The Scrap Boys love pool time, every one of them. Scrap Boy 1, Scrap Boy 2, Scrap Boy 3, where one goes, the other two always follow, neighbors by chance, brothers by choice. Three hatchet faces, three buzz cuts, three prepubescent bodies always bruised, three prepubescent bodies unbreakable, and when pool time rolls around those three bodies merge into one chaotic mess, a tangle of limbs thrashing through roiling water, each Scrap Boy apparently trying to drown the other two, a tangle of voices, each Scrap Boy screaming to be heard over the others, or maybe just screaming to scream, maybe just screaming to feel the rattling in their chests, the burning in their throats, the Scrap Boy banshee chorus scaring the birds from the trees.
Pool time is the worst.
The pool isn’t much to look at. It’s not the kind you pay somebody to install. It’s the kind that comes in a big cardboard box, the kind you pick up at Walmart, but, like, the very best pool at Walmart. It’s probably ten feet across and three feet high. A hard plastic ring surrounds and supports a vinyl liner. An inflatable rim circles the top of the pool. During pool time, Scrap Boy flesh smacks against that wet rim over and over again. Smack. Smack, smack. It sounds like a whipping. But the Scrap Boys don’t care. The pain is an excuse to laugh, high-pitched squeals ringing across their neighborhood. The laughter is an excuse to scream.
It’s a temporary kind of pool. One day the hard plastic wall will snap or the liner will spring a leak. One day the Scrap Boys will mourn the passing of their pool as they drag it to the curb, wad it into a big wrinkled lump that the trash man may or may not pick up the next time he comes by. But the Scrap Boys will not have to mourn for long. A new pool will soon rise up. Summer Walmart is full of pools, and when the days are long and thick with heat, Scrap Boys have ways of getting what they most want.
Photo by Chris Lawton
Tom Weller is a former Peace Corps volunteer, Planned Parenthood educator, and college writing instructor who recently relocated to Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. His fiction has appeared most recently in Jellyfish Review, The Molotov Cocktail, and Booth.