Tiff Holland

A Pool in February

From this angle it appears absolute­ly dead,” said Levon. He was look­ing at the legs, the cow stiff in the pool as if it were doing the dead man’s float. He walked around the body slow­ly. Steam still rose from it. It hadn’t been dead long.

I thought you were putting the fence back up,” I said. Water from the spa cas­cad­ed down into the pool. The water was cold, the heater not yet acti­vat­ed.

Today, I was going to do it today.” He put his hands in his pock­ets and shrugged the way he often did. This project had gone on too long. No swim­ming pool in November. No pool in December. No pool in January and then, final­ly a hole and a few weeks lat­er a pool. It was three quar­ters full. It had been fill­ing all night. This morn­ing he was sup­posed to give me the demon­stra­tion: how to work the remote, to cal­cu­late the pH lev­els, to rub the con­crete down with a hard brush so the bot­tom and sides of the pool would feel smooth.

You’re sure it’s dead?” I asked. For once he was silent, his mouth a straight line. I walked over to the spig­ot and gave a hard turn. It broke off in my hand.

 

Shit.” I tried to put the pieces back togeth­er. Levon walked over, took my hand gen­tly and then slipped the piece away.

Now what?” I asked. “Has this ever hap­pened before?”

Every time he came to the house he had sto­ries, sto­ries to fill the time in which the yard sat emp­ty of pool.

No, I can hon­est­ly say it has not.” He took the skim­mer I had bought the night before and head­ed back toward the cow. What is it that makes a man want to poke what’s dead?

Don’t,” I said, walk­ing around to the head. A square yel­low tag, plas­tic, marked it as num­ber twen­ty-six. I looked at it close­ly. I liked to watch the cows through the knot­holes in the fenc­ing. Had I seen this one before? Had I heard num­ber twen­ty-six low­ing just out of sight? Had the dogs barked at it in the dark­ness when the fence was still whole?

Hon,” he said, and that felt seri­ous. Usually he called me “girl.” Usually, we flirt­ed; we joked; we exchanged crazy-moth­er sto­ries.

I had a weird feel­ing in my chest, a tin­gling sen­sa­tion in my shoul­ders. I felt like I was made of rain. Ray had told me that the cows on the ranch were cat­tle, but this one, sin­gu­lar, float­ing bloat­ed before me was a cow.

I’ll take care of it,” Levon said. “I’ll bring that back­hoe back out.”

I pic­tured the stiff black body in the yaw of the machin­ery. The image con­jured thoughts of mass graves, geno­cide, but there was no oth­er way, no way to remove it intact.

Now,” I said.

Now,” he answered, reach­ing up to turn on the head­set to his phone, mov­ing toward me to put his oth­er arm around my shoul­der.

I moved away and he turned into his call, mak­ing arrange­ments. I pulled the hose from the pool and dropped it on the ground. The water mud­died the yard, filled the grooves the machin­ery had made, flowed­to­ward the gap in the fence where three or four more cows had gath­ered, their heads fill­ing the crooked space, look­ing right at us until they low­ered their heads to drink.

~

TIFF HOLLAND’s poet­ry and fic­tion have appeared in dozens of lit­er­ary mag­a­zi­nes, ezi­nes and antholo­gies. Her work has received three Pushcart Prize nom­i­na­tions. Her chap­book “Bone In a Tin Funnel” is avail­able from Pudding House. Her Rose Metal Prize win­ning chap­book “Betty Superman” will be released in July.