The Writer's Life

Down & Out in San Antonio (Part IV)

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THE WINKING MR. TARSDALE

 

From the End of Part IV:

 

“But damn it all, Barry, you have to be qualified. Don’t you have to pass tests and stuff?”

“Yeah, well, that …” He got a silly smile on his face. “Well, I told him you have your Life Saving Certificate. That it was at your folks’ home in California and you’d send for it. He needs someone now, Jay. He tried to hire me, but I’ve built up some pretty good time and grade where I work, so I had to say no. That’s why I mentioned you. Listen, Jay …” He quieted me with two palms held between us. “It’s just a formality. I’ll teach you CPR and anyway, they have those long rescue poles you hold out and the person grabs onto. It’s a snap! This time next week he’ll have forgotten all about the certificate.”
 
“Naw … Come on, Barry! A lifeguard? Come on.”
 
He wagged his head, slowly, a faraway grin on his face. “Girls dig ‘em.”

Now … ENJOY!

#

“Barry recommends you highly, Mr. Squires.” The graying, short-cropped head and appraising face leaned to the side in his chair and scanned me. “You’ve got the shoulders of a swimmer.” He winked.

“Well, I … ” I shrugged, probably blushed. It was true I had worked out regularly before Barry and I moved to San Antonio, and I suppose I was considered well-built. Since the move, and the shortness of money, I’d resorted to push-ups, sit-ups, lunges, and sundry other movements.

“Well, Mr. Squires, let’s get right down to it. Barry warned me not to let the grass grow under my feet, so I guess if you want the job, you’ve got it.”

“Thank you, Mr.Tarsdale.”

“You’ll mostly be here as a presence, Jay. May I call you Jay?”

“Sure.” I expected him to follow with, “Call me Jacob, or Jake,” but I would have felt uncomfortable doing that anyway, so it was just as well he didn’t.

“Ask Jim—he’s the one you’ll be replacing since he’s moving out of state. He’ll tell you you’d better like reading. You like to read, Jay?”

“I do. Yes, I do like to read.”

“You just have to walk around in your bathing suit and be seen. You know, so the paying guests know there’s someone in charge. Not much else to do. Oh, and Jim’ll show you how to maintain the chemical levels in the pool. One free meal a day in our café. Let’s see, did I forget anything?” He scrunched up one eye and let out a sigh. “Oh, yes …” and he winked at me again. “Your pay.”

I smiled. “Oh, okay!”

“Two-fifty a month, paid bi-weekly. That’s the salary Jim had to work up to, and he’s been with us for two years, so don’t tell him. Deal?”

“Well, yeah …”

“Oh, and your certificate.”

I froze. Later, when I had a chance to think about it, I wondered if I actually sagged in my chair at hearing the words. I know I did inside.

“No hurry there,” he added.  We probably should keep a copy of it in your file. Ah, but no hurry, okay?” Another wink. “Start tomorrow morning. You’ll do the paperwork then. Jim’ll show you the ropes. He’ll want to make sure you have a handle on the equipment room. You know.”

I waited for him to wink, but instead he stood, stuck his arm across the desk and we shook.

#

“All I can tell you,” Barry said to me that night, “is that he’s never winked at me.”

“Maybe you don’t have the shoulders of a swimmer.”

His eyes grew big. “He didn’t!”

I nodded. “Yep. Of a swimmer.” I waited until Barry’s laughter ended. “You think he’s queer?”

“Well, he’s never winked at me. And my shoulders are broader than yours.”

“But you’re taller by three or four inches.”

“Still … You gotta admit, he did wink at you. More than once?”

“Two, three times.”

“He might be a queer, then.”

We were at a conversational impasse.

Finally, I said, “I need to buy a bathing suit.”

“They call ‘em trunks, Jay.”

“He called it a bathing suit.”

Barry smiled. “You might ask that Jim guy if he calls them bathing suits. See if he winks at you. But, hey, two-fifty a month, plus a meal a day. That’s good.” He gave my shoulder a squeeze, and then squealed like a teenybopper. “Eeeeeeeeeeee!”

 

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