Last Words - A 3 Random Word Story
This month's 3 Random Word story incorporated three common summer items: chlorine, popsicles, and a big, floppy hat.
Suzanna's deep green eyes gazed past the brim of her big floppy hat, taking in the joyous faces of the children who walked through the front gates. Their parents followed in tow, carrying all of the necessities for days like these: large bags filled with towels and sunscreen, lounge chairs, and coolers. Even from the back of the facility, she could hear the children's pleas to jump right in, and the parents calls for them to "stay with us until you have sunscreen on."
Suzanna took a deep, relieving breath, swallowing the sharp odor of chlorine common at such community pools. Soon, she thought, her spa day would commence.
A chatty family ambled to the patch of grass aside Suzanna, making quick work to set up camp for the afternoon.
"Uh oh, you smell that? I bet Marx kid was in the pool again yesterday?" The husband said.
"Jeremy, shhh, not so loud," the wife scolded.
"What? It's not like people don't know that Marx kid has shit in the pool twice already this summer. It's no wonder they keep adding more chlorine to the water," Jeremy replied.
"Mommy! Can I get in the pool now?" the youngest child asked.
Suzanna guessed the girl was around six or seven. Her soft pink skin reminded Suzanna of a cherub, pure and innocent. For a moment, Suzanna thought to lean over and tell the girl to put on a little sunscreen, but really, it wouldn't matter. Not today.
Suzanna glanced down at her own skin, worn and wrinkled from the years of overworking herself. What once made her a sight for sore eyes now made her feel ashamed and embarrassed. She pulled on the brim of her floppy hat to bring it down around her eyes and tugged her tunic tighter around her body, suddenly feeling self-conscious. She began to worry about how long it will be before she started to shrivel and glanced down at the time on her watch. It's only temporary, she reminded herself.
As soon as the rosy-cheeked girl was slathered with sunscreen, she sprinted towards the pool with a small inner tube hanging from her waist.
"Aiden, go with her," the mother instructed more from her eyes than her lips. Reluctantly, the older boy jogged after his little sister. Once the two children were safely in view of the lifeguards, Jeremy and his wife plopped themselves lazily into their reclining chairs and whipped out their phones, scrolling voraciously through what was likely a montage of fake happiness and disguised longing. Suzanna glanced around at the other families, most of whom were mirror images of the young couple sitting next to her: mindless drones sitting on their phones as their children play carelessly in the tepid pool. None of them would know if anything happened to their child.
As the fiftieth child scuttled through the pool’s gate, Suzanna began to hum one of her favorite melodies. Her eyes trailed to the gate as she did, locking eyes with one of the young kids allowing families into the pool.
“I’m sorry,” she heard him say, “we’re at capacity. We will likely be filled up for a few hours. Maybe try back tomorrow?”
Suzanna checked her watch again. Kid Swim was still thirty minutes away. Surely, however, now that the pool had reached capacity, they would make an exception. Though she kept her hat down to cover the ugly of her skin, she was not shy about her voice. She gazed towards the lifeguards as an intoxicating melody escaped her lips.
“Kid Swim!” the lifeguard yelled. “Kids only for the next twenty minutes!”
Suzanna's skin hummed to life as she watched the adults clamber their way out of the pool. A herd of children surged toward the water. A few adults turned their heads towards Suzanna's song but quickly returned to their phones or books.
"Kid Swim!" The lifeguard coaxed. "Come on, kiddos, this one is just for you!"
More kids joined the ranks of those who jumped in first until all of the children had moved towards the pool. Almost time.
Suzanna smiled and lit a cigarette.
"You can't smoke here," the woman next to her whined. Of course, now she had time to look up from her screen.
As Suzanna dropped the lit cigarette onto the ground, watching the blue flame snake its way around the pool and engulf every parent in its wake, she pondered all of the last words she had heard in her fifty-odd years on earth.
Last year, on her forty-ninth birthday, Twenty-two’s father had said, “What’s wrong with you?”
The year before that, Fourteen’s father was the last to speak. “Why?” was all he managed to say. It has been a few years since a woman was the last to speak, too bad this one didn't have anything interesting to say.
Suzanna felt grateful for the quick burn of the chlorine, which transformed the woman’s snarky comment into a musical symphony of agony and horror. Suzanna closed her eyes to savor the sounds.
She rose from her chair, raising the hum of her voice over the screams of the parents who tried to put themselves out in vain.
As she approached the edge of the pool, a young boy gawked in shock as a bright red popsicle dripped through his fingers. The sight reminded Suzanna of dripping blood. She licked her lips, exposing her sharp fangs. The boy sucked in a breath of air as if to scream, but Suzanna shifted the melody of her hum. The boy let out all of the air in his lungs, freezing in place. She walked over to the boy, locking eyes with him as she placed her scaly hands on his shoulder.
“Hello, fifty,” she cooed. “Fifty kids for fifty years on earth. It's not personal, just something I need to keep me young.”
She pushed the young boy into the pool, shrugging off her cover in the process. An array of shiny scales and sharp fins erupted from her petite body. Suzanna hit the water as the popsicle hit the ground, melting into a sticky mess of sugar and blood.