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Summer Stories: May I Remind You of My Season Pass to Water Wasteland

By Chelsea Martin For The Spokesman-Review

What is a day if not an opportunity? An opportunity to make a change in the world. An opportunity for greatness. To step outside of what is expected of you. Let the day sweep you off your feet, take you away, propel you forward, maybe around in a loop, sort of like a lazy river, I guess you could say.

And today is not like any other day, Mom, as you know. A great tragedy has befallen our community. People are out in the streets, visibly mourning. Hugging each other helplessly as if they just learned about the concept of mortality. I’ve never seen anything like it. Nobody knows what to do with themselves. Annemarie, Carlos, Mr. Peters, Gregg or Gary or whatever. Is his name Guy? Anyway, we’ll never see them again. I mean, aside from all the photos around town everywhere. And hey, my heart goes out.

Tonight is the candlelight vigil. Everyone will be there. The mayor will have remarks. The pastor will lead a prayer. The families will speak. Well, there’s time set aside for them to speak, if they wish to take the opportunity. Nobody will mind if they don’t speak. Their unfathomable pain is not ours to micromanage.

People are doing other things to prepare for the evening. It’s a big community effort, which is great. You and dad set up that website to help with donations, which is so awesome. I think I heard someone is donating flowers for people to hold. I think it’s cool that, when faced with great loss, our community comes together to support one another. It’s a good thing for me to be, like, exposed to at my age. So great, you know? Silver lining.

And Claudia will be out there with her cart selling cinnamon buns. I know you’ve expressed your doubts that this particular community gathering is the best place for hawking baked goods. My opinions on the matter differ, as you know. For one, her cinnamon buns are NUTS. I’m lucky I don’t have access to my college savings account, because the few times I’ve been in the presence of Claudia’s cinnamon buns I haven’t had a lot of self-control. I mean, I’m just saying. But yes, I understand where you’re coming from, not finding it appropriate for the somber mood of the day. But also, those buns are huge, and I’m sure they’re not cheap to make. Claudia knows what she’s worth and I respect that. I respect it a lot. She can see a good opportunity when it presents itself to her, and not worry about how others might perceive her for seizing that opportunity. Have you read much about feminism, Mom? I think there are some aspects you’d appreciate.

Remember the Christmas after Grandpa died? And Grandma was coming to stay with us for a few weeks? And you knew that once she arrived she’d start reminiscing about Grandpa and making everyone feel really sad, which was fine, and understandable, and important for us all to process together, but also kind of a bummer? So on the day we were to pick Grandma up from the airport you took me and Lily ice skating? And then we went out to pizza? And you said it was good to feel sad for losing Grandpa, but it was also important to continue to do things that made us happy? Because that’s what life is all about? And I was just thinking, maybe today is a day that we should allow ourselves some happiness. Before all the sadness of the vigil. And, as you know, I have that season pass to Water Wasteland, and I would only need a ride …

I would say I’m a realist to a fault. I spend hours awake some nights thinking about how tired I am and how comfortable my bed is. Death is probably final. It’s sad, yeah. Yes. Heartbreaking for the families. But what can be done? We, as a community, as a species, we failed to prevent these particular deaths. But the world does keep spinning, despite our occasional disbelief that it could. Maybe Earth is forever changed in some small way or another, but mostly things stay the same. Claudia still has to make rent, hence the controversial cinnamon buns. The pizza place has to stay open to make pizza for everyone in town who is too sad to cook. Water Wasteland has to stay open to teach their teenage lifeguards that work doesn’t wait for you to feel better. You have to press on, chin up, stand there in the sun all day for no real purpose other than to be able to say you showed up, eyes fixed on the probably vacant lazy river for hours on end.

Speaking of, that lazy river is probably literally completely empty. A gorgeous day like today? The hot sun shining? A pleasant breeze? But everybody in town happens to be in mourning? It’s a shame. Tragedy on top of tragedy, to be completely frank. Or maybe not. I don’t know. I mean, it just happens to be my dream to float on the lazy river all by myself, no little kids pushing past me, not having to paddle away from the part where everyone comes on and gets off.

Mom, chill. I’m just thinking out loud. I’m processing all this stuff, too. I know you think I’m like, mature for my age and emotionally self-sufficient and everything, and I am to an extent. But I’m also still a kid. This stuff is all affecting me, like everyone else. You know, Annemarie helped me cross the street every day for five years. She helped Lily, too. I never really appreciated her for that. Maybe I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Annemarie, you know? Who can say? And now I’ll never get to tell her thanks. Thanks for being my crossing guard. It’s a lot to take in. Like maybe I could use a day of rest, maybe at Water Wasteland. Maybe finally fulfill my dream of floating down the lazy river by my lonesome.

I’m not trying to make this about me. Look. The whole community is reeling. I get that. I want to help. I’m 15 though. There’s not a lot I can do, other than support people, try to help things get back to normal. Maybe one way I can do that is by supporting the local water park. What would happen to the lazy river if no one used it all day? Or all weekend? Maybe they’d shut the whole park down. Then all the teenagers would be out of jobs. They would still need money though, right? But maybe a bunch of the businesses in town have shut down because no one is patronizing them. So there are no jobs for the teenagers. So then they end up hanging with the wrong crowd. The kind of crowd that makes teenagers do bad things for money. You say that wouldn’t happen but you really don’t know, do you, Mom? Your indifference almost makes it seem like you’re OK with teenagers doing bad things for money.

Plus, I already have my bathing suit on under my clothes.

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