Anita Mechler: The Ladder

The aquamarine paint in the swimming pool is what first caught her eye as she wandered through the mesquite trees along the perimeter of the hill country camping site. This area reminded her of her youth, exploring through the woods with her dad, the one everyone called “Mountain Man”. Hikes were always a source of adventure, learning about different creatures, and whether they were friend or foe. Her favorite were the “daddy long legs” as they awkwardly tipped-toed up her arms in their uncertain gait.

She had left the others and their inane chatter back at the campsite. It was a dumb idea, anyway, hanging with these almost-strangers just because she wanted to get the hell out of the city.They also reminded her of her youth, the teenagers who left her out, feeling like the perpetual little sister, ignorant of their speech filled with inside jokes. Luckily, as an adult, she could simply walk away and no one was chasing after her concerned for her safety.

Her skin thirsted for water. The brush and trees around her crackled in the dry heat and the grass beneath her feet was grey and lifeless. The pool had been abandoned along with some cabins nearby and for some reason someone had tied a single crutch to the ladder. She could feel the sun on her back and in the distance, the flutter of birds getting on with their lives.

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She reached for the rungs of the ladder, the crumbling white paint coming off into her hands. She hoped it wasn’t lead paint that would kill her with cancer in 30 years but she shrugged off the thought. The feeling of pulling herself up was reminiscent of summer pool time in the city: cute tanned lifeguards, hot asphalt, boogery children, couples making out in the deep end, and the diving board. She thought of synchronized swimming routines and how beautiful and extravagant they seemed, women enthralled with themselves and each other. Perhaps that was a passion she could follow, besides, she didn’t have the body of a diver.

She got to the top of the ladder and saw a small puddle in the corner, clogged with rotting leaves and possibly a small rodent. Perhaps she would stay out there, never to return to civilization. Summertime in the city didn’t have the allure it once had when she was a child. She’d shack up in a cabin, refill the pool, and spend the rest of her days in a wild solitude. First, she heard a murmur from the tree line and then the sinking knowledge that someone had followed from the campsite shattered her reverie. She heard them coming crashing back in toward her, through the trees.



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