>>> Against Your Will
By staff writer John Marcher

April 3, 2008

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In the summers, everyone in our neighborhood, and I do mean everyone, hung out at the local swimming pool. I learned many of life's early lessons at that pool: my first kiss, my first fight, the first time I saw a boob, and the stories and encounters I was involved in could make up the better part of fifty stories, but I will save them for another time.

All you need to know for now is that the pool was the scene for the small social circle my family and I were involved in, and very commonly we would go there with the Keeney's. My father worked long hours, and my sister wasn't born yet (a period of my life referred to as the golden years) and so usually it was just my mother and I who went, but we did go to the pool practically every day of summer.

“Wherever Lauren went, men and boys of all ages would take her in with little or no shame.”

Typically, the Keeney's would show up a little later on in the day. (My mother liked to get up and over there early so we could procure a good spot with an umbrella, as they were hard to come by.) Mrs. Keeney would saunter in wearing her blue nylon one-piece holding a cooler stuffed to the brim with food in one hand and your typical vented pool bag in the other, filled with towels, sunscreen, and every other manner of pool gear you might imagine. Barking loudly (she always seemed to be barking loudly), she would yell at our neighbors and friends as she made her way over to our own spot, reserved hours ago, and plop down with all the authority of Mario squashing a turtle shell.

My mother would incessantly confer with her over whatever gossip, complaint, or bullshit she had on her mind on that particular day, and I would usually take this as my cue to move along and play on the jungle gym or go swimming. I told you earlier the Keeney's had three daughters, Katie, the youngest, Gwen, who was a good five years older than both Katie and I, and Lauren, who was 15. Gwen was a nice enough girl with brown hair, a diminutive stature and a mouth full to the brim with metal. She was constantly overshadowed, however, by her older sister Lauren.

Lauren was tall, blonde, and had the body of a 20-year-old. Whenever I went over to the Keeney's, it seemed she was either out on a date with some boy who had a motorcycle, or sitting in the dark with him in the Keeney's formal living room. I always found this behavior perplexing as a young child, two teenagers sitting in the dark quietly conversing while they held hands, it made no sense, it seemed so boring. I would sometimes in my innocence (I'm telling you I was innocent at this point in my life, fuck what you've heard) go over to the couch, jump on the small sliver of cushion separating them and ask if they wanted to play a game, or perhaps watch a cartoon.

The boy, whoever it may be, would usually express his discontent with the situation in a number of different ways, while Lauren would just laugh and play along. Eventually the situation would subside with the boy either bribing me to leave with some sort of fantastic prize, or Lauren sweetly pinching my cheek and telling me to go use one of her “punch-buggie” credits on Katie. Lauren’s smile was so warm, so genuine, so beautiful, she could have asked me to do anything in the entire world and I would have blushed and run off to attempt it. I didn't realize it then, but a different muscle, not all that far from the first one, was getting its own exercise for the first time.

At the pool, Lauren was a goddess. She would wear a black one-piece with matching sunglasses and sunbathe outside the shadow of our umbrella or take a lap around the pool talking to all the older male lifeguards in turn. Wherever she went, men and boys of all ages would take her in with little or no shame, and I think she quite enjoyed it, the saucy little hussy that she was.

On one day in particular, however, an exceptionally hot day in the middle of summer, she decided that she might want to take a dip in the pool. She took her large black sunglasses off (this was the 80’s mind you), and as delicate as a doe on a sheen of frozen-over lakebed, she glided (yes, glided) over to the edge of the pool. Daintily, she stuck her toe in and shuddered at the cold, then kneeled down and lapped at the water with her hand, feigning utter anguish at the thought of submerging her precious form in such a foreboding environment.

By this time a small group of boys had gathered in the pool in front of where she was standing and began coercing her to jump in. She made a great show of interacting with them, putting enough thought and effort into whether to get in the pool that you would’ve thought the decision was tantamount to choosing where to go to college, or who to marry even.

Mrs. Keeney was sitting with my mother and me over in the shade by the kiddie pool, directly adjacent to where Lauren was attracting attention. We had gotten there a little later on that morning and had paid dearly for it in the form of a urine-filled kiddie cesspool and its wayward inhabitants. I never swam very much in the kiddie pool; I had always been a strong swimmer and had begun lessons at a very early age. There were three sectors to the main pool: the play section, the lap area, and the diving area. The shape of the pool looked, I'm ashamed to say, like one half of a swastika, with the play pool and the diving pool kiddie corner to each other at opposite ends of the long rectangular lap pool. You needed a green bracelet to go in the play pool, a blue for the lap area, and a red for the diving pool. There was a test for each area; treading water for three minutes, doing two laps without touching the walls, and treading water for five minutes respectively.

At this point in my life I actually had all three of the bracelets and I would wager a guess that I was the only 4-year-old in the whole pool, perhaps the history of the pool, to have garnered such credentials at such a young age. By that time Lauren was standing at the near edge of the lap pool, putting on her fine display when Mrs. Keeney, muttering like a drunk sailor, threw down her catalog (she always was reading some sort of domestic, housewifey catalog) and began to shuffle toward her daughter.

My instinct told me Lauren was in trouble, and I wanted to run and warn her of the impending doom which was waddling toward her like a penguin, but as I attempted to get up, my mother sensed this and held me back, telling me this was between Mrs. Keeney and her daughter. As the frumpy bitch edged closer, the anticipation had me in a death grip, waiting to see what would happen. Lauren was still standing there, making a big to-do about how cold the water was with the grouping of boys who were trying to convince her to come in. They were splashing her now, flirtatiously making fun of her girliness, and one of the lifeguards had even gotten involved at this point, telling her it would be adult swim soon and she wouldn't have the chance.

Mrs. Keeney, her arms pumping sideways like pistons, still muttering some god-awful indiscernible nonsense to no one but herself, finally got to the edge of the pool. In one of the most awkward motions I have ever seen in my life, she lifted her leg up so it was perpendicular to her own form, flexed her knee, and kicked her daughter, with no doubt in my mind all the force she could muster, into the pool.

Lauren flew, screaming, her blonde hair trailing behind her like some sort of golden parachute into the watery abyss. Without a second's hesitation, Mrs. Keeney turned a 180, slapped her hands together as if to signify a job well done, and began waddling back to our outpost.

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