Flash Fiction

May 15, 2011      

The Abstraction Pool by M. Thomas Gammarino

Listen to a reading of “The Abstraction Pool” by M. Thomas Gammarino.

Wilma went down to the pool the other day only to find it filled with rigor. It wasn’t but a couple of days since Johnston had found a swirl of categorical imperative in the deep end. It used to be we’d just get physical stuff—bicycles, rat carcasses and the like—but the vandals are getting more sophisticated. I never would have taken this manager gig if I’d known all these headaches were in the job detail. The only reason I did take it was so we could have a watertight roof over our heads and the luxury of throwing away our teabags after each use (we used to get a week out of each one). I didn’t mind the old lifestyle so much—”We work to live,” we used to say, “not the other way around”—but Wilma got tired of it.
     Now she’s tired of all this fungool with the pool, and to tell the truth I’m about at wit’s end myself. I already had Reverend Beech come out and do an exorcism. There was a bit of faith in the shallow end, which he let stay, but as for apartheid, violence, self-loathing and such, he did away with those with a shake of his censer and a lolling tongue. That was barely a week ago and already I’m hearing these reports about the golden mean in the skimmer and pi clinging to the light.
     Chlorine doesn’t do anything. I went down to the pool store and asked if they had some sort of metaphysical chlorine, but they said the researchers are still working on that. They said I could always try to imagine it in, but I don’t have much of an imagination, so I asked Wilma to do it, but she keeps saying she has to go out shopping, which is about all she does anymore now that we have a little spare change. Seems like a lifetime since we used to actually spend some of our free time together—though the calendar keeps telling me it’s not even a year yet.
     I’ve got to take charge of things, I know that. I put on my swim trunks and head down to the pool. Sure enough, there’s some despair churning up the deep end, and when I stare, it froths up at me. What’s to be done? I sit on the edge of the diving board, bounce, meditate.
     Like any good epiphany, it comes to me all at once. I stand up and steel myself for the plunge, and while I’m stretching my arms over my head and cracking my neck, I block out any feelings of “excitement,” “nervousness,” or “apprehension.” Instead, I let myself feel only “refrigerator,” “plywood,” “swing set.” And when I spring off the balls of my feet, tuck my legs in and crash into that icy vortex, it’s not “anxiety” or “fear” I feel so much as it’s “necktie” and “rutabaga.” And when, an hour or so later, Wilma comes home and finds me doggy-paddling in this pool filled with H2O, chlorine, a few leaves, some dead skin cells, and absolutely nothing else, and she’s got a bunch of shopping bags in her arms and barely bothers to acknowledge me or what I’ve done, it’s not “love” I feel for her so much as it’s…well, the truth is I’m not sure I know what it is anymore, but it’s something else, something harder.

M. Thomas Gammarino

About the author:

M. Thomas Gammarino is the author of the novel Big in Japan (Chin Music Press).

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