A Hole You Fill With Money and Water
by Stephen Pisani
Not long after her mother left us, Janie started running around the outside of the pool. Every night, after I got home from work and her, daycare, she took about fifteen laps around the rectangular hole sunk into the far left corner of our backyard. I had a tough time telling whether it was a coping mechanism or a seven-year-old’s idea of a good time. Probably a little bit of both.
“I’m looking for Mommy,” she’d say, as if she was going to find her hiding in one of the corners of the deep end. The water wasn’t exactly crystal clear—fallen pine needles and floating bugs formed a patchwork of various shades of black and brown on the surface—but still transparent enough for even a kid to realize the pool was full of only one thing: water. No sentient beings were lurking underneath.
“Catch me,” she’d say.
“Stop that before you hurt yourself,” I’d say.
A week went by, this activity still occupying the majority of Janie’s free time, and my words proved reluctantly prophetic. She tripped on one of the uneven bricks surrounding the pool. Her sweatpants tore straight through to reveal a clean break of skin. Blood turned her pants a darker shade of blue right around her knee.
“Owweeeee,” she screamed after dropping to the ground and clutching the compromised appendage.
I knelt beside her to inspect the cut. “What did I tell you about running around the pool?” I said, a directive I understood to be common and even required dad-speak in this type of situation. From my wife, I learned that every kid is supposed to receive a dose of “I told you so” from their parents. Really, all I wanted to do was ease Janie’s pain, so I quickly adopted a gentler tone.
“Are you OK?” I said.
She didn’t take well to the Bactine. “It stings,” she squealed.
“I know, honey,” I said. “Sorry.
“It hurts soooo bad.”
She sobbed in one continuous burst, a tactic in histrionics I was sure she picked up from her mother. “Mom would have never let this happen,” she said. She eyed me with a “fuck off” look that sort of gave me chills. I never considered that such a thing could be hereditary.
Truth is my wife didn’t even want a pool. She cringed at the mention of it, like just having to look at the thing would induce some sort of seizure or something.
What she said was, “It’s just a fucking a hole in the ground with water in it. And I’m sure it’ll cost a fucking fortune. It’s just a hole you throw water and money into.”
What she did was kick a small indent in the lawn next to where the pool was slated to go. Blades of grass scattered to reveal a patch of brown earth into which she poured a dab of Poland Spring. Then she dug a few nickels from her pocket. They let out a “plink” when they hit the muddied spring water.
“There,” she said. “Same thing.”
Kneeling next to Janie, watching her face writhe in child-agony, I decided I’d fill the pool in. With what I wasn’t entirely sure. But right then and there, as I patched the gap in Janie’s delicate skin, I finally agreed with the woman who had abandoned us: it was probably a good idea to fill a hole with something more substantive than money and water.
Stephen Pisani is a Long Island, New York native who received his MA in Writing from Coastal Carolina University. His writing has appeared in Blue Lake Review,Soundings Review, and The Furious Gazelle.