Sunday, October 5, 2014


Douglas Winslow Cooper and Brian Maher

This is how the Williams family did not end up with a swimming pool in their back yard. Still, something good resulted.

“What’s the story with this water bill?” Mr. Williams asked Mrs. W. as he made out the check to pay the town for their water and sewer charges for the prior two months.

“What do you mean?”

“It’s much higher than ever before.”

“Let me see it. Yes, you’re right, much higher.”

“Either it’s an error or we have a big leak.”

No error…big leak. The plumber said it was not in the house and must be in the back yard, underground. That meant the ground had to be dug up, the pipes inspected. Sadly, the big shady maple tree in the yard had wrapped its roots around the pipe. The tree had to be gotten rid of to fix the pipes.

“But I love that tree,” complained teenager Tess.

“Maybe we could put in a swimming pool,” said fourth-grader Tim.

“A swimming pool! A swimming pool!” Two Williams children chanted. Brother Rick, somewhat older, did not chant, but he did mutter.

“Hold it, gang,” said Mr. Williams. “You have no idea what we would be getting into with a swimming pool. They are expensive and need a lot of work. We would need a big hole, rerouting the pipes. Then it takes a lot of cement and pumps and plumbing and filters, and we would have to put a fence around it to keep it safe. The water needs to be treated with chemicals to keep it clean. The filter needs to be changed. The pump can break down. When the summer is over, it must be drained and covered. There are not that many sunny days here in New York to make it worth the trouble.”

“Gee, Dad, it would be neat to have a pool,” Rick protested.

“Are you going to handle all the chemicals and the filters?” Mr. W. asked.

“I’ll be away as a camp counselor this summer,” Rick replied.

“Well, I’m not going to do it, nor will Mom nor Tess nor Tim. It isn’t going to happen.”

So much for the swimming pool.

The kids were obviously disappointed.

“Isn’t there something else we could do, now that the tree is gone?” Mrs. Williams asked. “How about a volleyball court?”

“Yes, volleyball!” Tess exclaimed.

Mr. Williams thought about it, “No fence, no hole, no concrete, no plumbing, no pumps, no filters, no chemicals, no added water bill. Good idea. Yes, volleyball!”

And so it happened. The volleyball court was a big hit. It was on the grass, with the corners marked by baseball bases, simple but good enough. Tess and Tim had to do their swimming elsewhere, but lots of friends came to play volleyball, and Tess went on to play on her high school volleyball team as well as on the high school basketball team.

You might say “necessity is the mother of invention,” though it was not really necessary that the family replace the shady maple tree with a play area. Nice, but not necessary.

Every once in a while, Mr. Williams would jokingly refer to the volleyball court as the “swimming pool.” Both parents were pleased not to be worried about anybody drowning out back…and their water bills were once again quite low.


One of 50 instructional short stories we wrote for young readers.

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