The warmth of the sun is over for the day. The kiddie pool is now in the shade. No sun and shadow places on the cement, just dark spots of water where kids once stood. Marks of hesitation here, an in-out action over there, returns to the pool where some kid remembered where he or she left his or her new goggles.
A boy jumps into the pool. His buzzed hair stands on end. He calls out one word.
“Bees!” Then the boy drops to his knees, his head underwater, under the floating bee he swims away.
S., my son, 4, waits until the boy comes up, asks him, “What’s your name?”
Then S. calls back to me, “Mom! Michael’s not being nice.”
A comment I take with a grain of salt, as I did not see what transpired between the boys.
Tyler, the lifeguard calls over to Michael, “Let’s try to save the bee. Bring it over here.”
S. joins the boy in the work of pushing the insect. They make a ‘V’ with the edge of a rubber fish and kickboard in the water. At the far side of the pool Tyler the lifeguard kneels waiting for them. His hands, a scoop, Tyler catches the bug in his cupped palms, sets the bee down on the cement in front of him.
I hear snippets of conversation between Tyler and the boys who look on.
“Let’s see if the bee dries out.” Tyler says to them, “Maybe there are other bees in the pool we can save.”
This is a new idea from the usual smash games my son plays with bugs.
The temperature is dropping I put my jacket on over my shirt. Tyler stands, walks over to the pool steps. The boys watch the lifeguard enter the pool to look for more bees fallen from the sky. A breeze lifts the page in my book. Tyler takes his time, his long board shorts wick up pool water. Cherry red turns blood crimson from the lifeguard’s knees halfway to his waist. His hands trawl in front of him. S. and Michael watch. The work is slow, deliberate, studied, important, almost solemn, borders on intimate. A strange comfort for me, one I cannot explain. I watch my son witness the harvest of bees.
I fight a reminiscence there might be men who are not afraid to be gentle in public. Gentle in front of other men, no weirdness, just goodness. Gentle in front of men who are boys. A church feeling, I feel I should light a candle for, warms me, for our great good luck at having Tyler as our lifeguard, the St. Francis of the Bees.