What a long day it had been. I turned the faucet and let the water run down my neck. The sun baked the rocks of the playground and could blind the eyes from the ground and sky. My friend, Eddie, and I were hired to haul rocks from the playground of a daycare to a grassy island on the other side of the facility.
Axel Rose bellowed from the jam box.
“Where’s the other wheelbarrow,” Eddie asked.
“Along the fence,” I said.
Eddie was a good guy, and I knew him since the fourth-grade when we moved to a new town. My family and I left the comfort of our hometown to begin anew in Texas. Eddie did what he was told, and I told him we would do this job, but it became more laborious as each day passed.
“I’m ready for a nice breeze,” Eddie said. He wiped sweat from his nose.
I nodded my head. I flung my wipe-cloth at him, and it hit him on the back of the neck. I ran then.
“Alright! Alright,” I said.
Eddie went back to his wheelbarrow and ground the wheel into the rock for leverage. He pushed it through to the blacktop road ahead.
Hours later we collected our day’s pay from Mrs. Cunningham, the administrator. We walked several blocks to the apartment community where I lived.
“Don’t sit on the furniture and don’t walk through this apartment like that,” my mother said. Her finger pointed.
Eddie and I went to my room. We wadded the work clothes into the corner and changed into our trunks. The breeze would have just picked up by then, and we were ready.
“You boys want a drink?”
“No, Mom,” I said, and we scurried to the front door. The sun peered a little closer at us than it had earlier in our drudgery.
I walked to the gate of the apartment’s swimming area with Eddie behind me, and what I saw there froze me for three or four seconds. I didn’t move for what seemed like a lifetime.
“Oh, my God,” yelled Eddie, and then I heard a splash.
A body lay floating on the surface of the water. The body was like a ragdoll facedown in the water. My legs moved, and I jumped in behind him. Eddie and I swam and pulled a small boy to the concrete shore of the pool. His face was blue.
I ran to my apartment, and yelled inside, “Call 9-1-1!” I then ran back to the pool. Soon all kinds of adults surrounded the little boy. Eddie and I looked at one another.
After a time, a man in a uniform with a resuscitation device looked up and pronounced the boy dead, and that was that.
My mother said, “Oh, God. Oh, God, boys. He was so young. He belonged to Mrs. Hendrickson in building E.”
I knew Mrs. Hendrickson. She watered her plants on her patio every morning before the bus came during the school year.
My father put his arm over my shoulder for comfort. Eddie and I didn’t know how we were supposed to feel.
My mother exclaimed, “You boys go inside and sit wherever you want to today…because today you’ve earned it.”
I looked at my mother strangely, her eyes so wide. I didn’t know if she was talking about our hard work at the daycare or something else we did that was entirely different.