The water slapped against the edge of the pool like a metronome keeping time. Cautiously, he stuck his toes in, then his leg, but only up to the knee. It felt cold and silky, and he liked how it moved across his legs, folding his body into its perpetual motion. His mom held his hands as he gingerly placed his other leg on the top step of the pool. He swayed as his legs wobbled and threatened to topple him. His mom squeezed his hands, helped him sit on the step. His dad jumped in the pool and he called out, tried to swim to where he was, but his mom grabbed him before he could get anywhere and stuck his legs into an inflatable clown fish that was floating in the water nearby. He clenched his toes as she pushed him and the fish across the pool. His brother shouted at him from where he stood placing his cars along the rock waterfall on the side. He had floaties strapped to his arms and they stuck out like a penguin’s flippers. He had never been in a pool before, and it reminded him of a giant bathtub; he hated baths, hated rinsing the soap out of his hair, all that water pouring down his forehead and across his eyes. It always made him yell, and he couldn’t understand why his mom and dad continued to torture him with it each night. He looked around, checking to make sure that no one was coming up behind him with soap and a cup full of water.
Satisfied that there wouldn’t be an ambush, he rode the waves that his dad was making as he swam. He and the fish bobbed along, bumping into the edges of the pool. He couldn’t figure out how to control where the fish went. He watched as his dad cut through the water with his arms and feet, and he tried to do the same but only ended up stuck in the very back corner of the pool. His dad swam over to rescue him and pushed him back across the water so fast that waves rippled out behind him. He watched his dad grab his brother and throw him into the air. His brother landed with a splash that sprayed his face from where he was floating nearby. He watched as his brother bobbed back up, his life jacket and floaties the first to appear. He shouted to his dad, wanted to be thrown through the air too. His dad swam over and pushed him through the water; it wasn’t the same, but it made him laugh.
He loved when his dad was home. They would watch programs and eat chips and throw cushions across the living room at one another. Sometimes his dad would put a blanket on his head and chase him and his brother around the house. His brother would scream “GHOST!” and run away, so he would scream and run away as well. His dad always caught him though, no matter how fast he ran. His dad would drape the blanket over him and envelope him in a hug, pinching his thighs until he would laugh and wriggle away, trying to keep up with his brother. When his dad was at work, he would grab dish towels from the stove where his mom kept them, drape them over his head, and run towards his brother until he would shout “GHOST!” and run away laughing. He would laugh and follow him, but always ended up bumping into walls or the kitchen cabinets, which would make his brother laugh even harder. His mom would hurry towards him, checking to make sure he was okay, but he would replace the towel and run towards his brother before she could get him.
He saw his mom coming out of the house with snacks and his water cup. He tried to direct the fish towards her, but he only managed to float farther away. He watched as his dad helped his brother out of the pool, tried even harder to direct the fish towards the edge. He was afraid that his dad had forgotten that he was there. Then, his dad turned around and walked through the water towards him, grabbing onto the fish and pulling him towards the steps. He pounded his hands against the edges of the inflatable with impatience, watched as they bounced off wildly in different directions. His dad laughed at the shocked look on his face as he pulled him out of the fish and placed him at the edge of the pool, where his mom and his cup where waiting.