We were two bodies floating, even before the water, when the pool was merely promised, just dirt six feet lower than the dirt around it. The well-meaning worker with the noodly arms and reflective vest too wide for his shoulders told me I ought to keep my kid from the construction site, and I looked to you, pink eyed and bundled up in a puffy blue coat the same color as the sky, too heavy for spring. I told him I wasn’t your mother. You played games with the men. You stole the keys to the cement truck, stole the Twinkie from the foreman’s lunch pail. I told you to stop, but you only giggled. I told you not to eat the Twinkie when I saw the blue-green flecks of mold on the edge closest to your mouth, but you were insatiable. There was water. An unnatural blue. The stink of chlorine like a cleaning product. I told you not to go inside. Because the smell was a warning, especially that pungent, that the chlorine would sting your eyes. Not to mention the prospect of sinking. I’d never learned to swim and it seemed impossible, at your size, that anyone could have taught you. You took flight. Naked, so I didn’t want to stare, but I thought it only responsible to watch. Knees tucked tight to your chest so your butt crashed through the surface of the water first; it must have hurt. You sounded like a wrecking ball, like a small explosion, blasting through the surface of the water, displacing drops that would dry before they’d ever find their way home again.
You grew. You grew until you were beautiful. Until the women at the pool with the skirted swimsuits that hid their thighs whispered to one another. You grew until the wet angles your hair stuck out at were no longer girlish and silly but the stuff of sex. That’s what the boys saw, I know, when they ignored me. When they surrounded you. When the one leered at you, pretending to read a book. When the one invited you to his place, but you wouldn’t and he ran a hand over your arm so all those distinct droplets of water blurred into streaks the way tears do. He kissed you wetly. Pressed his potbelly to you right breast He kicked his legs so hard against the water that it flew out in great splashes, soaking the cement, as the water around his head bubbled. It stopped bubbling. One body floating.
The pool closed for a week. We were alone again those nights and you skipped stones against the surface of the water as if it were a pond or a lake, the kind every child ought to have a bit of, secluded, to call their own. I told you, you probably shouldn’t do that here. You’d fill the pool with rocks and we’d really be in trouble. You skipped another. Four bounces that time. Your new record. When the children came back, we played Marco Polo. You played with a fury. Chasing them hard and fast enough that I was frightened about what you’d do when you caught them, but each capture culminated in play. The sort of gentle tackle water allows for. Bodies floating. From where I watched, the sunlight refracted off the water, not in rays, but the kind of wavy currents I’d associated with electricity, hot and burning. I wondered if it’d catch up to you someday. But you kept swimming, body lithe, body of light, always that sheen of water over your skin when you rose past the surface.
Bio: Michael Chin was born and raised in Utica, New York and is an alum of Oregon State's MFA Program. He won Bayou Magazine's Jim Knudsen Editor’s Prize for fiction and has work published or forthcoming in journals including The Normal School, Passages North, and Hobart. He works as a contributing editor for Moss.Find him online at miketchin.com or follow him on Twitter @miketchin.