain boiling death. Or maybe play ‘shipwrecked at sea,’
where the bed or chair or desk was a life-saving bit of cargo, floating in
shark-infested waters. Now I’m playing ‘blood pool,’ and it’s just as
entertaining. Too bad I don’t have a kid to play it with. Maybe someday.
I move from the chair to the table, and sit, legs
crossed. How high can
this blood tide rise, I wonder. Will it flood the rest of the house? And when
it finally recedes, will it stink and draw flies? Probably. Somebody’s gonna
have quite the clean up project on her hands; maybe I’ll just call in
professionals to it. I deserve a day off.
“Arlene,” he half mutters, half sobs.
“I’m done.” He shakes his head, eyes
squeezed tight, like he’s in pain or something. Drama queen. What did I ever
see in him? It’s a mystery now.
“Done?” This comes out as a giggle.
“What have you ever done around
here? I’m the doer. You sit around in your underwear, eating barbecue potato
chips straight from the bag, watching re-runs of old 1960’s sit-coms. I come
home from work, and I have to make dinner, do laundry, clean the house. What
you don’t do is look for a job or any way to help out around here.” I
stand up on the table; the blood is now swishing around like it’s under the
influence of a tidal pull, of a vengeful moon goddess. Maybe it is. The level
is almost as high as the table. Brendon splashes his hands in the blood like a
baby in a bathtub. If it gets any higher, he’s gonna drown.
“How,” he pouts, “how could
you . . . ”
he pulls out the carving knife from his booze bloated belly. The knife
has an ivory handle with a fine silver filigree overlay; it’s a thing of
beauty. This, too, I inherited from my Aunt Elsa. It was another of the wedding
presents she received in 1958. Aunt Elsa only used it once; when and how, well,
that’s a puzzler, as no one in the family will talk about it. She left me this
among all manner of other things, bless her. We’re so much more alike than
anyone realizes; but then, we emerged from the same gene pool, didn’t we?
I become aware of Brendon droning on and on, rudely
reverie. “You’ve got blood . . . you . .
. your hands . . .” He’s confused now, probably from his extreme
exsanguination, but indulges his compulsion to be theatrical about the
situation anyway. The boy just can’t help himself. “On you . . . your . . .
blood . . . bloody . . .”
“My blood? Oh, you silly goose! This
isn’t my blood,” I
retort, towering over him from my superior position on the kitchen table. I
clap my hands, throw my head back and laugh, like I’m the star of my own
comedy. “It’s yours.”
I plop down on the tabletop, pull off one sneaker
and sock, and dip my toe
in, just to test the waters, so to speak. It’s warm, but rapidly cooling. I
give a little kick and send ripples out towards Brendon. As I watch, he sinks
under a slight red wave. Bubble, bubble, bye, bye.
I suppose I’ll have to dive in, eventually,
and either swim to the safety
of the backdoor and the sunshiny world outside this house, or submerge myself,
completely, to feel around the floor for the drain. I wonder what manner of
creatures dwell in this thick liquid, this crimson darkness, darting to and
fro, stalking and devouring each other. I wonder how long I can hold my breath.
I wonder where the plug is.
Hillary Lyon is an SFPA Rhysling Award nominated poet, whose
poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She founded and served as senior
editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous Press. Hillary also writes short stories,
and when she’s not writing, she creates illustrations for horror and pulp fiction publications.
Having lived in Brazil, France, Canada, and several states in the US, she chose to settle in