Monday 18 July 2022

They Didn’t See Him by Hannah Retallick, Champagne


And that was how he came to be stuck in the paddling pool, legs up over the rubbery sides, head barely above water. It strained his neck, but considering the high stakes, he was prepared to try. No one likes to drown.

As garden parties go, this was a rather pleasant one – proved, if proof be needed, by the response to his plight. They turned down the throbbing music and came to his aid. It reminded him of the waterbirth of his sister, when women encircled his mother – she was splayed out and whimpering like a cat trapped out in the cold. He had sneaked in to watch, unnoticed, pushed cruelly into second place. Now he was the encircled one.

Parents grabbed their children from the pool because, of course, the little devils didn’t mind the waves they made. Strong young men were motivated to heroism by the young women with their summer frocks and glasses of champagne. Sleeves were rolled, attempts made.

Firstly, they grabbed him by the arms and heaved. He cried out in pain. His back. They retreated and regrouped, stroking their un-bearded chins, probably wondering how it had happened in the first place. It was difficult to say whose fault it was. A man had stepped back into him and caused him to fall, yes, but had he been unwise to stand so close? His sixty-seven years had taught him very little about that sort of thing, when it came down to it. Nothing at all in fact. How close should one stand to another person?

Secondly, a rolling technique. It was a good idea theoretically, though in practice he was a large man and didn’t enjoy being treated like a beached whale. He claimed more back pain. He had been large since he was a young boy and was always told he should eat less. He had thought of that. He had even thought of that at this garden party, before the unfortunate incident, but it is difficult, when most kindly invited to a neighbour’s event, to decline offers of tangy crisps, cream-covered strawberries, and cheese heaped on crackers…

Thirdly, he found his own solution. He turned onto his front, on all fours, managed to get a foot beneath him, and was assisted to a standing position by more aspiring heroes, although this time they were heroines, with scant regard for their dresses. A few onlookers clapped. The whole thing was deeply embarrassing.

Thank you, thank you, he said, gripping the top of his water-weighted beige trousers – the ankle region was pale, but the darkness slowly trickled down. Everyone was attentive, despite not knowing who he was. His lower back had long since stopped hurting. They kept asking though, most kindly, and he placed the back of his hand on the region. Still rather sore, he said. They tilted their heads and offered him champagne. It was nice to be a person. Carl John Rogers: The man who was stuck in a paddling pool.


About the auhtor

 Hannah Retallick is from Anglesey, North Wales. She was home educated and then studied with the Open University, graduating with a First-class honours degree, BA in Humanities with Creative Writing and Music, before passing her Creative Writing MA with a Distinction. She has been shortlisted/placed in several international competitions.


 Did you enjoy the story? Would you like to shout us a coffee? Half of what you pay goes to the writers and half to the project.

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