The pool area looked more like a funeral than the fourth of July. There was not a child in sight other than the beautiful babies pissing in the kiddy pool while their mothers were busy playing scrabble on lounge chairs and drinking frozen margaritas, checking the scrabble dictionary, and watching their infants over a stack of seven wet tiles.
The ladies were sitting on towels talking about vowels as their children giggled and lost control of their bowels in chlorine-soaked diapers. That was the least of Shannon’s concerns — a dozen hungry bees were swarming the chocolate ice-cream cone melting into the sunbaked pavement below her lifeguard chair. It was an adult swim session so Shannon had to watch the pool like a hawk in case any of the elderly swimmers had a heart attack or went under.
She looked down at the bees, now challenged by a line of marching ants. The sky was cloudy but revealed no signs of stormy weather. She gazed at the darkest cloud in the sky and examined closely for lightning… nothing. She prayed for thunder and watched the old ladies do the dead-man’s float. More timid swimmers held onto the sides of the pool and kicked slowly. One crazy man was racing the length of the pool, kicking like a maniac with the assistance of a yellow foam kickboard, his face blowing bubbles out from beneath the water like a wrinkled sea monster.
The bees were already agitated when the man splashed Shannon’s feet and ankles — kicking so hard beside the edge of the pool that he sprayed the wretched bastards and made them even more upset. The ants were swept away by the small puddle the elderly man created each time he swam past the lifeguard chair.
“Shannon,” Hope shouted from across the pool. She was holding a half-empty water pistol and a Snapple bottle full of vodka; Shannon’s lunch break was about to begin.
“Damn you buggers…” Shannon told them. She was stuck in the chair for a couple more minutes before she could blow the whistle, so she signaled for her girlfriend to come over to keep her company and clean up the mess.
“What’s up?” Hope asked Shannon when she made it over. Their faces sparkled like stars as they spoke.
“Oh, I see,” Hope said with a smile. She wanted to kiss Shannon, but this was a public place — actually a private club — and she could never show her affection publicly. Their mothers would have none of it; their fathers would send them to boarding school.
The bees seemed to calm as the chocolate melted into their wings and their eyes glazed over. Shannon grabbed the whistle from the Brine lacrosse string across her neck and blew it as hard as she could. The ladies shook their heads with disapproval and the old men frowned. A few of the littlest old ladies held their ears and squealed to each other in silent whispers like piglets rising from a mud puddle.
The eighty year old retired structural engineer, who went crazy for his kickboard forty-five minutes every morning, pulled himself out of the pool with his chest like a sea lion, as a beach ball bounced across the pool deck directly into his nose. He was stoic but complacent as the babies chased the inflatable ball from his face to the puddle of ice-cream that swallowed it with chocolate and halted its progress.
The bees were swarming around the children when without warning Shannon dove from the lifeguard chair into the water. She resurfaced a moment later, flinging the drifting kickboard at the ice-cream like a nunchuck and screaming at the babies to “Jump-in-the-big-kids-pool!”
She caught three babies one by one and swam them to the other side like a crocodile crossing a river. The bees were stinging Shannon, digging their sticky tentacles into her French braided hair and their stingers into her head. She panicked a little but laughed it off and told herself to grow a set of testicles, that she was confident and courageous. She caught some of the bees in anger and clenched her fist around them; they stung her fingers as they died. Despite the crocodile tears, none of the children were injured.
“Time for my lunch break,” Shannon advised the head lifeguard, pulling herself out of the pool with the grace of a drunken mermaid, “I think I’ve earned it.”
Diving practice had just begun and Shannon surprised herself by climbing the ladder to the high dive and doing a forward two-and-one-half somersault in pike position before running into the lifeguard shack for some medicine and disinfectant. She grabbed a couple bottles of bee medicine pretending it was Benzedrine and skipped away behind the locker rooms with a rousing ovation from the entire pool area for her valor.
“Thank you,” Shannon said. She bowed and slipped out of sight. The applause and whistles grew louder, forcing her to return a few moments later to offer an encore curtsey — an elegant gesture — especially considering she was wearing nothing more than a yellow bikini. Most mothers agreed that this event was even better than the festival and fireworks yet to come.
The sun was shining and Shannon was smiling. A moment later she found Hope hiding in that tall grass behind the abandoned caddy shack. They caught each other in a wild embrace and collapsed in the weeds, their arms as tangled as the stems from the ivy that concealed them and comfortably brushed up against the backs of their necks and underneath their freshly shaven legs. The hive unbeknownst above their heads was the mistletoe of the summer, as it has been every day since, growing into that edible mountain ash so fast it could easily break that branch and all would come crashing down.
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