Daddy is still snoring on the couch as we eat our cereal Saturday morning.
Momma says, “Hurry up, Donna Lee. I want to get you there so you can warm up before your age group races. And I’d sure like it if you could watch JR in the baby pool for a bit.”
“Do I have to, Momma?”
“Please do not give me any grief on this. He loves it when you take him in the pool.”
Down at the rec center, I sit with JR in the piss pond that is the baby pool. It’s even warmer than the big pool, probably from all those babies peeing in it. JR laughs and splashes and tries to drink the nasty water.
“Don’t do that, baby boy. It’s yucky.” I pull his head up quick.
JR pushes back, making his little game of it, like when he throws his bottle off his tray. You pick it up, and he throws it off again. And again. And again.
“Really, don’t.” I yell. It just makes him giggle more.
I start to play shark, chase him around the pool until he is probably wetting his bathing suit from laughin’ so hard. He slips out of my grasp like an eel, pushing me backward and splashing me with his fat little mitts.
I do like him sometimes.
There are always races on the first day the pool opens. In my age group, there’s already a few girls who don’t want to get their hair wet. Sissies. They’re missing out on a chance to win a prize. Lots of prizes – Mars bars, Milky Ways, coupons for the Club Grill. Good stuff. Too bad I gave it up for Lent.
I enter 5 races and win ‘em all. Partly because I am the only one racing in three of them.
Some big boys come over and make friends with me. I know they just want my candy, but I don’t mind giving it to them. They toss me in the pool, into the deep end, over and over.
“Want a ride on my shoulders? You can be my knight and I’ll be your horse.”
“Sure, go underwater and I’ll climb on.”
“Let’s play shuffleboard, Donna Lee.”
Butch joins the party. I can’t believe he’s being nice to me.
“Should I get Lolly, too?”
“Nah, just you. You can be one of the guys. Can I have a Mars bar?”
“Sure, I have lots.”
“Cool. Then, let’s swim.”
“Can you hold your breath and count to 30?” I ask every last one of them.
Near dark, Momma drags me out of the pool to smear me with 6-12 before the mosquitoes eat me alive at the outdoor movies in the park next to the pool.
“Stay with Lolly, honey, and watch the movie.”
To Lolly she says, “Keep an eye on her, sister. JR’s fussy, so I’m taking him home. I’ll come back down to get you girls when the movie is over.”
Lolly glances at me sideways, then goes back to staring at Cary Grant on the screen.
“Huh? Oh, okay Mom.”
“Really, keep an eye on her, please.”
“Okay, okay, sure.”
Lolly doesn’t even notice when I jump back in the pool with the big boys.
Over and over, we shout the response. I’m tagged more times than the boys, but I don’t even care. I never had this much fun ever, ever before.
In one of the dark spots in the pool, I’m hiding when I hear Butch whisper, “Come here, closer to me. Get over here, Donna Lee.”
I breast-swim closer, bobbing under the water with each stroke. He reaches around me and pulls me out of the light’s circle. He touches me Down There.
I feel a shock all through my body. Sorta’ in a good way, like when your tongue finds that hole where a tooth used to be. It hurts a bit, but you can’t seem to keep that tongue away from that spot.
“No, no. Don’t do that.” I push at him but he holds me against himself and forces my hand to his Down There. He makes my hand rub it.
“Stop it. I’m gonna’ tell on you.”
“Go ahead, big baby. Snitch. No one will believe you. Stop your bawling’”
“Go away. Get away from me.” I grab Butch’s hand, bite it, hard. He rears back. Then his head hits another boy’s nose. Blood squirts out like water from a fountain.
I swim fast to the deep end and hold my breath under the water, counting as high as I can. The water seals up around me. Finally, after a long count, I hear them leave. They’re laughing and shoving on their way to the boys’ locker room.
“Race you to the showers.”
“Man, my hand hurts.”
“How about my nose?”
“Pussy, pussy, pussy.”
“Suck my dick.”
Butch turns around right before he goes into the locker room and yells, “Marco.”
Before I even think about it, I yell back, “Polo,” then use my hand to shut my mouth. Thankfully, nobody jumps back in.
A long time after, I hear Momma and see the dark shape of the towel she is holding out.
“Donna. Donna Lee, come on out. I thought I told you to stay out of that pool. Here, wrap up in this.”
“Sister, you are shaking. Let’s get you warm. What is it?”
“I hate boys.”
“Let me tell you. That won’t last.”
“I hate boys. I will always hate boys. And men, too.”
“Join the club, little girl.”