The Orphaned Swimming Pool
Marriages, like chemical unions, release upon dissolution packets of the energy locked up in their bonding. There is the piano no one wants, the cocker spaniel no one can take care of. Shelves of books suddenly stand revealed as burdensomely dated and unlikely to be reread; indeed, it is difficult to remember who read them in the first place. And what of those old skis in the attic? Or the doll house waiting to be repaired in the basement? The piano goes out of tune, the dog goes mad. The summer that the Turners got their divorce, their swimming pool had neither a master nor a mistress, though the sun beat down day after day, and a state of drought was declared in Connecticut.
It was a young pool, only two years old, of the fragile type fashioned by laying a plastic liner within a carefully carved hole in the ground. The Turners’ side yard looked infernal while it was being done; one bulldozer sank into the mud and had to be pulled free by another. But by midsummer the new grass was sprouting, the encircling flagstones were in place, the blue plastic tinted the water a heavenly blue, and it had to be admitted that the Turners had scored again. They were always a little in advance of their friends. He was a tall, hairy-backed man with long arms, and a nose flattened by football, and a sullen look of too much blood; she was a fine-boned blonde with dry blue eyes and lips usually held parted and crinkled as if to ask a worrisome, or whimsical, question. They never seemed happier, or their marriage healthier, than those two summers. They grew brown and supple and smooth with swimming. Ted would begin his day with a swim, before dressing to catch the train, and Linda would hold court all day amid crowds of wet matrons and children, and Ted would return from work to find a poolside cocktail party in progress, and the couple would end their day at midnight, when their friends had finally left, by swimming nude, before bed. What ecstasy! In darkness the water felt as mild and buoyant as helium, and the swimmers became giants, gliding from side to side in a single languorous stroke.
The next May, the pool was filled as usual, and the usual after-school gangs of mothers and children gathered, but Linda, unlike her, stayed indoors. She could be heard within the house, moving from room to room, but she no longer emerged, as in other summers, with a cheerful tray of ice and brace of bottles, and Triscuits and lemonade for the children. Their friends felt less comfortable about appearing, towels in hand, at the Turners’ on weekends. Though Linda had lost some weight and looked elegant, and Ted was cumbersomely jovial, they gave off the faint, sleepless, awkward-making aroma of a couple in trouble. Then, the day after school was out, Linda fled with the children to her parents in Ohio. Ted stayed nights in the city, and the pool was deserted. Though the pump that ran the water through the filter continued to mutter in the lilacs, the cerulean pool grew cloudy. The bodies of dead horseflies and wasps dotted the still surface. A speckled plastic ball drifted into a corner beside the diving-board and stayed there. The grass between the flagstones grew lank. On the glass-topped pool-side table, a spray can of Off! had lost its pressure and a gin-and-tonic glass held a sere mint leaf. The pool looked desolate and haunted, like a stagnant jungle spring; it looked poisonous and ashamed. The postman, stuffing overdue notices and pornography solicitations into the mailbox, averted his eyes from the side yard politely.
Some June weekends, Ted sneaked out of the city. Families driving to church glimpsed him dolefully sprinkling chemical substances into the pool. He looked pale and thing. He instructed Roscoe Chace, his neighbor on the left, how to switch on the pump and change the filter, and how much chlorine and Algitrol should be added weekly. He explained he would not be able to make it out every weekend — as if the distance that for years he had traveled twice each day, gliding in and out of New York, had become an impossibly steep climb back into the past. Linda, he confided vaguely, had left her parents in Akron and was visiting her sister in Minneapolis. As the shock of the Turners’ joint disappearance wore off, their pool seemed less haunted and forbidding. The Murtaugh children — the Murtaughs, a rowdy, numerous family, were the Turners’ right-hand neighbors — began to use it, without supervision. So Linda’s old friends, with their children, began to show up, “to keep the Murtaughs from drowning each other.” For if anything were to happen to a Murtaugh, the poor Turners (the adjective had become automatic) would be sued for everything, right when they could less afford it. It became, then, a kind of duty, a test of loyalty, to use the pool.
July was the hottest in twenty-seven years. People brought their own lawn furniture over in station wagons and set it up. Teen-age offspring and Swiss AU-PAIR girls were established as lifeguards. A nylon rope with flotation corks, meant to divide the wading end from the diving end of the pool, was found coiled in the garage and reinstalled. Agnes Kleefield contributed an old refrigerator, which was wired to an outlet above Ted’s basement workbench and used to store ice, quinine water, and soft drinks. An honor system shoebox containing change appeared beside it; a little lost-and-found — an array of forgotten sunglasses, flippers, towels, lotions, paperbacks, shirts, even underwear-materialized on the Turners’ side steps. When people, that July, said, “Meet you at the pool,” they did not mean the public pool past the shopping center, or the country-club pool beside the first tee. They meant the Turners’. Restrictions to admission were difficult to enforce tactfully. A visiting Methodist bishop, two Taiwanese economists, an entire girls’ softball team from Darien, an eminent Canadian poet, the archery champion of Hartford, the six members of a black rock group called the Good Intentions, an ex-mistress of Aly Khan, the lavender-haired mother-in-law of a Nixon adviser not quite of Cabinet rank, an infant of six weeks, a man who was killed the next day on the Merrit Parkway, a Filipino who could stay on the pool bottom for eighty seconds, two Texans who kept cigars in their mouths and hats on their heads, three telephone linemen, four expatriate Czechs, a student Maoist from Wesleyan, and the postman all swam, as guests, in the Turners’ pool, though not at once. After the daytime the crowd ebbed, and the shoebox was put back in the refrigerator, and the last AU-PAIR girl took the last goosefleshed, wrinkled child shivering home to supper, there was a tide of evening activity, trysts (Mrs. Kleefield and the Nicholson boy, most notoriously) and what some called, overdramatically, orgies. True, late splashes and excited guffaws did often keep Mrs. Chace awake, and the Murtaugh children spent hours in their attic windows with binoculars. And there was the evidence of the lost underwear.
One Saturday early in August, the morning arrivals found an unknown car with New York plates, parked in the garage. But cars of all sorts were so common — the parking tangle frequently extended into the road — that nothing much was thought of it, even when someone noticed that the bedroom window upstairs were open. And nothing came of it, except that around suppertime, in the lull before the evening crowds began to arrive in force, Ted and an unknown woman, of the same physical type as Linda but brunette, swiftly exited from the kitchen door, got into the car, and drove back to New York. The few lingering babysitters and beaux thus unwittingly glimpsed the root of the divorce. The two lovers had been trapped inside the house all day; Ted was fearful of the legal consequences of their being seen by anyone who might write and tell Linda. The settlement was at a ticklish stage; nothing less than terror of Linda’s lawyers would have led Ted to suppress his indignation at seeing, from behind the window screen, his private pool turned public carnival. For long thereafter, though in the end he did not marry the woman, he remembered that day when they lived together like fugitives in a cave, feeding on love and ice water, tiptoeing barefoot to the depleted cupboards, which they, arriving late last night, had hoped to stock in the morning, not foreseeing the onslaught of interlopers that would pin them in. Her hair, he remembered, had tickled his shoulders as she crouched behind him at the window, and through the angry pounding of his own blood he had felt her slim body breathless with the attempt not to giggle.
August drew in, with cloudy days. Children grew bored with swimming. Roscoe Chace went on vacation to Italy; the pump broke down, and no one repaired it. Dead dragonflies accumulated on the surface of the pool. Small deluded toads hopped in and swam around hopelessly. Linda at last returned. From Minneapolis she had gone on to Idaho for six weeks, to be divorced. She and the children had burned faces from riding and hiking; her lips looked drier and more quizzical than ever, still seeking to frame that troubling question. She stood at the window, in the house that already seemed to lack its furniture, at the same side window where the lovers had crouched, and gazed at the deserted pool. The grass around it was green from splashing, save where a long-lying towel had smothered a rectangle and left it brown. Aluminum furniture she didn’t recognize lay strewn and broken. She counted a dozen bottles beneath the glass-topped table. The nylon divider had parted, and its two halves floated independently. The blue plastic beneath the colorless water tried to make a cheerful, otherworldly statement, but Linda saw that the pool in truth had no bottom, it held bottomless loss, it was one huge blue tear. Thank God no one had drowned in it. Except her. She saw that she could never live here again. In September the place was sold to a family with toddling infants, who for safety’s sake have not only drained the pool but have sealed it over with iron pipes and a heavy mesh, and put warning signs around, as around a chained dog.
1. The tone of the story alters as the narration unfolds. Read the text carefully and determine the borderlines where the tonal shifts occur. Divide the following adjectives from the text into several groups according to the tones included in the tonal system of the text:
stagnant public sere ticklish quizzical
haunted forbidding happy smooth deserted
poor chained mild blue cerulean cloudy
languorous rowdy supple depleted healthy
buoyant cheerful other-worldly smooth desolate
private a heavenly blue angry awkward-making
e.g.: stagnant (elegiac tone)…
2. Choose the phrase that best completes the following sentences. Your choice will depend on your personal interpretation.
1) The metaphor Linda would hold the court… is employed in the text:
a) to inform the reader about Linda’s royal origin;
b) to indicate Linda’s professional occupation as a lawyer;
c) to reflect the character’s mood (Linda could satisfy her vanity showing off before the neighbours).
2) The author resorts to the simile buoyant as helium:
a) to create vivid imagery by appealing to the reader’s senses and to suggest it was very pleasant to swim in the pool;
b) to convey the idea that the water in the pool started to evaporate;
c) to show that the Turners used too much chemicals to keep the pool clean.
3) The figurative language used in the phrase …his indignation at seeing…his private pool turned private carnival serves to convey the idea:
a) that people came to the Turners’ without asking for permission and did what they wanted there;
b) that the pool no longer belonged to the Turners, because the town authorities turned it into a public establishment;
c) that Ted didn’t like party-going.
4) The author resorts to the metaphor “It (the pool) was one huge blue tear”:
a) to convey the idea that the water in the pool was crystal clear and transparent;
b) to show Linda’s inner state at the moment;
c) to show that Linda is tempted to have a swim.
3. Define the prevailing emotive key in the indicated passages and fill in the second column of the chart:
4. Interpreting symbolism. Choose answers which seem suitable.
1) The swimming pool in the text is a symbol of:
a) the Turners’ marriage;
b) summer holidays;
c) the joy of living.
2) The nylon divider torn in two halves:
a) shows that Mr. Chase was a poor caretaker;
b) suggests the idea that the neighbours and acquaintances ruined the Turners’ pool;
c) symbolizes divorce.
3) Dead dragonflies on the surface of the pool and toads in it are described:
a) to indicate a very hot summer;
b) to state that the Turners ran out of chemicals to keep the water clean;
c) as symbols of desolation and abandonment, showing that the family is on the verge of breaking.
5. Interpreting the title.
1) State the functions of the title “The Orphaned Swimming Pool”.
2) Translate the title.
3) Define the figure of speech at the basis of the title.
KEYS TO TEST 1
1. Usually only after reading the whole story.
2. a) 2; b) 4; c) 5; d) 6; e) 3; f) 1.
3. e.g. (your answers may be different):
a) Still waters run deep (conveying the author’s message; characterization of the protagonist).
b) A millionaire (orientating the reader, a means of foreshadowing).
c) A miser (characterization of the protagonist)…
4. a, c.
5. a) 3; b)1; c) 7; d)10 ; e) 4; f) 8; g) 2; h) 11; i) 9; j) 12; k) 5; l) 6.
6. e.g. (your answers may be different):
a) a heart; b) the white colour; c) a book;
d) the black colour; e) the sun;f) the dove.
7. A symbol is a metaphoric expression of the concept it stands for. Like the metaphor, it is based on the use of a word in its transferred meaning and suggests some likeness between two different objects or concepts.
8. a) 6; 1; 4; 5; 7; 12; 15; 16; 9.
b) 2; 5; 8; 10; 11; 14.
c) 3; 17; 13.
KEYS TO TEST 2
1. The assignment defies single interpretation. The classification of adjectives depends on the number of tones discovered in the text. The following is one of the possible ways to interpret the tonal systems in the story:
Humorous tone: a rowdy (family); a ticklish stage.
Elegiac tone: deserted (pool); awkward-making (aroma); cerulean pool; cloudy; a sere mint leaf; stagnant; desolate, forbidding, haunted (pool); the poor (Turners); quizzical (lips); a chained (dog); an otherworldly statement.
Happy tone: heavenly blue (water); supple, smooth; buoyant; mild; languorous; a cheerful (tray); healthy; happy.
Angry tone: private pool turned public carnival; angry (pounding of his … blood).
Intimate tone: depleted (cupboards).
2. 1) c; 2) a; 3) a; 4)b.
3. 1) Lyrical key; 2) Ironic key.
4. 1) a; 2) c; 3) c.
5. 1) The title of the story is a powerful symbol and contributes to the reader’s understanding of the message.
2) “Осиротевший бассейн”.
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А в т о р ы - с о с т а в и т е л и : Елена Юрьевна Кирейчук
Татьяна Геннадьевна Васильева
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