Fiction by Kate Deimling

I’m in the middle of a mission when there’s a scraping noise, like somebody opening the gate around the pool. I ignore it. I’ve been shot, but if I can make it to the medicine man in the woods, I can get back to full health and do the train heist. I’m ducking behind some trees when I hear music from outside. Damn. I pause the game. Better go check.

I lock the office door behind me because you never know and walk over to the pool. The water looks almost neon in the darkness. There’s a woman, maybe twenty-five or so, standing waist deep. A little speaker on the concrete is playing Ooh I’m blinded by the lights and she’s bopping her head and swirling her arms in the water. In the light reflecting up from the pool her hair is blond and brown and green. A mess.

She looks up and sees me, gives a little wave with her hand like she’s trying to be cute.

“Miss, you can’t be here. The pool closes at ten.”

“I’m not bothering anyone.”

“You can’t play music out here either. People are trying to sleep.”

“Okay, boss man. There’s a button on the top that turns it off.”

She probably thinks I’m just a kid. Twenty-eight, and people still ask me if I’m in high school. I walk over to the edge of the pool and press the button, cutting off the little synthesizer ditty.

“The pool is closed now. There’s a sign.”

“I been driving for ten hours straight. I need to unwind.” There’s a little twang to her voice, tin hours. She’s got a yellow bikini on and her waist is kind of wide. Her boobs look nice but there’s too much space between them.

“I might get complaints. From the other guests.”

“I don’t see anybody complaining. No sign of life.”

I look at the row of doors. All the windows are dark, except for two, where TV light dims and brightens, dims and brightens behind the shade. It’s mid-week so we’re not even half full. Probably no one cares.

I remember checking her in an hour or two ago. She wore a baseball cap and didn’t make any chit-chat.

I pull a pack of Parliaments out of my front pocket and sit down on the pool chair, which is missing a couple straps. I dig around in my other pocket for the lighter. The cigarette’s skin is crinkly, and when I light it it makes a tiny sizzle.

“It’s a crime what they can do.”

“Excuse me?”

“Cigarettes. Gave my daddy a tracheotomy. He used to hold the cigarette up to the hole in his neck to smoke. He couldn’t talk, just used his hands to point at what he wanted. Awful seeing a man brought low like that.”

“My mom quit. But when she quit I started. I don’t know why.” I picture my mom asleep with the memory foam pillow, the sleep number mattress, the microwavable eye mask, and whatever other magic remedy to her ailments she’s bought off the internet. She’ll take over in about seven hours, and I’ll go home to sleep.

“Me, I don’t smoke, and I don’t drink. Not anymore. I’m a free woman.” She puts her arms over her head like she’s dancing even though the music’s off. It makes her breasts squeeze up and get rounder. I can see the stubble on her armpits and it makes me think of how I used to draw grass when I was a kid, tiny lines pointing straight up. “Nothing can stop me now!” She gives a big whoop and brings her arms down with a splash and starts scooping up water, like she’s in one of those ads where people are frolicking in the waves. Who’s she kidding? This place is just a stopover for people trying to get someplace else.

She stops and looks at me. Little waves are still swishing around her. When I look through the water, it’s like the bottom half of her is detached from the top half and moved a few inches to the side.

“You ever been to Key West?” she asks.


“Can I drive there? I mean, is there a bridge? Or do you have to take a boat?”

“You can drive there.”

“Oh.” She looks a little disappointed. “What about the other keys, the small ones? They got bridges to all of them?”

I was only there once when I was six for my grandma’s wedding and I don’t remember it. But I have a feeling what the right answer would be, the one she wants to hear.

“No, you can only get to those by boat.”

“That’s what I’m gonna do. Go all along the keys to the very smallest one, the last one. That’s as far south as you can go and still be in America, right?”

“So they say.”

I look across the road at the red outline of a sombrero flashing on and off. Semis are rumbling by on the highway just out of sight, growling and whirring as they shift gears. It’s too cloudy to see any stars, and the sky above us is like a giant lid. The moon’s hanging kind of low in a weird shape, like somebody cut it out with scissors.

The woman leans back and starts floating, her face, breasts, and stomach like little islands lapped by the water, and I realize this is the first time I’ve seen anybody use this pool.

Kate Deimling

Kate Deimling is a poet, writer, and translator from French. Her writing has appeared in I-70 Review, Tar River Poetry, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Roi Fainéant Literary Press, Ellipsis Zine, Waxwing, and other magazines. Kate is an associate poetry editor for Bracken and lives in Brooklyn, New York. Find her online at