Pool Envy by Stuart Snelson
He designed, in sun-parched climes, swimming pools for the prosperous.
To any whim he catered. He unearthed guitar-shaped hollows for rock stars; snake-hipped singers dipped in his myriad kidneys. For doe-eyed lovers he had designed a yin and yang pool. Blindly besotted, they only realised after installation that they were doomed to swim forever apart.
Any design realised, he had declared. It was a statement he would come to regret.
His bizarre departure had come at the behest of an allegedly famous actor. It was a name unknown to him. He soon found out why. His client’s hands would not find themselves nestled in wet cement before the Chinese Theatre. He worked exclusively in adult entertainment. To make his living, he gained and maintained erections whilst strangers watched him, was possessed of a finger-click rigidity that was the envy of his peers.
His client’s request was simple. He wished for a pool that mirrored his prick.
It was not to be generically phallic, but shaped to reflect his exact measurements. It was to be as big as space would allow. Whilst his client seemed insistent on a fitting, desired a level of anatomical accuracy unnecessary to the task, he would not be unfurling a measuring tape along his arousal’s stretch. They compromised on explicit photographs and an exchange of heated emails.
His attempts to explain to his client issues of scale proved laborious. The plan, if realized, would leave him with a long, narrow pool. Such considerations were met with accusative responses: Are you questioning my girth? He had missed the simple logistics of the operation. To scale it would be then, he thought, let his client’s skinny friends do lengths in single file. Besides, he wasn’t sure how much actual swimming would take place. As with many of his clients, it would serve as sweet relief in summer, and a resting place for a netted attendant to retrieve leaves from at all other times.
He tried to keep personal meetings to a minimal. Whenever they met, his client would regale him enthusiastically with work tales; he cared little for such lubricious small talk.
His customers often comprised the temporarily affluent, those overwhelmed by tidal waves of incoming money, revenue sources greeted like taps that would never be turned off. To more than one cash flush customer he had needed to explain the impracticalities of a dollar sign design, that such a motif when chiselled into the earth would not allow for a great deal of freedom when swimming.
With regards outrageous demands, he thought he had heard all there was to hear. He was accustomed to the egocentric, to hedonistic excess, but even he had been taken aback when his client insisted, over the phone: I want to jacuzzi in my balls.
His comfort zone had been abandoned.
* * *
To alleviate any discomfort upon undertaking such tawdry business, the designer tried to align it with other self-regarding adornments. By tracing his client’s vainglorious desires through history, he would ease his conscience. Was his request any different, in essence, from a commissioned portrait? He thought of generals on horseback, prinked and preened, military rigours set in oil for the world to admire, chests resplendent with medals as they presented the best of themselves to the world. His client’s was simply another strain of peacockery. He thought of the Cerne Abbas giant, his chalked stalk looming large in the English countryside. His work would mirror classical primitivism, a likeness, albeit a fragmented one, writ large.
For the first time since school he passed afternoons scribbling penises.
* * *
Usually, when he worked, the future existed only in the abstract, pencil families, stick figures, scattered by his creations. In this instance, he felt bombarded by forward flashes. His thoughts became infected with x-rated parties, long nights of single entendres, bacchanalian Hockney canvases, the pool overflowing with luckless women, suntanned unfortunates trying to blow their way up a ladder. Nervous men in budgie-smugglers would never break its surface, shrinkage dismissed as they slinked from its chill.
* * *
His client, he discovered, had mainstream delusions. Having watched a number of his films, purely for research purposes, he knew that in this he would be hampered. Pizza delivery man, garage mechanic, police officer: there was no character he could not invest with the properties of wood.
* * *
As construction begun, as earth was dug in order to replicate his client’s primary asset, he struggled to shake the summoned penetrations. Had he kept a tally? He doubted it; figures lost in a haze of production line ruts.
His length entrenched, forever etched into the earth, his client had failed to affect a work/life divide. Each morning at the roll of blinds he would look out upon his raison d’être. It was an erection that would likely outlive its owner’s. He visualized his client, aging, doomed to be reduced in its presence, a bout of impotence laying waste to his livelihood, his pool a memorial. For his was a career pinned on one facet. When nature eventually let him down, when chemicals failed to rouse him, when even snake charmers could not entice him, what then? He struggled to conjure a retirement home for male ex-porn stars: a circle of soft men reminiscing about hard times, pastel slacks hiding wrinkled diminishments.
* * *
Eventually, after much miscommunication, he succeeded in transforming crude blueprints into actuality.
* * *
As he sloshed champagne on exposed flesh, felt his stomach wrench with each dip, he regretted the suggestion that the pool needed to be viewed from the air to be appreciated fully. In the hiring of a helicopter his client had wasted no time. Beneath the rotor’s deafening whirr, conversation proved impossible as they were treated to an aerial view in all its crass majesty. He made for uncomfortable company, the only fully dressed reveller, alongside the proud owner and his pneumatic work colleagues. Queasy, he felt the fizz bubbling back as scantily clad women filmed him on their phones. He preferred terra firma. His client didn’t strike him as the wisest, learning the hard way that snorting cocaine in a helicopter was easier said than done. His was a smile soon lost, as his stash departed, sprinkled on the wind.
Needing scant excuse for exposure, his client wrestled himself out. There seemed something childlike in his willingness to unzip. Blood summoned, he angled himself awkwardly as he tried to squeeze both his erection and its earthly echo into the same shot. Was he witnessing the most narcissistic selfie yet taken? Champagne addled, he watched the agitated pilot grapple with the cyclic between his legs and the man to his side wielding his cockstand. As the helicopter lurched earthward, he struggled to place who was steering the thing. He had never thought that a working day would play out in this way. As the nubile naïvely fawned over his client, he yearned for his desk, the pencil in his hand as he gave life to his creations.
* * *
The pool, once finished, did not feature on his web portfolio, a fact that irked its model.
He felt its presence would adulterate his other work, besides his client’s prodigious gift colonised enough webspace already.
* * *
Poolside, supine, as contrails criss-crossed the sky, did his client take pride in the knowledge that his manhood was now visible from 10,000 feet? He imagined bemused airline passengers peering through portholes, double-taking as they looked down upon this priapic pool, his client’s imprint in the earth.
* * *
Considering his client’s future, channelling Sunset Boulevard, he saw his construction reduced to scenery, the centrepiece in a morality play: its owner, the debauched porn star, discovered floating face down, drowned, within an outline of his own cock, the paparazzi, buzzing above, snapping his hapless downfall in all its ludicrous excess.
* * *
Accidentally, he had started a trend. From rivals of his client he received enquiries. He found his name bandied in pornographic circles, became the tool pool go-to-guy. It was with a certain reluctance that he accepted this honorific. But having responded to market demand why shouldn’t he be the one to capitalise upon it?
His new clients he found less prescriptive, less technically exacting; they simply wanted the same design but bigger. The particularities were gone. Having thrived in an industry where biggest was best there would be no short measures now. Entire gardens were sacrificed to accommodate their largesse.
This was what he facilitated now: the phallic follies of professional fornicators.
They were at the top of their industry, the peak of the pecking order. Each seemed to believe that the money coming their way would never end. They launched their profligate campaigns: money spunked into a hole in the ground. These were men unaccustomed to resisting temptations. The majority, those beneath them, the readily expendable, were treading water, could only dream of private pools.
* * *
All of his clients, he discovered, laboured under the illusion that they would one day make the switch to mainstream cinema. The scant lack of precedent did little to dampen their hopes. Did they dream of Oscars as they trudged through loveless fucks? Mistakenly, cocksure, they thought their names were on everyone’s lips. But only their opposite numbers registered as more than a blur among fervent masturbators, enjoyed name recognition as favourites were typed into search engines prefiguring afternoons of advanced onanism.
With his clients, he entered no discussions about the morality of their trade. Though no puritan, he didn’t care for the industry, but refused to delve too deeply. Financially, he could not afford to shun the morally dubious. He sensed all the money that came his way would have a taint if he traced it back far enough.
* * *
Single-handedly he oversaw this bout of one-upmanship. With a heavy heart, he catered to the escalating vulgarities of his clients. One had demanded what he termed a money shot fountain: from the pool’s tip water arced in jismic spurts.
Whilst it was not the first time a competitive edge had emerged amongst clients, it was certainly the crudest example. Many in the industry had clustered around certain areas, a porno grotto of their own creation. Comparisons were rife. The landscape ridden with hubristic ditches, it became, essentially, a toilet door laid flat upon which his clients daubed their own. He was engaged in large-scale suburban graffiti, the land art of infantile Incas. Each wished to leave his mark: a cock gouged into the earth visible from space.
* * *
He had thought that perhaps the instigator of this frenzy might have tired of his creation. Empathetically, he pictured him wistful, his towering achievement overshadowed by its sunken reproduction. This proved not to be the case. His client was not the most contemplative of souls. He found him angered by imitators digging in his wake. In his garden, as onscreen, he wished to be the biggest in the business. He lived in dread of the stranger’s arrival, a dick-slinger wrangling an added inch.
His client wished to address such shortcomings.
He felt like a surgeon now as he entered consultation concerning penis extensions. He tried to explain that there was nowhere for it to go. All available space had been utilised for his intimate replication. He didn’t think that inching into his neighbour’s garden would be well received, his client’s penis creeping under a hedge in a bid for supremacy. Why don’t we drop my balls, his client enquired, move them closer to the house?
He wondered how he had ever become involved in this madness.
* * *
He was overseeing so many pools now, that for days the neighbourhood was prey to the digger’s gritty symphony. As the still air filled with persistent drilling, relentless excavation, as soil-trickling bulldozers rumbled down spacious avenues, he was experienced enough not just to see the present, but the future. He thought of all the business that their conversion would bring. More than once, he had refashioned old pools of his own, as homes changed hands, or were repossessed, and new owners wished to rid their gardens of idiosyncratic kitsch. This would be no different, assets stripped by incoming owners. It seemed unlikely that these prickish divots would seem a custom-made dream to new inhabitants. Numerous pool sides would be chipped away, discretely rearranged. He would make his money whilst he could, his family the ultimate beneficiary.
The penis pool wars would put his kids through college.
© Stuart Snelson, 2014
Stuart Snelson is a London based novelist and short story writer. His stories have appeared in 3:AM, Ambit, Litro, Structo, HOAX, The Londonist and Popshot, among others. He is currently working on his second novel whilst seeking a publisher for his first. Visit stuartsnelson.wordpress.com or follow him on Twitter @stuartsnelson.
Pool Envy was read by Michael Petrocelli on 1st October 2014