08 Feb Pool Party
Katy Hammond giggles as she stands over a stout garden gnome. She breaks off from the group of tall men surrounding her. She points at the garden statue. She says, “I gno-me him.” She chuckles, “I’ve seen him in one of my reoccuring sexy dreams.”
The group of men double-over and chuckle with her. They sound like they’re forcing their joy.
The tallest man of the bunch passes her a burning joint. He picks the gnome up and he puppeteers it. He makes it look like it’s climbing him the way a person might scale a tree.
The men turn their heads and gawk at Katy as she watches the man play around. Her face goes blank. Then she bursts out into raucous laughter. And it spreads through the group.
Their sound carries over the din of the pool party filling the backyard they’re hanging out in.
Little Robbie looks down upon them from where he’s sitting on the mansion rooftop, far above the party, distant. He feels a small laugh swell in his chest, escape his lips then die.
Robbie, a college student like the rest of them, stands only at half the height of the gigantic men crowding around Katy.
He inches closer to the edge of the roof, tilting his ear towards her, and with his sneaker, he feels the spot where the gutters end. He stares at the steep drop below. His heart starts pounding so hard it feels like it’s crawling up the back of his tongue. He scoots away from the ledge and the beat in his chest slows to a steady thump.
He continues watching Katy Hammond from afar as she enjoys ridiculing the little gnome with the hottest guys on campus.
Katy and Robbie had once shared stints of quiet laughter in the past. They had sat next to each other in the college library pouring over her notes from a previous Physics class lecture. She grinned at him as they shared his earbuds. They huddled around her notes and came across a caricature she had drawn of their teacher. Their heads strung together using Robbie’s earbuds, they listened to the wail of a punk rocker’s guitar, and they giggled.
They walked out of the library that day as she gabbed on, saying, “That guitar solo was rad. I’m going to be playing that on repeat all day.”
He walked next to Katy as his eyes shined just looking at her. He waddled, trying to keep up with each of her long striding steps.
She hefted her knapsack strap back onto her shoulder. She said, “Rock-a-billy punk is totally my jam.” She bumped into him and he almost toppled over. She blushed, saying, “Oops.” She caught him from falling.
They shared a long moment, staring into each other’s eyes.
He caught a whiff of her lavender perfume. It filled his nostrils with a scent you might smell on a summer’s day.
He steadied his feet and smiled at her.
Katy let go of him then kept on walking. Brushing it off, she said, “I love that band where the guys wear skull-makeup.” She shifted her knapsack again. “The ones who play their guitars with their shirts off, and mosh.” After that comment, she went red as if she had exposed an embarrassing detail about her sex life. “Wild men make me swoon,” she said.
She said that to Robbie only a month before the party.
Seeing her rosy cheeks redden as she laughs at the gnome, it spreads warmth through the insides of little Robbie as he stands on the chilly mansion rooftop.
She cranes her neck, throwing her head back and her eye catches on Robbie. She looks up in his direction. And she stops laughing. She cups her hands around her mouth, shouting, “What are you doing up there?”
The partygoers gawk at the sky, breaking off from their little conversations, searching the roof for the person she’s shouting at. They cover their cups. They fall into silence. They look up at little Robbie, slack-jawed.
He slips on an open beer that he was drinking. It launches out from under him. It drops towards the pool. And it spits beer into the air, spinning like a lawn sprinkler. Partygoers move out of the way and the beer explodes on the concrete in a puddle of foam.
The partygoers collectively groan. Their astonishment dies into a silent reverie as a few people in the crowd awkwardly chuckle.
Robbie regains his footing on the rooftop. He throws up his arms like an acrobat landing a flip.
The crowd mildly cheers. A gale of wind catches their voices and it blows their enthusiasm into the starry sky.
One of the tall men leaning on Katy, he shouts, “Jump.”
Katy gazes at little Robbie. Her eyes glimmer with the reflection of the LED deck lights illuminating the party scene.
The crowd takes up the chant, “Jump.” Louder, “Jump.” Even louder, “Jump.” Their harmonious mantra fills the backyard.
And Robbie feels it wash over him.
Katy stares at him and her angelic smile swoops into a devilish grin. A grin he’d only ever seen her give to one of the college’s Creative Writing teachers whenever the guy parked his motorcycle.
Below, in the party crowd, she looks at the pool then back at Robbie wobbling far above her on the rooftop. She shouts out to him, “You can’t make the jump.”
Robbie drunkenly slurs, “Nothing stops a wild man!”
So, he runs and he jumps.
Then he plummets towards the glowing pool with its underwater lights that make it glitter in the nighttime party scene.
As he falls head-first towards the pool, it feels like his guts are spilling through his legs then out of his feet. Air whistles past him, it drowns out the chanting party crowd. He opens his eyes, and it feels like time slows down as he sees the concrete tiles below slowly rushing toward him.
Josh Ackermann escapes his desk job by writing in his free time. One of his short stories, One Helluva Headache, was published in the English Bay Review. He’s currently revising two of his first novels. And he’s is the creator of the Falling For Stories podcast; among many other titles.