Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hidden Hollow Files: You want me to do what?

The Hidden Hollow Files is an attempt to recount the golden era (1991-1994) of Hidden Hollow Swim Club, a pool facility nestled in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

For previous Hidden Hollow Files, go here, here, here, here and here.

Here's a nice little fictional story about what could happen if someone fictionally did something and needed a fictional solution to fix it. Also FICTION!

Digger X and Digger Y (why sully actual names - even in a fictional story? The chosen aliases will become clearer as the story continues) sat in the office, on break from the lifeguard stand, annoyed they couldn’t hang out on the porch, a popular destination for guards on break. In actuality, the porch was not really a porch at all; it was technically the roof of an old spring house that sat on the pool grounds, that was used as a type of “way-station” for the chlorine needed for the pools. Every so often a truck would deliver a shipment of chlorine into two large storage containers buried beneath the parking lot. These containers connected to a few slightly more manageable barrels in the spring house. A pump then took the chlorine from those vats and dispersed it throughout the pools, working on a time release system.

Theoretically of course. The times this system ever worked could be counted on a finger. So the pool routinely had to employ another time release method, explained in slightly more detail here.

None of that had anything to do with why Digger X and Digger Y couldn’t enjoy their break on the porch though.

For whatever reason, the owners of the pool currently had a backhoe down at the swim club, digging the ground around the pipes that connected the large storage chlorine containers and the spring house. None of the guards really knew why, but they certainly did know not to poke or pry into the situation. At least not while the owners were down at the pool. The owners never liked seeing guards not working, and so the less contact between the two parties, the better for both.

Digger X and Digger Y simply loafed about, dreading the idea of going back out on the stand, under the hot sun. To them, even though it was the main reason they were hired, sitting on the stand and ensuring the safety of the patrons in the pools was boring, unfulfilling work. They enjoyed doing other jobs around the pool, no matter how bad, simply because it meant they didn’t have to sit in the sun all day doing nothing but be paid to be a voyeur. So whenever something needed to be done, from cleaning filters to moving picnic benches randomly around the pool, they eagerly volunteered. Some jobs weren’t great (removing the grease from the grill), some were fantastic (anything involving the flatbed trucks) but in the end, they all beat big brothering the pools and making sure kids didn't run.

And, as luck (or extreme unluck) would have it, one the most interesting jobs ever was about to fall into their lap.

Apparently, digging a backhoe near thin, plastic underground pipes sounded much easier than it actually was. Because, within only a few short minutes of beginning, a vicious, yellow liquid began to fill the recently dig hole, emanating a fierce, strong, pungent, unmistakable odor that everyone familiar with the swim club knew immediately.


The backhoe, diving too deep, (or not deep enough? who the fuck knows...), hit one of the flimsy pipes, rupturing it. Chlorine immediately began to seep everywhere, drifting off into the environment to do its damage. And because the nature of this chlorine system relied on gravity to deliver the chlorine from container to container, the hole sat pretty much in the middle of a slope, and everyone watched as the chlorine trickled down, toward the pools and beyond (beyond being a small secluded pond nestled on the extreme south part of the property, obscured by trees and overgrowth, but teeming with creatures that one would traditionally find around and in ponds. The equation of chlorine plus pond shouldn’t be difficult to figure out). After a few quick, silly attempts to dig the pipe up with the backhoe, the driver cordoned off the area, (the smell growing stronger as the chlorine bubbled up, mixing with the fresh dug dirt) and a new "plan" was developed.

* * *

The swim club manager walked into the office and saw Digger X and Digger Y doing much of nothing.

“I need your help.”

Purposeful or not, this choice of words the manager used had a magical effect on the two. It immediately got their full attention. Of course, that phrase only piqued their interest, it was the next phrase that sealed the deal.

“And I need you guys to keep a secret.”

At this point, the two guards would have had no problem getting rid of a dead hooker. A secret job was simply too good to pass up. Not knowing what the next day had in store for them, they eagerly pledged their secrecy to the manager, and got the scoop.

Because it was rather late in the day already, attacking the problem would wait until the next day, when there were less people around. So, told to come back at seven in the morning, a full hour before the normal early shift made it down to the pool, the guards happily accepted their assignment. They were going to find a buried, broken chlorine pipe. What could be more fun?

The next morning the sun came up, revealing a beautiful day for two guards with no training, qualifications or safety equipment to deal with a hazmat spill and clean up this mess. Digger Y stopped by Digger X's house, picking him up for their clandestine mission. They made it down to the pool bright and early, and along with the manager stood over the caustic, deadly mud hole. The odor caused tears.

“Take as many breaks as you can, as far away as you need to. As soon as you find the pipe, let me know.” With that, the manager walked off, his figure blurred and wavy seen through the vapors.

Armed with shovels and t-shirts tied over their faces, Digger X and Digger Y dug in.

To imagine the slow process of digging that day, imagine trying to scoop sloppy water out of a small child’s bucket. Now imagine trying to do that stoned out of your mind.

It was slow going.

Slippery traction... the heat of the day... a steady constant murder of brain cells... all these factors contributed to the slow, methodical digging. But none of them matched two incidents that at the end of the day, defined the dig to an imperfect “T.”

Incident 1 or, Hey you where are you going with that gun in your hand?

About 2 hours into the digging, a car pulled up and parked in the lot. Digger X and Digger Y both glanced up and saw a uniformed figure slowly step out of the car and casually glance around. Resembling a park ranger of some sort, the person began to walk toward the two. Coming closer, Digger X and Digger Y now saw that this person was female, and had holstered firearm by her side, ruling out park ranger and mall security.

The chlorine continued to fill the air surrounding all of them with its odor.

Standing on the outside of the fence, (or what was left of the fence that had been torn down in the back hoe’s wrath) she inquired as to what the two diggers were doing. They could now clearly see the EPA patch sewn on the dull green, short-sleeved shirt she professionally wore.

Told to keep a secret, the two realized the inanity of making up a cover story, given the current situation. Here, an EPA agent, apparently tipped off to an environmental disaster in the community came around to investigate. The situation was no longer simply a pool matter; in one brief instant it became a federal matter. What were the charges for lying to a government agent? Could Digger X and Digger Y get in trouble for lying? Could they get in trouble for not whistleblowing? These were the thoughts that ran through both their heads as they faced an armed, government agent.


The response was short, to the point and above everything else, the truth.

Leaving without a word but a slight smirk on her face, she continued down the road, toward the pond. About fifteen minutes later, a ranch hand (as lackey just seems like such a negative connotation here) that sat close with the owners of the pool ambled down the road and addressed the two diggers. That he was the one immediately responsible for the chlorine leak the day before may or may not have had anything to do with his presence there presently. He slowly walked down the hill, his gullible confidence preceding each step. Both Digger X and Digger Y saw their dirty, tired, hallucinating selves reflected in his rainbow flavored Oakley Razors.

“You guys happen to see someone walk down this way?”

Digger X said nothing and simply pointed down toward the pond. Digger Y left him with a parting warning.

“Dude, be careful, she has a gun.”

He continued down the road, waving his hand above his head as a loose goodbye and followed the same path the EPA agent took minutes before. Whether he intended to seduce or kill her neither Digger knew, and would never get the answer because of the second incident.

Incident #2 or, You sir, just got an eyeful.

Digging continued, amidst the speculation of what might be happening down near the pond. Digger X and Digger Y reenacted the violent and sexual scenarios their minds (and possibly fumes) concocted, all the while still searching for the broken pipe in the slop. Through roots and stones and shale and mud they cut with their sharp shovel blades, paying more attention to the possible ecological disaster at hand, and less attention to the task at hand.

Until the explosion of chlorine.

Actually it wasn’t necessarily an explosion, though that’s what it felt like in the eye of Digger X. Digger Y in a common moment of not thinking about what the fuck he was doing, jammed his shovel down repeatedly against a tough, gnarled root, in an attempt to slice through it to get more leverage. The action of this rhythmic, repeated chopping sent muddy chlorine spattering through the air landing everywhere, and ultimately into the face of Digger X.

Ever been swimming in a pool for so long that your eyes get red and blotchy and irritated enough that you realize it’s time to stop swimming for a bit, and you look up and see a faded, hazy rainbow fuzz halo around all the lights?

It felt nothing like that.

Digger X shrieked. The shriek had to reach the office at least, as the manager came running, to find Digger X writing on the ground holding his face in obvious pain. Digger Y stood by guiltily. Without a second thought (or perhaps the second thought was of criminal charges and lawsuits), the manager scooped Digger X up and carried him off to the swim club’s office.

Being Whitney Houston to the manager’s Kevin Costner wasn’t one of Digger X’s prouder moments in life, but there was little he could do. While it’s probably true the one eyed guy is king in the land of the blind, Digger X didn't want to find out. The manager threw him down in the back room on the ratty, unclean prison cot illegal Mexicans sometimes used to sleep when down at the pool as a deterrent for kids trying to sneak in late at night to go swimming.

(Had Las Vegas been asked to create a line for people to gamble on whether or not the swim club had first aid for this particular emergency situation, many oddsmakers probably would have refused, suggesting (and rightly so) it would be next to impossible to make the number high enough to cover all the action people would have put on "not" to have the book break even and collect their profit on the juice (the 10% everyone who bets is forced to pay.))

In an '85 Villanova upset, the manager not only quickly found the first aid kit in the back room, but immediately put his hands on a bottle of eye wash. Furthermore, the found a (presumably) clean eye cup, also in the first aid kit. Grabbing the bottle, he filled the cup and held it up to Digger X's now bloated, reddened eye. Digger X could feel nothing other than the intense burning in his whole face. Apparently deciding this method wasn't working quick enough, the manager discarded the eye cup and began to liberally squirt the eye wash directly into the eye. With laser like precision, the hard stream of fluid splashed against the eyeball.

After the steady 30 seconds of eye flushing, Digger X tried and succeeded in opening the eye in question for a second or two. It took another ten minutes or so of wiping, tearing, and rubbing before it could be consistently held open for more than a minute. Through red, puffy and all around sickly looking, it miraculously seemed that was the worst of the damage, and better yet, nothing seemed permanent. As the day wore on, the eye made improvements and any evidence of a foreign substance dissolved by shift's end.

Though that was not the end of the dance Digger X shared with the harsh mistress of chlorine that day.

Feeling good enough to for whatever reason continue working, Digger X returned to the hole with Digger Y, and in a fortuitous stroke saw they had uncovered the pipe. Their work done, they returned to their normal pool responsibilities since by now it was close to opening for the day. Digger X felt no real adverse effects of the eye incident, other than a few streaks of tears throughout the day. Workers materialized later that day to presumably fix the pipe, but even that was done Men in Black style (the actual Men in black; not the crappy Will Smith movie that destroyed the creepy lore of men in black) and no one really said anything more about the incident. Digger X and Digger Y were even left to speculate what happened to the EPA agent and worker that was sent down to "sidetrack" her. The worked showed up days later, seemingly no worse for wear, going about normal business. Though both Digger X and Y wanted nothing more than to ask him what happened, they also didn't want to involuntarily become accomplices to a crime after the fact, so they begrudgingly let it go, content enough to fill in the blanks of this event with wild stories involving pistol duels and elaborate conspiracy theories.

5 o'clock ambled by, signifying the end of the Diggers' shift. A long day came to an end. Digger X, who now realized he had no ride home, figured he would simply walk home. Cutting through some woods and backyards, the trip wouldn't take more than 20 minutes.

The walk went by uneventful, and Digger X found himself opening his back door and walking in. The next thing he remembers is opening his eyes to see the blinking cliche of his VCR's clock in the living room of his house. Laying flat on the carpeted floor, twenty minutes had passed since he opened the back door - twenty minutes he tried but could not recollect. Shaking the cobwebs and uncertainty out of his head, and trying hard to not let panic gasp him, Digger X turned the tv on to lose himself in a Cheers episode.

Fortunately, that was the last, lingering effect of the chlorine dig (up to this point at least). on everyone. Because of the stealthy nature of the dig, few guards even knew about it even happening. The scar in the earth where the hole had been faded from the involved peoples' psyche shortly thereafter, and few, if any known repercussions trickled down to the common guardfolk. Other than the story Digger X and Digger Y had now to revel the younger guards with, no evidence even remained of the incident. And while the story was a classic that had people laughing routinely, people eventually turned their attention to the next great pool catastrophe.

After all, they happened about once a week.


Anonymous said...

again love HH files...

Didn't get a chance to read your story yet though...but will over the holidays.

Goose said...

thanks for the love and yeah take your time - no worries.

Cline said...

It's good to know we have a certain subsection of our audience who will compliment our posts based solely on their title.

Goose said...

he meant the novel I wrote.

Shouldn't you be thinking about your January blog post?