Kit wavered slightly — one foot on the diving board, the other hovering over the cool blue of the KeyLux timeshare swimming pool. He hopped off, holding the diving mask to his face as he plunged into the water. His body carved a bubbled pathway to the center, then he swam the rest of the way down. As he reached the floor of the pool, he spun around, looking up at the electric shimmer of the surface. Vacationing bodies floated above him; others stood waist-deep in the shallow end. All sound was reduced to high pitched gurgle above a low hum. He held out his hands and watched the light arc across his palm and wrinkled fingertips. If he could, Kit would stay there. Away from his parents who were constantly fussing about the comfort of his mother, who in four months would bring another sibling into the world, making Kit forever the middle child. He would only come up for lunch, or a trip to the bathroom, then back down to the deep end for the rest of the day, floating away in this underwater paradise. As the air in his lungs began to fade, and that familiar pressure formed in his chest, he did a quick backflip, noticing a different sort of shimmer on the floor of the pool. Kit swam over to the shimmer and it took a recognizable form — a gold ring. Kit snatched the ring and brought it close to the lens of his diving mask. Carefully resting in the palm of his hand, Kit stared at the ring for a moment.
“Precious,” he said, with the last of his breath; a stream of air bubbles flittered up to the surface.
Kit emerged from the water, wrapping his arm around the aluminum rail of the ladder. He took several deep breaths, looking around at the other swimmers for signs of someone having seen him. He looked up at the lifeguard, who gazed over the wall of shrubbery that obscured the pool from the gas station adjacent to the time-share. With the ring lodged firmly in his fist, Kit climbed the ladder using the wrist of his left hand to hold himself steady. He pulled himself up to the concrete decking as his swimming trunks sealed to his body, then walked briskly over to the chaise lounges secured by his father earlier that morning.
“Want a sandwich, honey?” asked his mother, who sat reclined — a magazine resting on the bulge of her stomach.
Even though the timeshare was all-inclusive, Sandy still insisted on preparing sandwiches for lunch. She said the food there was too greasy to eat three times a day.
“Yes, please,” said Kit, walking over to the edge of her chair.
The diving mask was still suctioned to his face, making his voice sound small and whiny.
He pulled it off.
“Get him a sandwich, babe. They’re in the cooler, not the canvas bag,” she said to Kit’s father, John.
Kit put his balled-up fist into the pocket of his swimming trunks and let the ring fall into the mesh lining. He sat down on the end of his mother’s chair, watching the people gather around the pool.
A half-hour later a man that Kit and his family had gotten friendly with stood in the shallow end, hunched over, scanning the bottom. Another man waded over to him holding a coconut with a straw sticking out of it. Though they were twenty feet away, Kit could hear them clearly. He knew the ring was his.
“This’ll be the shortest honeymoon in history,” the man said, whose name was Tim Fitzgerald — a real estate agent from Boston.
He and Kit’s father had joked in the cafeteria one morning about the traffic they both fought commuting in the city. Tim had a thick Boston accent, losing many of his rs and saying things like “How-ah-ya?” in one word. Kit’s father didn’t talk like that at home, but he did whenever he met someone else from Boston.
Tim was also very cool. He had a tattoo of a samurai on his right shoulder and would say “fuck” in front of Kit. His wife was very pretty and also had tattoos — many more than Tim did, actually. Her name was Alexandria, but Tim and everyone else that’d been inducted into Club Masshole, founded by Kit’s father on the second day of vacation, called her Alex.
“Kit, let me get those goggles,” Tim shouted, his hands making the shape of a diving mask around his temples.
Kit slowly walked back towards the pool, the mask hanging from his right hand.
The mask was too small for Tim’s adult head, so he pressed it against his face with his left hand as he dunked beneath the surface of the water. Every minute or so, he’d reappear a few feet from where he had been, take a deep breath and go back under. He seemed nervous. After covering the entire pool, Tim found an attendant and started discussing the possibility of getting into the filtration system.
“I can do it if you want,” Tim offered.
The attendant squinted, shaking his head as Tim spoke.
“It’s not possible,” the attendant replied.
Kit sat on a chaise, his hand resting on the ring in his pocket as he watched. He felt the outline press against his wrist. Discreetly, he traced it with each of his fingertips.
“That’s not going to end well,” John said to Sandy, as they watched Tim try to negotiate with the manager of the pool.
Alex stood nearby, scowling over the rim of her sunglasses.
The next day the couple came down later than usual and sat on the other side of the pool, away from Club Masshole. All the other vacationers at the KeyLux were swimming, sitting at the tiki-bar, and sunbathing on chaise lounges. Tim and Alex wore dark sunglasses and were reading books, which they hadn’t done before. They were quiet, not saying much to each other all afternoon. Not even coming over to Kit and his family to say hello.
“What’s wrong with Tim and Alex?” Kit asked his mother after lunch.
“He’s in the doghouse,” his father replied, sipping his second piña colada of the day.
Kit felt guilty about the ring, which now lived behind the backing of his Spiderman roller-suitcase. He’d wondered about bringing it back to the pool. About confessing. But each time he thought about it, he imagined Tim getting angry. Doing something bad to him. So he didn’t. Kit spent the rest of the day going back and forth between the hot tub and pool. When he could, he’d steal a glance over at Tim and Alex and each time they’d be sitting quietly, frowning at their books. It reminded him of something his parents might do when they were mad at each other.
After dinner that night, the family sat around the living room watching TV. Sandy had her feet on John’s lap and he was rubbing her belly where the baby was growing. Kit’s sister, Lilah, was reading a Harry Potter book sitting on the floor with her back against the sofa.
“Why are you reading that again. You already know how it ends,” Kit said, pulling the book away from her face.
Lilah kicked him away.
“It’s not just about the ending, dummy.”
Kit made a face at her then crawled back to his feet. He walked over to the sofa where his parents were and tried to sit down on the very edge near his mother’s hips.
“There’s no room, honey. Go sit on the chair,” Sandy said.
Kit slid off, skulking away from the living room into the open kitchen area, then turning to his bedroom. He got up on the bed and lay there, staring at the ceiling for a while. To the left of the bed stood his Spiderman suitcase leaning against the nightstand. He thought about opening the case and playing with the ring but didn’t. Instead, he stared at the little bumps on the ceiling. After a while he fell asleep, only waking as his mother walked by and switched off the light.
They woke at seven the following morning and had breakfast. Kit had French toast and sausages from the cafeteria. His mother ate fruit salad and oatmeal from a coffee mug. He felt bad for the baby — thought it might want some bacon.
“Mom, I think I want a book to read,” Kit said.
“That’s great, honey. You can use my Kindle.”
Lilah snorted, taking a sip of her orange juice.
“Let’s be encouraging,” John said. “What do you want to read?”
“Lord of the Rings,” Kit replied.
He’d seen the movies twice already.
“That might be a little much for you, bud. How about one of your sister’s Harry Potters?”
“Dad!” Lilah protested, slamming her glass down on the table.
“I want Lord of the Rings,” Kit said, firmly.
“Okay, okay. How about The Hobbit. It’s much better for kids your age.”
Kit put up a fight, but in the end, his mother downloaded The Hobbit on her barely used Kindle. Kit thought those movies were boring but was swayed by the argument that ‘without The Hobbit, there would be no Lord of the Rings.’
That morning at the pool, Kit tried to read the novel. He was amazed at how boring it was. Pages and pages about food and entire songs about walking. There were no Orcs or battles with giant spiders like he remembered watching. Just a bunch of dwarves eating and singing. After half an hour, he put the kindle back into his mother’s canvas tote bag and went to the pool.
A while later, Kit and his father were racing in the shallow end — him swimming, and his father wading from one side to the other. Tim walked over and sat on the edge, letting his calves sink into the water.
“High-five, dude,” he said.
Tim held his hand out for Kit to slap. Still swimming, Kit struggled to raise his hand high enough out of the water to reach it, gasping for air as his face submerged.
Kit reached the edge of the pool and held on to the concrete lip, taking deep breaths to recover. Tim took no notice of him.
“How’s Alex? She still…?” asked John.
“Not super-stoked, but not filing for divorce just yet.”
John laughed. Kit did too, but it didn’t sound the same coming from him.
“Let me buy you a beer,” John said.
“Aren’t they free? With the bracelet?” Kit asked.
“It’s a joke,” his father replied.
The two men laughed as they walked over to the bar, returning a few minutes later with a couple of beers and a Coke for Kit. They talked for a while, Kit’s father seeming to impose all his marriage wisdom on to Tim, who listened patiently, agreeing with everything that he said.
“You guys thinking…” John said, motioning to Kit who waded nearby.
“That’s the plan.”
“That, my friend, is a whole other shit-show.”
Tim and John spent the next half-hour tossing the kids into the deep end of the pool. With one foot in his father’s hands and the other in Tim’s, the two men launched Kit high into the air, his scrawny limbs flailing for a second or two before hitting the still water. Kit’s heart pounded in his chest as the two men counted off — one… two…three! Other kids started getting in line to be tossed too. After a while John had to stop, waving his hands in front of his face calling for a break. He waded over to the side of the pool and started drinking another beer. All the kids and even Tim started to tease him. Called him a wimp.
“Wait till you’re over forty,” John said, half warning, half excuse.
Afterward, Tim and Kit played Waterbomb in the pool for a while. The small black ball would spurt water each time it pelted Kit’s body. Tim didn’t take it easy on him as his father usually did. He threw the ball hard, sometimes leaving a small red mark on his skin for a few moments. But Kit liked it. He liked being treated like an adult even if it hurt a little.
Tim and Alex rejoined Club Masshole that afternoon. Kit was glad they’d returned and thought maybe they’d forgotten all about the ring until he overheard Alex talking to his mother.
“He told me he’d resize it before the wedding. Fucking moron.”
“Men,” said Sandy, shaking her head, seeming lost in some memory for a moment.
Kit sat a few chairs down from them pretending to read the Kindle.
“Who needs another beer? Alex?” John said, getting up from his chaise.
Kit’s father was always asking Alex if she wanted another drink.
Kit rolled his eyes.
Tim raised his finger.
“Miller, Sully,” he said.
“Don’t worry, I’m driving,” Sandy said.
Kit laughed, loudly.
“Haha, good joke, mom,” he said.
That evening, John insisted that Tim and Alex come over for games and drinks after dinner. They played Pictionary. Tim and Kit were partners. They weren’t winning, but Tim seemed okay with it. He cheered Kit on every time he drew, even if he wasn’t able to properly draw the words on the card. Sometimes he didn’t know what the word meant, and his father would come over to look. He’d whisper the meaning in Kit’s ear — “it’s like a big fancy sailboat, you know?” And Kit didn’t know, but just drew a big sailboat. Tim got it right away.
After Pictionary, Sandy told Kit and Lilah that they had to change into their pajamas. Kit went to his room and put on his Spiderman flannels. He paused for a second before returning to the table. He went over to his suitcase, reached behind the backing, and pulled out the ring. It felt weightless in his hands, not like the One Ring would’ve had been. He slipped it into the back pocket of his pajamas and went back out into the living room. As he approached, he heard his mother talking to Alex.
“It’s really great, most of the time,” she said, trailing off as Kit approached.
He stood in the entryway between the kitchen and living room. His arms hung limply by his sides and his heart was beating like he’d just swam two full laps around the pool.
“Hey, baby. Tim and Alex are going to watch you tomorrow night so we can go dancing. Doesn’t that sound like fun?” Sandy said.
“You’re sure, you’re sure?” asked John.
“Absolutely,” said Alex. “We need the practice.”
“Doesn’t that sound like fun?” asked his mother again.
“Say goodnight, kiddo. It’s waaay past your bedtime,” John said.
Kit hugged his mother, who kissed the top of his head. He then stood in front of Alex and Tim. Both of them were drinking white wine.
“Good night,” he said, timidly.
Tim reached over and rubbed his head with his knuckles. It hurt a little.
“Watch out for the night monkeys. They bite,” he said, pinching Kit’s arm, which also kind of hurt.
Kit giggled, then turned and walked calmly towards the bedroom. As he shut the door, he took a deep breath, as if he’d been holding it the entire time he’d been in the living room. He slipped the ring behind the backing of his suitcase and went to bed.
The next morning, Kit got his swimming trunks from the dryer and put them on. There was a small mesh pouch attached to the waistband on the inside of the trunks above his groin. The pouch was very small, most likely for a key. Kit grabbed the ring from the suitcase, placed it in the pouch, then fastened the button. He looked in the mirror to see if the outline showed and it didn’t.
“Let’s go, honey,” his mother shouted from the kitchen as she rifled around in her large canvas tote.
Tim and Alex arrived an hour and a half after the family did. John had laid towels out across all of the chairs for Club Masshole. The ring seemed to throb in its pouch as Tim and Alex approached. Kit thought of the scene where Frodo listens in as Gollum talks to himself in the middle of the night — his thin and filthy body crouched by the water; wisps of hair hanging down over his face. Kit lowered his eyes as they sat down.
The day went almost exactly as the prior one had. Kit and Tim spent a lot of time with one another as his parents and Alex both looked on like it was some kind of parent audition. Kit forgot about the ring for much of the time. By the end of the afternoon, he’d gotten so used to it that he didn’t feel bad even when he brushed his hand against it, reminding him of its presence. In fact, he started to even feel emboldened by it, sitting next to him on the chaise as Tim taught him how to read the time on his fancy wristwatch.
“He’ll make a great dad,” Sandy whispered to Alex.
They talked in hushed voices, but Kit listened in as Tim took off his watch explaining how the dial could be adjusted to measure the tides.
“His father was a real asshole. I think that’s why we waited so long.”
“Oh, honey. You have loads of time,” Kit’s mother replied, cupping the bottom of her stomach and sitting up on the chair. “This one will be out just before I turn forty.”
After an early lunch, Kit and Tim went back to the pool with the Waterbomb. John swung by to hand him another beer.
“Can you guys launch me again?” Kit asked.
“In a bit. I gotta go back to the condo for a sec. You mind?” he turned, asking Tim.
“No sweat, guy,” he replied.
Alex and his mother sat talking in their chairs.
Lilah was off in the game room.
“Let’s race,” Kit said, pushing off the wall of the pool towards the other side.
They did it a few more times, Tim letting him win each race.
“Alright big boy, you wanna do the longways?” he asked, looking towards the deep end.
The two started near the stairs in the shallow end. Kit had never swum the full length of the pool before, only back and forth across.
“You ready?” Tim asked. “Go!”
Kit ducked beneath the water, pushing off with his legs and shooting into the center of the shallow end. The pool was mostly empty; many of the kids were off eating their lunches. Kit swam harder than he’d ever swam in his life. He could tell that Tim had waited for a second or two before starting to swim himself. Kit kicked his legs as hard as he could, each stride of his arm bringing the far wall a little closer. As he was just a few feet away, he thought that he might run out of air, so he came up, gasping while still trying to paddle the rest of the way. When he got to the end, he reached out for the ladder, pulling himself up to catch his breath. He turned his head and saw that Tim had already reached the other end of the pool and was hanging on to the underside of the diving board.
“Almost, my man. Almost.”
Tim swam over to the ladder, grabbing onto the left rail, treading water. Kit turned around and sat on the bottom rung.
“You tired?” Tim asked, swimming around, grabbing hold of the right rail as well, trapping Kit to the ladder.
Kit moved up a rung.
Tim moved closer, his feet locking around the bottoms of the rails.
“Where you going?” he asked, smiling.
Kit could feel the heat from Tim’s body; smell the beer on his breath. His words echoed off of the water, seeming to amplify in his skull. Tim laughed and moved in, closing him off from the rest of the pool.
“Now you’re stuck,” he said.
The front of Tim’s shorts ballooned out in the water, the fabric grazing Kit’s knees.
He leaned in and whispered in Kit’s ear.
“I have all the power now, Kit.”
Kit froze for a moment, then without thought, he slid off the ladder and torpedoed himself between Tim’s legs and swam towards the bottom of the swimming pool. As he arrived, he looked up and saw the bottom half of Tim’s body still holding on to the ladder. Kit swam over to the center of the deep end and grabbed hold of the central drain with the tips of his fingers. He reached into his trunks, unbuttoned the small mesh pouch, and removed the ring. The lower half of his body floated up as he held on to the grating of the drain. He looked up and saw Tim’s legs ascending the ladder and disappear into the air above. Kit placed the ring against the grate as one would a quarter to a videogame but didn’t let it go. Instead, he then placed the ring against his tightly closed lips and wedged it through. He swallowed, feeling the sides of it slide down his throat and vanish into the pit of his stomach.