Short story: Big ideas

Paddling in water

Dawn Thomson

I let us into my back garden, there was no-one home.

‘Where’s the pool?’ Jane asked.

‘Not built yet.’ I replied.

Tina, who rarely said anything, looked on silently.  Her face was blank.

‘It won’t take long.  We just need to dig a hole and fill it up.’

I handed each of them a spade.  I marked out the area of the proposed pool on a semi-bald patch of our well-worn and struggling lawn.

Tina looked at her towel and bathing costume and back at the ‘pool’ site.  Still she said nothing.

Jane could always be relied upon to get behind my ideas with gusto and soon the two of us were energetically scooping and digging.  Tina stood and watched, biting her nails.

‘C’mon Tine.  Give us a hand.’ I urged.

‘Are you allowed?’ She asked.

I hadn’t considered this. I had been fully focussed on the pool creation as the obvious remedy to an oven-hot day.  There were no grown-ups around to check with.  My mum was at my nana’s for at least another hour, dad came home from work at six and Alan from grammar school after rugby training, at about the same time.

‘I wouldn’t be allowed to in our garden.’ Tina continued, ‘dad would kill me!’

Tina didn’t say a great deal, so when she did, we listened and weighed her opinions.  However, we knew she regularly feared death by angry father, so we allowed for this.  It was hard for me to imagine though, as my dad and hers were opposites.

We carried on digging the hard-baked earth but our progress was slow.

‘Maybe it’ll have to be a paddling pool not a swimming pool.’  I said.

‘That’s Ok.’ Jane said flinging a spade full of soil over the lawn.

Tina was still watching, sucking the end of one of her plaits.

By the time we had dug down to the softer soil we had blisters forming on the palms of our hands.

‘Spit on them.’ Jane advised.  ‘It stops them stinging.’

‘Let’s fill it up now.’ I said, running off for the metal pail which stood in the yard beside the mangle. I turned on the tap and water gushed into the bucket. When it was full, we hauled it to the lawn, slopping water over our feet on the way.  Holding it between us, by handle and base, we poured and watched the water gurgle into our hole.  It turned grey as it mixed with the loose earth, then soaked away and disappeared, leaving gloopy black silt.

 

‘I think we need a few more buckets of water.’ Jane said.

‘It won’t work.’ Tina shook her head.

‘It will.’ I insisted.

I was so hot and sweaty by this time that I started to feel cross with Tina.  Not only was she not helping but she was doubting the idea would work at all.  Jane never did that.

Jane and I carried on filling the buckets and pouring them in but each time the same thing happened and the water just soaked away leaving progressively bigger slicks of mud.

‘We could play mud pies instead?’ Jane suggested.

Much as I liked mud pies, I really wanted to paddle and cool off.  I was feeling downcast almost to the point of tears when my next-door neighbour Keinwyn peeped over the garden wall.

‘Is that a swimming pool you are making?’ She asked.

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘but the water won’t stay in.’

’Oh.’ She said, stroking her chin thoughtfully. ‘Is it soaking away?’

‘Yes.’ Jane and I answered together.

Keinwyn smiled at us.

‘In the garage we’ve got Anthony’s old paddling pool, how about if I clean it up and you can try that?  I’ll help you fill it with the hose.’

We were delighted, even Tina smiled.

‘I’ll blow it up whilst you girls fill the hole back in.’ Keinwyn suggested.

Soon the paddling pool was cleaned and inflated.  It was bright blue with three tiers.  She handed it to us over the garden wall, being careful not to snag it on the stones.  We placed it on the most level patch of lawn (directly over our infill) and she angled the hose.

We changed into our bathing costumes.  Mine was navy and white stripes, Jane’s was red with yellow flowers and Tina’s was her cousin’s old black leotard. Our towels were draped out ready, on the wall.

The water pattered down the tubular sides of the pool and swirled across the base.  Soon it was deep enough to submerge the nozzle and eddies surged around it.  We all watched, entranced, as the water level rose.

‘Water has to go into things that it can’t soak through, see.’ Keinwyn said.

When she had finished with the hose, she reeled it in and then passed a bowl of warm water over to us.

‘That will take the chill off.’ She said.  ‘So that you don’t get too cold.’

Ecstatic jumping, plunging and splashing followed.  Even Tina laughed.  When the initial excitement had died down, we sat there catching our breath and running our hands idly across the surface.

Keinwyn had brought a deckchair into her garden and was supervising from a distance whilst reading a book.

The next time that she checked on us, she offered us home-made ice-lollies from her fridge (the only fridge in the street).  We couldn’t believe our luck as we sat in the pool licking them.  The hot sun melting them over our hands from where they dripped into the water.

When mum and baby brother Simon returned, they were surprised to see the resort we had set up – but Keinwyn explained on our behalf and also prepared mum for the mess that lay beneath the pool.

They talked over the garden wall and shared a pot of tea.

Keinwyn’s good humour and positive words stay with me:

‘There’s nothing wrong with big ideas.’

Dawn Thomson is a Bristol-based writer and artist, formerly an MA creative writing student at Swansea University (2018 -19).  She often draws upon her roots in the south of Wales for plays, poetry and stories.  Big Ideas is a part of a longer memoir piece Beneath These Hills.

Her recent e-book, Palette, reached number one in the Amazon new poetry releases on World Book Day in March 2020.  She has just completed a dystopian novel, Cennen’s Cariad and is in progress, (halted in lockdown) with her biography of centenarian artist Robert Hurdle RWA – A Soft Geometry.

She works from shed-quarters at the bottom of her garden with her editor – lurcher pup Suze – who shreds the early drafts and has inspired the upcoming series of cartoons and blog-spot Suze Says.

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