The dad tossed the son in the pool, pajamas and all, at 6 am on a Saturday. The son flailed about, screaming under the water. He sunk lower and lower. There’s no way I could sink any lower, he thought. Then he sunk lower.
It was an above ground pool, but now it seemed to reach deep into the center of the earth. The pressure burned his chest. Water shot in his ears and up his nose. He felt sure the dad would dive in for him, but the dad did not come. He continued to descend until he could see the bottom of the pool. It was covered with vines, garbage, and twisting roots that seemed to stretch for miles around. A hazy calmness overtook him.
Then he saw the hand.
It had wrinkly, green skin and long, curved fingers ending in sharp yellow nails. It reached up for him from a tangle of seagrass and crushed beer cans. He gasped. Water rushed into his stomach, his lungs. He pumped his arms, kicked his legs, and rose to the surface.
“Dad, there’s a monster in the pool!” He yelled as he doggy-paddled to the ladder. He flopped on the deck, gulping the air.
He was alone.
At breakfast, the son told the dad about the monster. When he didn’t respond, he asked why the dad threw him in the pool to begin with.
“You’re eleven years old and can’t swim,” the dad said, mouth full of oatmeal.
“I don’t want to swim,” the son said. “I don’t care about swimming.”
“Eat your breakfast.”
That night, the son couldn’t sleep. He kept thinking about the monster. In the morning, he heard the dad walking down the hallway towards his room. He ran to the door and locked it just in time. The handle wiggled. The dad pounded. “You’re going back in that pool!”
The son wanted to yell, “You have no friends, and nothing better to do, so you bother me! I hope the monster gets you!”
It was true. No one ever came to visit the dad, no one ever called. Sometimes he heard the dad whispering to himself in his bedroom, though. He wondered if all lonely people did that.
The son hid under the covers until the dad gave up and left.
He spent most of the day in his room, staring at the pool through the window. The water sparkled. Clean and blue—no plants, no garbage. Late that afternoon, he watched as the dad put a six-pack of beer on the deck and dove in. He went under and came back up and floated with his stomach towards the sky. “The monster’s going to get him, then it’ll come after me,” the son thought. “I’ll run away before it can.”
The son knew the dad kept money somewhere in his bedroom because sometimes the dad would disappear in there, shuffle things around, then reappear with a few bucks and ask if he wanted to get some ice cream.
The son grabbed a dime off the small pile of change on his desk, then crept down the hallway. The dad’s door was locked, but the son knew its secrets. One prior afternoon, when the dad had been too drunk to wake up, the son fetched the neighbor, who slipped a coin into the slit of the handle, twisted, and presto!
Now the son inserted the dime, twisted.
The dad’s room had baby blue walls and thick shades covering the windows. A fan whirled overhead. The room hummed. The son searched the dad’s dresser, where a photo of the dad as a child sat. The dad had on a little green swimsuit. He held up a trophy and had a big smile on his face. The son had no idea the dad could smile.
He opened the closet to the right of the bed, felt the inside of the dad’s coat pockets. Nothing but soggy cigarettes. He opened the closet to the left of the bed. A large steel drum stood in front of him and a rank, musty smell shot up his nostrils. He looked around for something to stand on, grabbed the wooden chair by the dad’s desk. He got on the chair and, bracing himself by using the drum, stood on his toes to peer inside.
The water’s surface swayed about two inches below the top edge. The green monster sat at the bottom of the drum, all scrunched up with its knees to its chest. The hands were bigger than the one from the pool, but they had the same curled fingers, the same long yellow nails. Shriveled black eyes watched him from its wrinkly head. The son covered his mouth, stifling a scream. He heard the back door slam shut. The son took one last look at the monster, dragged the chair back to its spot, shut the closet door, locked the bedroom door, and ran into his own room. His heart pounded in his ears.
“You still in there?” the dad said.
He couldn’t find his voice. He shivered.
“You can’t hide in there forever!” the dad yelled, pounding on the door.
That night, the son snuck into the kitchen for a snack. He made some cereal and ate it by the window. He watched the pool cover rippling with the water underneath.
On his way back to the bedroom, he noticed little puddles in the hallway. He couldn’t tell from which direction they came, the entire hallway was dotted with them. He saw a plastic barrel standing near his closet, only a head or so taller than him. Using a shelf from his desk for leverage, he peeked inside the barrel. Nothing but water.
He got in bed and thought about the monster until he fell asleep.
The dad grabbed him at around 6:30 am. This time he didn’t fight it. He went limp in the dad’s arms. The dad carried him outside and tossed him into the pool.
He let himself sink and sink and sink. He enjoyed the muffled water sounds in his ears, like a humming fan singing him to sleep. He found the patch of seagrass and beer cans, searched for the hand. It was still there, reaching for him. He grasped the hand and pulled. Bubbles shot out of his mouth and nose. He pulled until an arm appeared, then a head, shoulders, torso. It watched the son with shriveled, black eyes. You’re mine, the son thought, and the monster nodded as if it understood. You’ll like living with me. You’ll be my secret friend and we’ll never be lonely so long as we have each other. He tugged again.
The monster came loose.
Michael Seymour Blake
Michael Seymour Blake’s work has appeared or is forthcoming at Queen Mob’s Tea House, Barrelhouse, Fanzine, Flapperhouse, Entropy, Corium, Waxwing, Paper Darts, People Holding, Hypertext, Heavy Feather Review, and Reality Beach. He has painted various murals around NYC, including one that was prominently featured at Silent Barn in Brooklyn, home to the new Mellow Pages Library. He lives in Queens.
Artwork: Katherine Fraser, Belief In Inquiry