What should I be doing instead of this?
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Pooling Our Talents

By Bob Woodiwiss · April 29th, 1999 · Pseudoquasiesque
Neither Dad nor I was particularly handy, clever or capable. We'd proved that the year we'd resodded the front yard greenside down. So the day he said I should grab the tool box (contents: a ball peen hammer; two Phillips head screwdrivers with palm-shredding grips; a nearly unliftable beast of a cast-iron monkey wrench inherited from my grandfather; a dinner knife; and an automobile jack) and meet him in the backyard, I foresaw nothing but shame and puncture wounds.

Out in the back yard, Dad stood next to a casket-sized carton. On it, the words FinFest Pools in watery-wavy letters were printed across a bright color photo of three sun-pinkened children tossing a beach ball in a swimming pool. That the kids were happy and unwounded told me they'd been off watching TV or driving go-carts while their deft, tool-rich father had swiftly, single-handedly erected their FinFest. To comfort myself, I decided their coloration was the result of a searing chlorine burn.

From the box we pulled bundles of tubular steel arcs, a tightly rolled band of blue corrugated steel, a thick mass of vinyl, struts, uprights, supports, clips, connectors, hangers, filters, thingees, whatzits, whozits, jarvels, klugs, mnoplochs and framistans.

By the time the pieces were all unpacked, we looked like NTSB inspectors standing amidst the recovered wreckage of a jetliner crash.

"Whaddaya think?," Dad asked rhetorically. It had to be rhetorical because, since there was no way our 20 thumbs could possibly stuff Pandora's parts back into the box, we now had no choice but to begin trying to turn them into a pool.

The instructions were, of course, of no use whatsoever. They required so much re-reading, were so confounding, I'm convinced they were the work of James Joyce. Consequently, in an inspired moment of resignation, we threw them aside, deciding to tackle the pool itself. Or, as it would come to be known, The Cauldron of Malice.

Apparently, our FinFest was the product of a brilliant yet sinister mind -- Lex Luthor, perhaps, or Antonin Scalia. Its intricacies, its subtleties, its cruel logic broke us as systematically as God broke Job, turning father against son and son against, well, by 15 I was already against everything but it didn't do anything to help that.

Frustrations mounted. Tempers erupted. As they did, we each became more determined. This job would get done. Because without the pool, there'd be no place to drown each other.

We worked on. For hours. The sides collapsed more often than Judy Garland. And the vinyl liner proved to be less plastic than Liza Minnelli. Then, somehow, someway, with the sun about to wrap up its shadowcasting day, mirabile dictu, there, stable and standing was a 31/2-foot FinFest swimming pool. Yeah! Woodiwiss Men 1, EMTs 0!

It would take several hours for the pool to fill. Giving Dad and I time to cool off, collect ourselves, reflect on a job well done. Which we did until Mom came out and told us to "get the damn thing out of that tree." ©



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