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by L. H. Hall

Chapter 12 - Swimming Pool


by L. H. Hall

Chapter 12

Swimming Pool

I was up before dawn the next morning. The meat was spread out on the rocks, and I was starting to cut the path to the lake before Sheba came back from her hunt. "Good Girl!" I patted her head when she trotted in with a rabbit in her mouth. After a couple swings with the machete, I shucked the skin off from it and let the refuse fall. It did not last long. Sheba gulped it down, almost before it hit the ground.

"What are you doing out here so early?" Sarah asked.

"I thought if I could get the trail cut down to the lake early enough, Jamie and I would go to the beach after the sand. After I went to bed last night, I remembered the dogs the last time we had meat out. I don't want Sheba leaving the patio while the meat is drying, and I don't want you and Jamie going to the beach without her; so, I will try to do both."

"Maybe we could get by without sand for a while. I know, we could wait on the path, but it would be nice to go swimming. Everybody's excited about it. I don't know which is the most important."

"I think I can do both before it gets too hot, if you'll watch the meat cook. I'll call the others to move the brush out of the way as I cut it."

Just as I said that, the others came out of the cave, rubbing their eyes, heading for their morning pee-bath. From that first morning they had always gone directly to the stream. I had never seen any of them go to the bathroom until quite a while after breakfast. In my mind I accused them of taking a pee-their-pants bath, whether they really did or not.

"When you get through, come pile this brush," I called.

"It's too early to work," Jamie griped.

"Do you want to go swimming this morning."

"YES!" They exclaimed in chorus.

"Then come and help me with this brush."

"Where do you want us to put it?" Debbie asked.

"Pile it up in front of that corner we use for the bathroom. That'll give us more privacy."

They dove into the project like their lives depended on it. They were everywhere, back and forth. I had to be careful where I swung the machete or I might have hit one of them. By the time breakfast was ready, I had quite a space cleared. I decided that in another half hour or so, we would have access to the lake, but we would go to the beach first. There was no need tempting the girls before I had a chance to check the lake.

Sheba was at her usual place on the ledge, watching the meat, so it did not take much effort keeping the birds away. Occasionally, we would have to shoo one off, but with Sheba there; they were not so brave.

After breakfast when Jamie and I started down the trail to the beach, Sheba left her place on the ledge to go with us. "No! Sheba! You stay here and take care of the girls. Help them watch the meat."

Sheba whined, but returned to her post, as if she had understood every word.

We did not waste any time getting to the beach. We harvested a couple dozen clams, got the sand, and made it back to the cave in plenty of time to finish clearing the trail to the lake before the sun got too high.

When the work was finished, I walked out into the lake. I had been right. The rock floor sloped down until the water came about to my hips then it leveled out for several feet. I walked up and down and around, but until I got out about even with the edge of the waterfall, the water stayed about hip level. However, just before I was even with the waterfall, the bottom fell away abruptly. I dove down several times until my ears hurt, but I could not find the bottom. I swam across to the other side. There was no good place for Julie over there. I swam down stream, looking for some outcropping of rock or a rise in the lake floor. There was none. I swam up to the waterfall. Nothing protruded into the lake there, either. I dove under. The cliff, over which the water fell, went straight down as deep as I could dive. There would be no real danger in jumping off the cliff, but it was no place for a poor swimmer. We had to teach Julie to swim well, or watch her every minute to see that she did not step off the ledge.

Jamie had been helping me check the pool and had seen what the bottom was like.

"What do you think?" I asked.

"It's a good place to swim. There are some big fish in here too."

"I know. I saw them. Do you think you can help watch Julie, and save her if she steps off the ledge?"

"Of course! What do you think I am? Helpless?"

"Good. Will you watch the meat until I get up there, and ask the girls to come down here. I'll be up to take my turn in just a minute, as soon as I show Sarah where the drop off is, and see how well she and Debbie can swim."

Sarah, and Debbie were both pretty good swimmers. I did not think they swam as well as Jamie and I, but Sarah, at least, could have saved Julie if she had gotten in over her head. Julie could stay afloat, and take a breath or two, but she needed watching. We had to teach her to swim, fast.

When I told Jamie I would watch the meat, he ran off the edge of the cliff, screaming; scaring the girls half to death. He came up laughing before I could get to the edge; to make sure he was all right.

"I guess you kids know you're swimming in your own pee." I called down teasingly.

"Oh, no we aren't. That's already gone down to the ocean," Debbie called back.

"What's a little pee in so much water. It would take a big herd of elephants to pollute this much water," Jamie argued.

"I wouldn't drink it," I returned. "Keep you mouths shut."

"You already drinked it," Julie called. "I saw you. You said it was good water."

"Okay" I said as Sheba barked. "I was just kidding."

"You'd better get to work," Sarah called pointing at a retreating bird with a long strip of meat hanging from her talons. "There goes our meat."

I turned to the meat just in time to see another strip taking off to some unknown part of the Island. After that, I watched the meat, but I also kept an eye on the kids below. I knew if I had to; I could be in the water in seconds to help one of them, and I was ready, but there were no problems.

The sun was getting pretty high in the sky when I called them and told them it was time to get out of the sun. They all moaned and groaned about it, but they came without much delay. When Jamie came up, I asked him to watch the meat. I took one dive from the edge of the cliff, and came right back to the cave.

Jamie put on the tee shirt, and took his turn watching the meat while the rest of us retired to the coolness of the cave.

The night before, Sarah and I had made a pallet three blankets thick, and covered them with sheets, and fixed a pillow for each of us. It felt like a feather bed compared to the bare rock floor.

I was tired. I had gotten up much earlier than usual, and had worked harder. I lay down to take a nap, but the puppies felt neglected, and decided it was time to play. Jamie had both of his and Julie and Debbie each had one, but the other four were all over me, wanting attention. I laughed and knocked them away, playfully, but they kept coming back for more. After a while, the game got old to them, and they wandered off to see what else they were missing. I fell asleep. I do not think I had been asleep long; at least it did not feel like it, before Sarah called me for lunch.

"Are you going to sleep all day?"

"I might if you'd let me; at least until it cools off; so I can start working on the goat pen. I got up awful early, you know."

"I cooked the clams you dug this morning. I hope you like them."

"How did you cook'em?"

"I just put them in the coals like we tried last time. When I took them out they opened up easily. I tasted one. It was good."

"Who's watching the meat."

"Julie is, now. It's almost your turn again."

"What do you mean? I watched it all the time you were all swimming."

"And I watched it all morning. I think I've done my share for this day."

"Yeah, but Jamie and I were working all that time, and the girls were helping too, except while we were down at the beach."

"Well, it's your turn when Julie gets tired. Eat your lunch."

"Where's Jamie and Debbie?"

"They're playing in the west room. They say it's cooler in there. I thought it would be all right. They said they wouldn't go out."

"It's all right," I agreed.

After I had eaten my clams and some left over breadfruit, I relieved Julie, and methodically turned all the drying meat. I looked up at Sheba who was still lying, panting, at her post on the wall. "Poor girl, you need a break, don't you?" I tossed her a long strip of meat. She looked at me for a few seconds before she gobbled it up. She was strange for a dog. She would sit there all day, and never touch a bite of the meat unless it was given to her. Twice, once the first day the pups were out and again today, the pups had come out to steal some of the meat. Each time she barked twice. The pups left, and did not bother the meat again. After she ate the meat, she hopped down to get a drink from the stream, and jumped back up on the ledge.

It probably was not long, but it seemed like hours before Sarah came out and asked for the tee shirt, saying she would relieve me. She put the sweaty shirt on. "Whew! This shirt stinks. I've got to wash it tonight."

"It ought to stink. It's had five kids sweating in it."

I went into the cool of the cave. It was still warm, but it was better than being outside in the heat. I really felt sorry for Sarah. I would not let her stay out there too long. I would send Jamie to relieve her.

I went into the west room to see what the kids were doing. They were right. It is cooler in here. It must be because of the smaller entrance, I thought. The kids were quietly wrestling with the puppies. They had not even seen me come in. I watched them for a minute, and eased back out into the main cave. I was bored. I went over to the corner where we had found Mr. Wilcox, and picked up a Zane Gray book. I had never read anything by him, but I knew they were Westerns. Riders of the Purple Sage, I read the title. I pulled the chest over against the front wall and started to read. It was rather boring, but most books are at first; I decided, and continued to read. When I thought Sarah had been outside for about a half hour, I got Jamie from the other room to take his turn, and returned to my book.

"Are you mad at me?" Sarah came in and sat down beside me.

"No. Why should I be mad at you?"

"Because I made you take my turn outside. I really didn't think you would do it, but I decided to try. I was kinda mad at you because I wanted company, and you were sleeping. All I could do was think about our troubles, and that made me more upset. If you would have argued with me, I would have felt better and taken my own turn. But, you didn't argue. You just went out and took my turn. That made me feel even worse because I felt guilty."

"Well, I decided that you were right. While I went to the beach, cut a path down to the lake, and took the first swim, you were stuck with the boring job of watching the meat. I figured you had done your turn."

"I went into the other room, a while ago, to check on the others," I continued. "They didn't even see me, but I watched them play for a few minutes. I wish we could make them something for Christmas. Each of you girls need to have a doll. And Jamie needs some trucks and cars, and boy stuff."

"What do you need, Timmy? Cars and trucks and boy stuff?"

"No. I don't need anything as long as we're here, except things that would make our lives better."

"That's the way it is with me. If I were home with my parents, I would need a doll so I could be its momma, but I don't need that here. As I said the other night, I feel like I am a momma, and I don't like it. I don't have time to be a little girl. I don't even feel like a little girl, but I want to."

"Yeah, I know. That's the way I feel. I don't think I even want a Christmas present, but I'd sure like to make something for you and the others. Sometimes I want to call them 'kids'. We're kids too, but it doesn't seem like it. I don't even think like a kid. The only problems other kids my age have is getting their homework done, and trying to be good enough, not to get into too much trouble. I have to go out in a little while and cut brush 'til dark. Early in the morning while other kids my age are sleeping, I'll be up cutting some more brush. I'll have to cut brush for days. Then for several more days, I've got to build a fence so my children can have a little milk to drink. I don't mind, but I am still a little boy. I would like to be able to act and think like a little boy."

"Timmy, do you think we could ever go back to being, just, children? thinking and acting like other children our age? I mean if a boat with all of our parents on it were to rescue us this very minute, could we ever go back to thinking like kids?"

"I don't think so. I want our folks to come for us so badly, I let myself cry a little sometimes when I'm all alone; but then, I think of something that scares me almost as bad."

"What's that?"

"When we get rescued, our parents won't know what's happened to us inside. To them, we'll still be little kids, and that's the way they will treat us. They'll expect us to still act and think like we did last week, but that's not the worst thing."

"What could be worse than that?"

"I'd lose you and your sisters. You'd go back to live with your folks, and Jamie and I would live with mine. Your dad would get transferred, and we'd stay in the Philippines. We might never see each other again. I want to go home, but I don't want to lose you and the girls. I don't think I could stand it. I've learned to love you all too much."

"They couldn't do that to us after what we've been through together! Could they?"

"They'll never know what we've been though. They can't know the changes that have taken place in us, or how we have become a family. As I said, they'll always think of us as their little babies, and think they know what's best for us. They wouldn't even listen to us. They'd just say, 'You'll get over it,' and we'd get over it; just as we would if one of us were to die. That's what it would feel like to me."

"We couldn't let them separate us! Not now! We just couldn't!"

"They wouldn't even listen to us."

"They'd have to! We'd have to make them!" She began to cry. "I want my mommy and daddy, but I don't want to lose you and Jamie."

"They wouldn't listen. They'd think they know best. It looks like we're in for a life of heartache. No matter what happens, and the longer we're here, the worse it will be."

Sarah laid her head on my shoulder and cried for a long time, until Jamie came in. "It's hot out here. Isn't it about someone else's turn? What's the matter with Sarah?"

"She's just sad," I explained. "I'll get Debbie."

Debbie relieved Jamie, and he went to play with Julie. Sarah got control of herself. "Timmy, I hope help comes really soon, 'cause I think the longer we stay here, the less I'll want to be rescued."

"I know, and I don't like that kind of feeling. I'm going out and cut some brush." The sun was still too high, and it was too hot, but I had to work off the pain I felt in my heart.

"Where do you want me to pile the brush?" She followed me out.

"You'd better go on back inside. It's still too hot."

"I know, but I need to work this out of me, as much as you do."

"Okay, put it over there where we were putting it this morning. If we work hard, we may not have to work long." By the time Debbie was calling for relief, I was ready to quit, and cool off. "C'mon, Sarah, let's take a break before we die from the heat. I'll get Julie." I called to Debbie.

"I'm ready," Sarah agreed.

I called Julie, and Debbie was relieved.

"Julie won't take a very long turn," Sarah said, "I'll relieve her."

"It's only right that she doesn't have a long turn. Don't you know, the older you get the longer turn you have to take? but I'll relieve her. It's my turn."

"Are we going to fight over this?"

"No. I'm the boss, and I will say whose turn it is. I will relieve her as soon as I cool off a little." I smiled so she would know I was teasing. "You had a turn since I did."

"But you took my turn."

"And you had five turns this morning."

"It was cool then." She argued.

"That doesn't matter."


"Does not."


"Does not."


"Does not."

"Does not," I switched.

"It does too!" She followed my lead.

"I knew you would agree with me sooner or later; so, I'm taking the next turn."

"You tricked me!" She picked up a stick to hit me.

I ran out of the cave in mock fear. "Julie, it's my turn give me the shirt."

"No, Julie, give it to me. It's my turn."

Julie looked from me to Sarah and back to me, as if we were crazy, but glad to be relieved. She took off the shirt and dropped it on the patio. She was not about to take sides.

Sarah was still chasing me with the stick, and I just happened to get to the shirt first. "Now I've got the shirt. I win."

"That ain't fair." She playfully hit me on the bottom with the stick, and went into the cave.

I had worked up a real sweat cutting brush, and I had not cooled down much. There were not any birds in sight: so, I lay down in the stream, and rolled over a few times. When I had cooled off a little, I got up and threw Sheba strip of meat. "Here, Sheba, you've earned this."

I had barely gotten the words out of my mouth, when Sarah came out of the cave. "Okay, your turn's up. It's my turn now."

"No. It isn't. I've only been here five minutes. You go on and come back in a half hour."

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Copyright 1995
Leonard H. Hall, Sr.

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