Joan Mach

I am 75 years old, and have been married to my wonderful husband for more than 50 of them.  We are Jeopardy fans.   My favorite poet is Louise Bogan.  My favorite author is John McPhee.  We live in Teaneck, NJ, where my husband’s family has lived since 1950. We just got here in 1974.  My husband teaches Creative Writing at the Rodda Center in Teaneck.   I am the teacher’s pet.   His students, especially Peggy Gerber and Marie Johnson-Ladson, encouraged me to submit some of my written work to online publishers. 

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Doreen’s sways down the main path, and ALL of the men stare.  She’s young, stacked and likes to show  her body.  This staid suburban Swim Club  follows her with their eyes.  The men squirm in their baggy bathing suits, the women glare at the men.  Even the religious people, in their modest attire, can’t resist a glance.  I despise her, and I still look.

Doreen’s an employee of the Swim Club, she says.  She arrives late, and disappears into the managers office with him for an hour or more. They  put a “do not disturb” towel om the doorknob, and nobody comes near.   She emerges from his office and oozes toward her station.  Walking  to the lifeguard station can take ten minutes,  and it seems to exhaust her.  She then sleeps under the umbrella for the rest of the morning. 

Lifeguard duties aren’t her sole source of income.  The manager knows she’s available for $50.00 to any male with cash and a condom.  They go into the “storage area” at the back of the club.  Don’t ask me why a “storage area” needs disposable linens , a double bed, tinted windows and soundproofing.  The men ask her to help them find  the two balls that are kept in the storage area, and emerge empty-handed. 

Her co-workers learn to lock our valuables around Doreen.  The $100 gift certificate for my mother’s birthday, a Fenty lip gloss and a silver turquoise  “jumped”  from my purse to hers.  The manager believed Doreen when she claimed they were hers.  The gift certificate had my mother’s name on it.  Other co-workers suffered similar fates.

I learned to keep my mouth shut and my purse locked.  Doreen “invited” all of the male co-workers and some of the females to join her in the storage area, buying their silence.  I braced myself for a long, hot summer.  Record heat waves meant that temperatures flared.  Going above and beyond, I organized “ice water” relays.  We workers ,already stretched by Doreen and the manager, wheeled cups of ice water out to the members.  It doubled our work, preparing and cleaning up, but seemed to help.  The manager noticed my efforts only after a few board members complimented him.  He tried to credit Doreen with the idea.

Mercifully, I lived at home and walked to work.  Mom listened to my woes, packed meals and rubbed sunscreen on my back.  She and Grandma kept me going.  “It’s just for the summer”, she pointed out.  Grandma assured me “People like that get what they deserve.  You don’t believe me, but it’s true”. 

One August day, as I was crossing off the days until the Swim Club closed, Mom and Grandma told me to stay home.  I dutifully called in sick, leaving a message on the tape.   Mom and Grandma baked, got dolled up and nagged me into a dress.  We walked down the street to pay a proper social call to  a new neighbor who had just had a new baby. 

The lady graciously accepted our gifts.  Grandma’s hospitality book demanded a sit-down visit.  The new neighbor made sweetened ice tea by adding sugar to the boiling water, and spoke with a Southern drawl.   Grandma politely inquired as to her husband’s occupation.  “Land sakes, Honey Chile”, our neighbor  said slowly “He’s manager of the Swim Club”.   I grinned for the first time in weeks,.

The new baby made an appearance for all to  admire.  Mom and Grandma cooed and cuddled enough for all of us.  Grandma believed her age entitled her to ask nosy questions.  “And how are you managing that big, strong man of yours after the baby? “. She snooped.  “He’s been the soul of patience” our neighbor burbled.  “I had a difficult pregnancy and have only begun to feel myself.  He hasn’t complained once.  I’ll see my doctor next week and I know he will give us the go-ahead for intimate relations”.  The young mother giggled and winked. 

I finally spoke up.  “I know everyone at the Swim Club would love to meet you and your lovely child.  Why don’t you bring your baby tomorrow?    The surprise would cheer all of us after this brutal summer.  The manager takes a break half an hour after opening. “   “What a lovely surprise for everyone.” , Mom and Grandma urged.

Afterwards, I reviewed the 10 Commandments in my head.  Had I lied?  No.  Did I bear false witness?  No.  Steal?  I still felt guilty, but the rage was seeping out of me.  I imagined the yelling and screaming, the firing of Doreen, and the manager begging for forgiveness.  For the first time in weeks, I  looked forward to work.

I got to work, locked up my purse and  lunch and walked to my station.  The manager glanced at me without speaking.  If he had spoken to me, good manners would have compelled me to say  a few courteous words to him about yesterday’s visit.  As it was, I simply sat in my lifeguard’s chair and watched the swimmers.

Doreen waltzed in late, and went straight into the manager’s office.  Ten minutes later, I saw his wife push a baby carriage into the entrance of the Swim Club.  She headed straight toward the office, saw the towel and frowned.  I walked into the employees area and retrieved my lunch and purse.  She eased open the door, and fired two shots.  She was now a widow, and Doreen was ugly.  Somehow, I backed into the employees area and walked out of the Swim Club.   The rest of the staff fled before the police arrived.  Someone called the police.

The widow later told the police she calmly pushed the carriage to her car, loaded her baby in and  drove out of the parking lot as the first police car arrived.   She called her mother to come watch the baby until further notice.  The police found the manager and Doreen, and the wallets of the rest of the staff.  Nobody erased my message, and the police assumed I simply hadn’t been there that day.  Few questions were asked about the open-and-shut case, certainly nobody contacted me.  Our teacher has assigned us an essay “How I Spent My Summer Vacation”,  I think I’ll tell her I caught up on my required Summer Reading assignments.

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