Among the "built-ins" we inherited when we bought the house was a 15-foot elevated swimming pool. It is a rarity in our neighborhood, which is made up of mid-19th-century row houses with tiny backyards. In fact, our elevated pool takes up nearly our entire garden, as they are known around here. Though, in our case—since there is not a single green thing growing in it—the word is something of a misnomer. (Between the house and the pool, the previous owners poured 6 feet of concrete.) What's more, we're on the sunny side of the street, which means that the pool is in the shade. Finally, it backs onto a junk yard, currently under plastic sheeting, that is even more unsightly than the pool itself. In short, it is hard to imagine ever wanting to slip on a bikini and climb into the thing—even in nice weather.
Apparently, the previous owners came to a similar conclusion. Among the hold-ups to our contract proceedings last year was the issue of who would keep it. We asked that the previous owners take it with them to Staten Island. Midway through the proceedings, they refused.
Upon taking possession of the house, it somehow became my job to get rid of the thing, the horror, the monstrosity. As quickly as possible. By any means.
Easier said than done.
My first brainstorm was to place an ad on craigslist. "FREE SWIMMING POOL!" I wrote, "52 inches deep. Includes winter cover, sand filter, XL Pump. Yours for the taking!" A few people responded; all seemed put-off upon learning that it was a "real pool," not the cheap plastic inflatable kind you fill with a hose and let your kids splash around in. "What's wrong with it?" they wanted to know. "Nothing," I replied. "We're just looking for someone who's willing to dismantle it. ..." There were no call-backs.
I began to wonder if, ironically, in a country that equates value so definitively with dollar signs, the "free" in my ad was scaring people off. Without a price tag attached, nobody seemed willing to believe that there wasn't some sort of catch. Actually, you have to spend the next two months working in our house as an indentured servant.
With my boyfriend's encouragement, I decided to place a proper classified ad in the New York Daily News. Honing it down to the required number of characters, I felt as if I were composing a haiku. The final draft read as follows:
ABOVE GROUND SWIMMING POOL Poseidon 15 ft round pool w/ filter, cover, pump. Good condition. $700 obo. Dismantle yourself. Brooklyn - [my phone number].
The ad ran for 10 days, cost me 80 bucks, and resulted in just two phone calls. Only the second caller—a Latino man named Sam—came to see it. He drove out from the Bronx with his wife and three long-lashed little boys, all under the age of 13. "Lucinda," began the littlest one, shortly after arriving. I turned around, startled that a 7-year old would have recorded a stranger's name. "Who's taller—me or the pool?" Happy to oblige, I stood him against the aluminum siding and flattened my open palm against his shiny hair. "You're taller," I said, making sure to keep my hand immobilized even after he turned around, so that he could see the difference. "But only by a little bit."
His face lit up. So, I guess, did mine.
"Do you have children?" asked the mother.
"Not yet," I answered.
The woman smiled with sympathy. It occurred to me then that she probably thought it wasn't for lack of trying. Defensive, I smiled back, trying to remember why—for my friends and me—childbearing is saved for early middle age.
Sam asked to see the interior. With his help, we removed the pool's winter cover. Only then did we discover that the previous owners had failed to drain it. What's more, the water had hardened into a 12-inch thick block of ice. The men went at it with shovels—to no avail. Ten minutes later, the shovels came down. "I'd like to take it," Sam shrugged. "But I can't do anything while there's water in here, and it probably won't melt until April. You can get a pump at Home Depot."
The family left, encouraging us to get back in touch if we figured out how to remove the skating rink. (We haven't; like so many intractable social problems, the pool remains.)
This afternoon, my editor called to congratulate me on my publication and encourage me to "stop decorating, and start writing again." This hit a nerve.
I opened my notebook, thinking I might jot down a few notes for my (at this point) completely hypothetical Brooklyn novel. My eye met up with, "Need to deal with September 11th. But how?" Below that, I had written: "The amazing part, really, was how little changed. Within weeks, people were back at their desks, back on their phones, squirreled up in the back of cabs, nattering on about their relationship problems and root canal surgeries. Or, at least, Mindy Zickapeewee was. Mindy worked in pharmaceutical sales. ..."
It seems unlikely that this will be the opening of my next novel.