The Green Pool - by Susan Shipp



Behind the broken-down house standing alone from its neighbours’, runs a stream that sparkles in the summer and swells with winter rain. 

No-one’s lived in the house for many years, not since the boy who lived there disappeared.  Boards have been hammered across the windows and the roof sags.  In the front yard an old rusting car hunkers down on flat tyres and a child’s rope-swing hangs limp from the branch of an aged tree. 

A long swath of overgrown grass leads down to the stream that babbles along, sweeping around tiny stones nestling on the flat bed.  Here it is shallow and not very wide. Tiny fish the colour of rainbow trout glide through the clear water with a lazy flourish of their tail fins, skirting around clumps of bright green waterweeds, the fronds of which drift with the flow of the stream. 

About a mile down the road from the broken-down house, the stream widens to form a pool that is deep enough in which to swim.  There the water is green and the sun doesn’t reach you. 

***

The summer break of 1965 stretched before us, as Danny and me walked and talked our way along the river bank looking for a place to hunker down and fish, and better still, a place where Joey and his gang wouldn’t think to find us.

When we came to the deep green pool that is hidden from view by a tangle of bushes, we set down our rods and pots of bait.  

Shrugging off his backpack, Danny kicked off his sneakers and dragging off his t-shirt took a short run up to the edge of the bank, and launched himself into the air with a big silly grin on his freckled face.  

I followed him, gasping as the cold water made my stomach clench.  I popped to the surface like flotsam.  Laughing, I trod water, expecting Danny to grab me by the ankle and pull me under - but he didn't.

***

It had been a warm day like today, when the sun shines and boys’ are brave enough to be foolhardy.

The boy in me left long ago, replaced by an old man with aching knees and a bent back. 

Walking down the long swathe of overgrown grass, I follow the riverbank to the green pool and my stomach clenches as it did on that day so long ago.

If I close my eyes, I can still see that silly, lopsided grin on his face, and the way the water parted as it embraced him.

It embraces him still, for there was no pulling Danny from the underwater weeds, and I didn’t tell, for we were told never to go as far as the green pool.

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