Every year, from June to August, the Wellsville Public Pool lives busy days. But that year was one for the books.
Maybe it was global warming with the unbearable humidity making people sweat, maybe it was the overall boredom of a less affluent city placed so far away from any natural body of water during hot scorching afternoons. But the fact is that each day that summer, dozens of cars and pedestrians lined up at 7 am waiting to be admitted inside a world of multiple pleasures.
A tactile ballet with the sun as antagonist: the skin, first greased by the milky sunscreen, then engraved by the sharp-cutting sunlight, and finally relieved by the hot, yet refreshing, pool water. And all the burning and gravely tiptoes between the lounge chairs and the pool, or the shadows harbored by the bathroom and cantina.
A visual feast through colors and shapes: young, dripping wet, tanned fit bodies of lifeguards and a few boys and girls blessed by a teenager's metabolism and good genes. The occasional accidents - never pretty, always aesthetic. The orange and pink sky sunset.
A taste tour through the cheap flavors of public concessions: oily, salty, sometimes dough-based, sometimes meat-based. Always fried, always heavy, always balanced by the sugary, gasified, cancer-inducing, pore and nostrils dilating Pepsi. Or the practical flavors of, brought-from-home, aluminum-wrapped, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.
It was 14-year old Harry's first summer working there. It was 14-year old Harry's first time working anywhere.
His position wasn't the most glamorous or interactive, but it was key to the overall Wellsville Public Pool experience: Harry was a pool boy. Supervised by a never present Parks and Recs Superintendent, Harry was solely responsible for applying chlorinate to the water, checking the pressure and temperature, and, most importantly - because people are OK with swimming in a hot still water but not in a visibly dirty water - responsible for cleaning the pool from leaves that fall from the trees and hairs that get sucked and stuck to the drain.
Harry was the right person for that job. Not because he needed the money, or because he didn't have a very active social life - which anyhow were both true - but because he himself had a lot of hair. Because the enemy at work had been his enemy elsewhere ever since he reached puberty. While all other boys his age had sparse thin body hair, Harry, the son of a Lebanese father and a Michigan mother, had plenty. The collar of his T-shirt had always a few strands of hair peeking out, his legs and arms blackened by the amount of body hair.
The thing about the Wellsville Public Pool is that it could equal in misery the amount of pleasure it provided. On his prep speech, a day before the pool opened for summer, the superintendent even went beyond to say that place was cursed, recalling one summer in the '80s when a kid died because his fist got sucked and stuck in the drain and he couldn't get out. Pool was full, no one noticed until after the place closed.
"Don't mind him. He always tells this story to keep everyone on their toes but also to justify why he never comes here to do his job; only texts telling people what to do. Fucking fat prick.", said Jenna, the 19-year old swimming state champion, to a worried Harry. "It's my fourth summer as a lifeguard and nothing that serious has ever happened. Sometimes it can be almost cool to work here."
But with three weeks in, Harry was having a hard time believing what Jenna said.
Besides the pleasure of working alongside that otherwise untouchable nubile goddess - a person he would never organically interact with if it wasn't for the job - working at the pool had been a nightmare on multiple fronts for him. It was a heavy-duty task skimming an 80-feet area by himself so early in the morning, with his feeble arms still asleep. It was even more exhausting checking the water quality during the busy hours while dealing gracefully with the smirk in the face of boys his age and the abuse of cruel younger kids that called him Hairy coordinated by the older ones. The long sleeve UPF shirt covered his chest, back, and arm's hair but didn't protect Harry from teenage cruelty. Moreover, the superintendent was always on Harry's neck:
YOU ARE READING
Hairs in the drainShort Story
14-year old Harry scores his first job ever at the Wellsville Public Pool during the busiest of summers. But what he soon finds out is that teenage dreams can become nightmares... --- HAIRS IN THE DRAIN is a short story written by Athens Wrigley for...