Summer’s End
Jacqueline Doyle

Scattered leaves, discarded candy wrappers, and an empty pack of unfiltered Camels floated in aimless circles on the surface of the pool, pelted by the rain. Josh sat on the covered patio, smoking a cigarette. He considered jumping into the cold water, but decided against it. It was time to empty the pool.

Lorena added another ice cube and the last of the rum to her Coke Zero, returned to the couch, and sipped it contemplatively. She watched Josh through the picture window. It was raining. He was hunched on a lawn chair, smoking. He didn’t seem aware of her. They really should empty the pool. It was a mess, and September was past time for swimming.

He was out of cigarettes. He was out of ideas. Things had been good once. She’d laughed at his jokes. He’d rubbed her feet while they watched TV and she told him about her day. Now they barely talked. He could get the skimmer and clean up the pool, but it didn’t seem worth bothering.

She’d never liked the pool. All the maintenance, higher home insurance, worry that some neighborhood kid might drown in it. She didn’t like swimming. She didn’t like kids either. Josh had known that when they married.

Josh leaned back and stretched out his legs. His athletic shoes were getting soaked in the rain. She’d be on his case about that, the wet shoes. She was always on his case about something. It was pretty much over, wasn’t it?

There was a stain on the white couch that wouldn’t wash out. Coffee, she thought. She’d known a white couch wasn’t practical when she bought it. “We’re not going to eat or drink in the living room,” she’d said, and Josh was okay with that. Or claimed he was. But who wants a living room where you can’t eat or drink? She took another sip of her rum and coke.

Josh was getting cold, but he didn’t want to go inside just yet. It was time to talk. They both knew it. But neither wanted to start the conversation.

He could keep the couch. It was stained. Lorena certainly didn’t want it. She didn’t want the house or anything in it. She wanted a fresh start. She was young enough. That wasn’t too much to ask for, was it? She deserved to be happy.

Josh stubbed out his last cigarette butt and flicked it in the pool. He stood and opened the patio door. He took off his wet shoes before he stepped inside. Another one of Lorena’s rules.

“It’s time to empty the pool,” she said.

“I know.”

Jacqueline Doyle’s flash has appeared in Vestal Review, Sweet, Monkeybicycle, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son. Her website is here.