Geoff Collins lives with his wife and two taughters in a small farm town in Wisconsin where he works in the local schools.
At The Pool That Summer
I read a book about Hitler.
It was 643 pages long,
and it didn’t even reach
the bits about the war.
And while I read, mothers
steered their children away
from me, and the lifeguards
spoke quietly with each other
behind their dark sunglasses.
While I read, the sun drifted
slowly across the deep sky
and shadows shifted sides.
While I read, little boys leaped
into the blue water screaming
and teenagers acted cool and
daylilies bloomed madly
along the chain metal fence.
While I read, music spilled
from the speakers like frilly
birds, and sunbathers slept
on their soft bright towels.
While I read, the diving board
rattled and launched another
diver out over the water,
and my safe little world
seemed to change forever.
A man goes to the tavern one snowy night
and never returns.
His old truck sits in a municipal lot for six days
before somebody notices.
His house north of town reveals nothing.
Dishes unwashed in the sink.
Clothes neatly folded in a drawer.
A collection of figurines, finely carved from ash.
The tavern itself has five steps of cracked concrete
that lead down to the icy street.
A wrought-iron railing his hand must have gripped.
A sidewalk, an alley, and behind, the cold forest.
Detectives scour the countryside,
digging deep into the darkly wooded hills
where they find obvious signs of a great battle—
tank treads, shell casings, rusted helmets.
From the air, they discover lines of parallel ridges
that force the river into its tortured course.
Divers go down into the deeper pools,
their waterproof headlamps dancing in the darkness.
They interview the people of the town,
whose speech patterns, when analyzed
confirm that at least 26 percent of Americans
are hysterical and/or gripped by fear.
Machines record all of it, establishing the truth.
No one saw anything that night.
No one knew him.
The family cannot be found.