The Screaming Pool
by Harrison Kim
Screaming is the normal swimming pool sound for the kids, the developmentally disabled, the hockey-haired chewbaccas, especially around mid-afternoon. But who is that well-built fellow letting the water pour all over his bald head? Yes, some kind of officer of the law, judging by his jaw and authoritative demeanor. His compatriots are here already, laughing and joking with the charity kids. Some kind of goodwill service. They do it once a month. A good gig on their 80-thousand a year salaries. Must be nice.
I feel somewhat joyful in the presence of the police. Six years ago, I did something. Never caught. Every time there’s aspects of the law in here, it’s rather fun. Are they finally coming for me? Of course not! I act like all the others, nonchalantly enjoying myself. It’s simply a matter of detachment and appearance. Not too difficult, considering everything. Some veteran officers sometimes recognize me and shake my hand, because they remember my actions then. The good actions, of course.
I was the caretaker here, six years ago. A terrible accident occurred. Something to do with the chlorine. A pipe burst and the gases escaped and burned a lot of people. Even the insides of their windpipes. Anyway, you should’ve heard the screaming then! It was awful and exciting at the same time. The ambulances and fire trucks roared in with sirens wailing. Quite a change to the usual routine.
The investigation blamed a faulty valve. The courts awarded the sufferers oodles of financial compensation, including me. My secret is that I know the reason for the fault. It’s part of my work, I guess. I like to observe how chemicals work, how pipes fit together. I’m much closer to pipes and chlorine and the pool surface than I am to anyone, especially after all these many years. I work quietly behind the scenes, making sure all runs smoothly. Forgotten, I guess. Kind of like a sewer worker, or a garbage man.
During the incident, I wanted everyone to understand who I was, to know that I mattered. To have them see me as a hero. To be a hero, I had to be with the pain and chaos, in total calm, to be the leader and the saviour. I needed to set things right. Seems extreme, in the context of the usual. In order for there to be a disaster, there must first be disaster preparation.
Six years on, I’m still the caretaker, back here behind my office window regarding all the joy below. How the young folk yell in ecstasy in the water! Splashing and thrashing and kicking arms and legs. It bothers me from time to time, because they’re heedlessly oblivious to my ongoing protection. They don’t know the sacrifice I made to save other children like them. Yet I’ve had my moment in the sun, now I can feel pride back here in the shadows, with the satisfaction of knowing I made a difference.
Maybe it’s the itching in my eyes all the time that irritates me. Could be my skin, too; it’s always so dry, and I carry that pool smell. It’s like I’ve become a chlorine-embedded creature over all these years, and yes, certain citizens still say, “Hi,” the ones who know me and remember. But not so many as used to.
Things are again becoming quite uninteresting and routine, and perhaps it’s boredom itself that’s getting me down once more. When I look in the mirror, I see I have nothing to lose. Strangers might turn their heads, or pretend not to notice my disfigurement, as opposed to the regulars and other pool staff here, who know the truth.
In the accident my face burned and burned, under the chlorine release and the saving of the children, and people can tell that now. What they don’t know is that I was fully aware of the faulty valve, and I purposely let it blow, I even tapped it a few times with my huge pipe wrench. Despite knowing the pain that would come, I looked only to the pleasure of recognition that would follow.
Life is so dull, so humdrum and low-paid that often the only way out is to tap at something. You don’t want to be caught; you want things to change. It takes a lot of will, but if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything. At least, that’s what I discovered.
So much sympathy came my way. I rescued several children from the accident scene, despite my injuries, while fighting the noxious fumes. The parents still invite me over for visits, and give me suppers. I resuscitated an old man, and tended to the injuries of the young people, using my top-notch first-aid training, applying all the special breathing masks with consummate skill.
The city awarded me accolades for that: my picture and story featured on the Great Plains News, the Midwest papers, and a special medal made, presented by the mayor of our city. For weeks, interviews and praises, and visits to my hospital bed. So many flowers and gifts! And now I sit here behind my office glass, and watch, and listen to the joyful screamers.
Wonderful to observe the police helping the disadvantaged too, heroes simply by default. I had to work hard for my victory, and I have paid the price, despite always, in a judicial sense, living free. My drooping mouth and misshapen face remind me of this. Every day I notice the mirrors, which reflect my scars, and invisibly though quite enjoyably, the deeds which only I can see. I tell you now, as you open this time capsule after my corporeal death, so that you may know the totality of my wonderful accomplishment and keep my name alive.
Copyright © 2019 by Harrison Kim