Zeke Jarvis, 3/17/2014
Current Occupation: Associate Professor
Former Occupation: Landscaper
Contact Information: Zeke Jarvis is an Associate Professor at Eureka College, where he edits ELM. His work has appeared in Bitter Oleander, 2 Bridges and KNOCK, among other places.
Bryan could sort of recognize the family that he was watching in the pool. He recognized them in the way that he'd recognize any of the regulars or semi regulars. Two parents and one kid, not much of a drowning risk. The dad was buzzcutty, but he didn’t seem like a dick. Maybe just old school. Really, the whole family wasn't all that memorable before today. They'd sneak in a pool toy that they weren't supposed to have now and then, but they wouldn't argue with the other families, and they never tried to stay too late. Not like the white trash families or the kids he just sort of knew that would call him a prick if he chased them out. Bryan watched the dad toweling off, and looked towards the kid, still floating, bobbing up and down in his life jacket. The mom was halfway between the dad and the kid, and the dad was trying to flag the mother over. She was waving to the kid to swim towards her. "Come on," she kept saying.
The dad wiped himself down from his trunks to his shins. "If you get out, he'll start swimming". The dad sounded pretty sure of himself. It was possible, but Bryan didn't want to have to watch. Bryan looked towards the diving board. Some fat kid who always plugged his nose was bouncing a little. There was a youngish girl behind him that Bryan didn't recognize. Not that he recognized all the regulars. It was the young kids, Disney swimsuits and Waterwings, and the middle-aged folks, hairy guts and dimpled asses, and all that tended to blend together to him. But the girl in the faded red bikini who had a rose tattoo on the small of her back or the redhead whose bottom always rode up stood out to Bryan. So did the fat girl who was not nearly ashamed enough of her body.
The fat kid did what was actually a pretty decent dive off the board, and the little girl watched him paddle back to the side before she got towards the end of the board. She ended up doing a nice dive without much splash. Bryan wondered who her family was. When he looked back to the family with the little kid, he saw that the mom was closer to the side of the pool, but she had her back to the dad. Bryan chewed on his whistle a little. The kid was starting to cry. Not a full-on wail, but enough that he couldn't pretend not to notice. The mom was saying, "You can do it, Skipper." The dad was shaking his head. "You'll have to spend the night here, Buddy," he said. It wouldn't be long before Bryan would have to step in. Saving a kid for real was glamorous, but talking to parents was just a pain. He took the whistle out of his mouth and took a deep breath. At the side of the pool and a MILF was putting a second coat of sunscreen onto her kid. The family had been at the pool for less than half an hour, and the mom had sat in the sun the whole time.
Bryan looked down at his watch. It was still at least a half hour before anyone would come to replace him. And Jeff was replacing him, so it might be longer. Plus, he wasn't sure that letting a dickhead stoner like Jeff take on this family was a good idea anyway. Either way, he shouldn't try to just wait this out. "You'll like it," said the dad. "It'll be like sleeping in a waterbed. Like Aunt Claire." The mom kind of yelled at the dad, and the kid cried more. Bryan couldn't tell if the dad got yelled at for teasing the kid or for bringing up Aunt Claire. He wondered who that would be. Bryan blew his whistle and yelled, "No running" to no one in particular. He was disappointed that so few people looked to see if the whistle was for them.
When Bryan had first started, Lizzie, the manager that he'd really wanted to nail, had told him that wearing sunglasses was an easy way to make people believe you were watching them. She'd told him that people had guilty consciences, and the idea that they were being watched could actually be as good as watching them. At the time, Bryan had said, "Like in poker". Within half a minute, Bryan had started thinking of other things that he could’ve said to impress Lizzie enough to get her to sleep with him. But he was very glad for the tip about the sunglasses, and it had stopped some families from making trouble. That family with the Disney towels had folded very quickly. The possibility of him watching was actually way more effective than him actually watching. But that didn't make him layworthy to Lizzie.
It didn't help him right now, either. The mom started going to the kid, and the dad said, "He can make it." The dad looked over to Bryan. "Trying to teach him how to swim so he can pass out of the swim class he’s in."
At two full summers, Bryan had enough experience to tell that when a parent, especially a father, stated the obvious, he was trying to get you on his side. It's like they thought that if you started of agreeing with them on the easy stuff, then maybe they could keep you going. Mothers would never do that. They'd usually try some kind of logic, and they'd giggle if they were good looking, which actually always worked. But only on the guy lifeguards. It seemed like any time the moms talked to a girl lifeguard, things got quiet and there was some secret exchange that solved problems in a way a guy lifeguard could never get to work. With this dad, Bryan thought he should've said, "Doesn't look like he's enjoying it", but instead he just said, "Yeah." In addition to this being Bryan's third summer, it would probably be his last, so his main goals were to not do so poorly that he couldn't ask for a reference for later job applications, and to get a few phone numbers so that he could get laid the rest of the summer and his final year of college. This whole kid issue wasn't going to help him out with either goal.
The mother was almost to the little boy when the dad said, "He can do it, Denise. Leave him be." Then, turning to Bryan, he said, "He'll move today. It's all a matter of motivation."
Bryan said nothing and looked towards the diving board. The fat kid was up again. He stomped his way down the board, bounced and executed a decent cannonball. There was a scrawny little kid waiting for him to swim. The kid had red hair, and he was very pale. The kind of kid who either burned badly or never really stopped being white the whole summer. Bryan glanced back at Skippy’s family. The mother was at the ladder, and the kid had fallen into a quiet sob. Bryan looked over to where the slides were at the next pool. Kelsey looked like she might have been asleep, but maybe she was just paying attention to a specific swimmer. Either way, she'd be no help to Bryan. The mom got out and started to towel off. Bryan admired her ass as she dried her legs. It was decent. A little saggy, but for a woman her age, it looked nicely curved. He lost his train of thought when the kid started screaming again. Bryan slid out of his chair and walked to the dad. "I'm sorry," he said, "but somebody needs to get him."
The dad just stared at his kid. "He's coming." Bryan looked at the mom. She was looking at the kid, too. Bryan chewed on his whistle and looked at the chairs around the pool. Nobody seemed to really be paying attention to the screaming kid. Maybe all the parents were used to screaming, and all the younger people didn't care. One father on the opposite end of the pool was looking at something on the bottom of his foot. Probably a beetle. It was sad to see so many grown ups in faded, old swimsuits, squatting and talking or trying to help their kids put on water wings or sunscreen.
"Listen," said Bryan. The dad leaned towards him and said, "He's coming".
Bryan looked at the breakroom entrance. As he did, he saw Brock Henderson coming in for a swim. Bryan, of course, hated Brock. The pudgy former quarterback who still tried to intimidate people, Brock was a target for a lot of the lifeguards, who'd been on the swim team instead of the football team. Bryan thought Brock's jurisdiction should've ended at least two years ago. Bryan looked at the kid he was kind of swimming, but not fast enough. The mom was squatting by the side of the pool and clapping. Bryan noticed the way her suit stretched over her crotch. He wondered if people this couple's age ever went down on each other. It seemed hard to imagine, but some couples their age must've done it. Bryan looked at the diving board and shook his head. The fat kid must've been trying to do a flip, but he just fell face first. It didn't look serious, though. He came up coughing, but swimming and seemingly in control. Bryan heard Brock's voice, "Cryin' Bryan."
Bryan gave a half-hearted wave and tried to very slightly glance at the dad. He seemed to not notice. He was watching his wife watch his kid, it looked like. “Any hot cougars on the prowl?" asked Brock. Bryan mumbled, "Too early in the season." Brock laughed and then spit on the ground. He scratched his gut. If anything about Brock was admirable, it was the fact that he genuinely didn't care what people thought about him, though it's also part of what Bryan hated about him.
The dad yelled, "There you go Skipper." Bryan didn't check to tell if he was really encouraging the kid or if he was just trying to show that he was paying attention. "Look at that fucking kid," said Brock. For the first time all day, Bryan started to actually sweat. If the dad heard, Bryan wasn't exactly sure what he'd do. He hoped some hot girl would walk by to catch Brock's attention. Unfortunately, the next person to come to the pool was a large family with loud kids who had runny noses all the time. Bryan blew his whistle and yelled, "No running" again, to no one in particular. The dad looked at him, then looked around. Brock did an impression of someone watching a cloud. It just made Bryan feel worse. He looked at the diving board, hopeful that someone was doing something dumb. A tall, skinny girl did a nice dive with almost no splash. Bryan wanted to go back in the break room and find Timmy, the lifeguard's mouth-to-mouth practice doll, and beat Brock to death with it. Even in his fantasy, though, Bryan knew that the doll would break without really hurting Brock.
"Look at him," Brock said. "He'll piss in the pool before he makes it to the side."
The dad looked over, and Bryan looked at the diving board. The little girl from before was calling to her mom or dad to watch her. The idea that someone wanted their parents' attention struck Bryan as really funny, but not in a way that would make him laugh. Brock said, "I'd fuck the mom, though."
Bryan went back towards his chair. He wiped at his forehead. The kid was slowing down. The mom was clapping extra hard. The dad was really glaring at Brock now. As much as Bryan hated Brock, he didn't want to watch him get his face beat in, and this dad looked like he could do it. Brock had been athletic, but only had been, and this dad seemed big. On the other side of the pool, a mom was trying to get a little boy to blow his nose. Bryan wondered how young you could be and still have the worst day of your life. "Brock," he said, "pipe down."
"I'd put my pipe down her throat," he said, right away. "Don't cry, Cryin' Bryan. She might still have room up her ass. And that's probably what a fag like you is used to."
Bryan shrugged his shoulders. Brock said, "Imagine her squatting on my cock instead of by the side of the pool." Bryan rubbed at his eyes. Before he had to say anything, he heard the dad. "Imagine my boot knocking out your teeth. Then you'd be able to give a good blowjob to all the old men, you fat fuck."
Brock looked at the dad. Brock seemed surprised. He actually looked at Bryan, and Bryan was very glad for his sunglasses. He mostly watched Brock while he faced the diving board. The dad said, "If you say shit about my son again, this lifeguard isn't going to be able to save you."
Brock looked at the dad, then at Bryan, then back at the diving board. Bryan chewed on his whistle. He felt like blowing it again, just so everyone would look and make Brock feel like even more people would be watching him get dressed down even more. Brock turned away, "Whatever, Old Man."
He walked off, and the dad watched him go. "Your friend's a real dick," he said. Bryan took his whistle out of his mouth. "He's not my friend. I think he's a dick, too." He glanced towards Brock, who didn't turn back, but who must've heard him.
When Bryan looked back at the dad, the dad was watching his kid instead of Bryan or Brock. "Good choice," he said. Then he walked towards the side of the pool and started clapping. "There you go, Buddy," he yelled. Sure enough, the kid was actually close to the edge. He was breathing hard, but the mom's arms were outstretched. As soon as he was close enough, the mom pulled him in and picked him up to dance with him. Bryan looked back at the parents on the other side. They all seemed to be wrapping their kids up and getting ready to go. Bryan looked over at the other side of the pool. Brock was dangling his feet in the side of the other, smaller pool. Bryan was glad to realize that he didn't feel bad for him. When he looked back at the family, the dad was holding the kid while the mom dried him off. It was a good time to dry a kid off. They'd want dinner soon. They'd go to bed early. And Bryan would be picking up trash and putting lawn chairs away. God knows what Brock would be doing. Bryan wondered how the hell he made money these days. It made Bryan almost believe in a sense of justice, but he watched the fat kid get up again. He tried a flip again, a backflip this time, and just made a huge splash. Some of the other kids laughed. Bryan blew his whistle. They all looked, and the stopped laughing. Bryan didn't say anything, but he felt like it had worked. He looked towards the dad, and he nodded. Bryan thought that he liked the guy, and he even liked the kid.