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Well-tanned and vacuous

Indeed, crushing the self-esteem out of my young opponents caused my own self-esteem to balloon to obscene proportions. And I wasn't alone - a coworker, who I'll call Lifeguard X, shared my enthusiasm for ganging up on our weakest, most defenseless patrons. Our behavior might have been appalling - especially to weak-kneed hippies who believe we should shelter kids from life's harsher lessons (i.e. "no matter how hard you try, you'll always fail") until they reach double digits - but Lifeguard X and I eventually got our comeuppance.

The day of our reckoning began well. The circle of sky directly over the beach was as clear as a refreshing glass of Crystal Pepsi, but we were surrounded by storm clouds, which produced an endless series of thunderclaps - meaning that, for complex reasons laypeople wouldn't understand, and much to the chagrin of our hundred-plus overheated, unstable would-be swimmers, we had to keep everyone out of the water.

So Lifeguard X and I spent the early part of the day defeating angry children at volleyball. When the storm clouds finally closed in on us, everyone went home. Everyone, that is, except for a wiry older man with a black dew rag on his bald head and a mischievous twinkle in his cold eyes.

He appeared out of nowhere. One second, my fellow guards and I were hustling our equipment out of the rain and into the beach house, and the next second the mysterious stranger stood in our midst. Despite the steadily worsening rainstorm, he challenged Lifeguard X and me to a volleyball game - two on one.

"It's a beautiful day to play," he said, grinning wolfishly.

Lifeguard X and I exchanged a nervous look. I, for one, wanted to eat lunch. But the mysterious stranger was offering to take us both on by himself - if we turned him down, we'd look like spineless pantywaists. Needless to say, we accepted his offer.

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