Tuesday, June 17, 2014

SOL: Poolside with Jake Barnes

When I was in high school, I worked as a lifeguard at our local tennis club.

Many of you are no doubt picturing sunglasses, a deep tan, and summer highlights.

You're wrong.

I grew up in Western Washington. Summer arrives there in late July, if you're lucky, and sticks around long enough to make the first few weeks of school miserable. Really, I never assumed that the sun would be out on the 4th of July. I figured it'd be raining.

The pool would open in June, but the crowds would be thin at best. Most of the time would be spent huddled under a beach towel and a hooded sweatshirt, bathing suit on underneath because you had to wear one on duty.

Usually, of course, we sat in the lifeguard chair, but today it was raining. Or drizzling, more likely. It drizzles more than it actually rains in Washington. There were no swimmers at all, so I was sitting under the covered area near the locker rooms, bathing suit, beach towel, sweatshirt, probably a hat. And Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises.

"You taking Ploof's class next year?" Jeff asks, dropping into the chair next to mine. There aren't a lot of customers for tennis either. Jeff is a year ahead of me at Bellarmine, and I'm friends with his younger sister.

"Yeah," I say, holding up the paperback novel. Junior year is a big deal, academically, and Ed Ploof's American Lit class is an important part of that.

"Huh," Jeff says, leaning back in his chair. We watch the rain drizzle. Or mist. Often it's just misting.

"Whatever you do," he continues, gesturing to the book in my hand, "don't miss what's wrong with Jake. I read right past it, and the book makes no sense without it."

I frown. Don't miss what's wrong with Jake, I tell myself.

"His war injury," Jeff says. "It's important. Pay attention to that."

I nod, already worrying. Don't miss what's wrong with Jake.

And I don't.


  1. It's been so long since I've read that. I've completely forgotten what's wrong with Jake. Oops. Your writing, though, transported me to that drizzly poolside. It sounds pretty good next to the heat and humidity we have here. Welcome to SOL. It is a great community. Come check out my post at http://kaymcgriff.edublogs.org/2014/06/17/come-visit-our-little-free-library/

  2. I've never read The Sun Also Rises! Ugh. It's actually sitting on one of my end tables. Shameful. Your slice makes me want to read it.

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    2. I like the book now, and I've read it a few time since that summer. I'm not sure, though, that I would like it if I hadn't become obsessed with Hemingway in high school and college.

  3. Welcome to SOL, You will love this community. I also have never read that book, but will add it to my stack of summer reading.....when it gets to summer here in a little under 5 months! Thanks for sharing. :)

    1. It really is mostly about bullfighting and drinking.

  4. First - welcome! So glad that you are slicing with us.
    Second - I hope you stayed friends with Jeff.
    Third - you write so beautifully!