Wanting a Pool

I was about twelve, and my parents wanted a pool. A real one. Not that above-ground contraption with the vinyl liner. We tried that, and the entire works ended up in the neighbor’s yard, taking a couple of fence sections with it. Funny what 10,000 gallons of water can accomplish Who knows what would have happened if I were swimming when it burst? No, Mom and Dad wanted a concrete pool with a washed-gravel surround and a diving board. We lived in sunny Tacoma, Washington, where we reveled in four days of summer each year, but this didn’t phase these sun worshipers. No. We would carve out a slice of Palm Springs in Tacoma, Washington, and bask in whatever heat the stingy sun would impart to its disciples.

So We Start a Business

Maybe Buck Owens or Neil Diamond had a credit card, but we peasants certainly didn’t. Mom and Dad worked and then took the kids to McDonald’s for the ten-cent meal on Saturdays after the bills were paid. Dad taught, and funds were thin, but we had the nicest lawn in the county. And mom kept the roses in perfect bloom. They got together one night, ensconced in their lime green bedroom, and decided to start a yard care business. It was a good match. Dad bought a truck – a metallic green Chevy – and tossed a mower and tools in the back, and took out a classified ad in the News Tribune. He was immediately swamped, and I was expected to traipse along on weekends and during the Summer to help out. No one seemed to care then about my esteem or if I had things to do with friends. The family needed my help, and that was it. Ah, for the good ol’ days, when America was great…

Most days, I loved it. We left early with fat lunches that Mom packed the night before. We might stop for a shake and sat together on the tailgate, swinging our legs. Dad paid me four bits an hour. I had no clue what to do with this kind of wealth. In the summer, this was up to twenty bucks a week. I was rich and got to spend all day with my Dad. Life was pretty good.

One day, I didn’t want to go. I was thinking about just how good all my friends had it. While I worked, bleeding and sweating my way to wealth, friends  played baseball at Hatley’s or rode bikes to the Safeway to swipe a candy bar. I was a kid. I wanted a little bit of summer. It seemed pretty normal to me. So, one morning, I said No. It was weird. I expected the seas to part. I absolutely expected lots of yelling and hand waving. At the very least, I expected to be dragged to the truck by my ear. But Mom and Dad just looked at each other. They probably winked, having discussed this eventuality in their lime green bedroom. “Fine,” they said. “Stay home if you like. Sheesh. We’re not slave drivers you know.” Dad went to the phone and called one of my friends to help for the day. That was it, and everyone was happy.

When I Don’t Go To Work

Dad left, Mom made breakfast, and I got dressed. I was feeling good about my place in the world. I yelled to Mom that I was going to Doug’s and headed for the door. Before I even reached for the doorknob, though, the world hiccuped. Mom’s head spun a full one-eighty while she kept washing dishes. “Oh no, you’re not. You’re not going anywhere.” That part about not being slave drivers? Yeah.

“But…I don’t…I don’t have to go to work. I wanted to play.”

“You don’t have to go to work, but you are not going to play. You are darn well going to work around here all day. You’ll get the same breaks you get with your Dad, and I’ll make your lunch. You can start with weeding the back rhodies, and we’ll keep going until your Dad gets back. Rosumish?”

Rosumish was a Slovak code word, well understood in our family. To normal Slovak speakers, it means do you understand? In our home it meant you will damn well do what I say or wish you had!

“Rosumish,” I mumbled.

The plan was genius. I worked all day without the breaks I usually got driving from yard to yard. There were no milkshakes. No cooling off in the shade for a minute. And Mom? Until she died, there were no three men on the planet who could keep up with this ninety-pound Slovak peasant. I weeded. I swept the garage and the drive. I cleaned my room. I vacuumed. I worked right up to break time and lunch and kept at it until Dad drove up the driveway with the truck. Mom made sure that I was in the front when Dad drove up, too. He hopped out of the truck, smiling and making a big show of pulling a crisp five from his wallet, handing it to my friend. Milkshake cups fell onto the driveway. With money in his pocket, my buddy waved as he ran home, yelling over his shoulder that Dad could call him anytime.

He never needed to again. I learned my lesson. I never skipped a day again. And we got our pool. Which I enjoyed on my days off.

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