Darkson House, Chapter 9: Swimming Pool World

After we arrived home from Darkson House, we sat up talking for an hour, discussing everything we had seen and done. We talked a lot about how we freaked out Ron Rocco and George Blare by pretending to be vampires. When I laid down to sleep, although I felt tired, my mind was still talking to me. It was like a faulty video, replaying what it had just recorded, going fast forward, then slow, pausing, repeating again and again, jumping from one scene to another, and finally mixing different scenes together.

But eventually I fell asleep and didn’t wake until I heard Mum puttering about in the kitchen. It was only then that I remembered I had not removed the note I had left on the table the night before. The note that said:

Karen and Jodie

Without even changing from my nighty I ran quickly into the kitchen. Jodie woke up as I rushed from the room and slowly followed me out. The note lay on the table; it had been moved.

‘You’re up late,’ Mum said. She was dressed in shorts and a loose T-shirt, trying to keep cool in the sticky morning heat.

‘Yeah. I couldn’t get to sleep last night. Did you read that note?’

‘Yes, I read it when I got home. Very funny. I know what you two were doing last night. Vampires!’

‘I … Mum I … ‘

‘I’ll bet you were talking about vampires before you went to bed and then you couldn’t sleep properly, right?’


‘That vampire movie on TV! I’ve told you not to watch them. Those sort of things are too creepy. Then you leave silly notes about to scare me. Go and get dressed and I’ll make breakfast.’

‘Okay Mum. Come on Jodie.’

At two-thirty that afternoon, when the heat seemed to be at its fiercest, we returned to Jodie’s house. We had heard Mr Thomas’s Volvo drive up and park in the garage. He took his toolbox out the back and went over to the Falcon parked in the street. ‘Would either of you ladies like to buy a smart looking Ford Falcon?’

Jodie answered: ‘Sure Dad, it’ll be great for when I turn seventeen. Can I pay it off with my pocket money?’ We all laughed. ‘You reckon he’ll buy it?’

‘Oh he should. It’s a good price and in reasonable condition. But you can never tell. Some people say they’ll come and buy it and they never even show up.’
‘If he does buy it, would you be able to get the pool this arvo?’

‘You bet. With this sticky weather and you and Karen on school holidays it’s the perfect time. Hey, I’d better warm the engine up.’ He got into the Falcon and started it. But he wasn’t happy with something and opened the engine bonnet and started tinkering with it.

Jodie said, ‘I’d better get my pyjamas and stuff from your place, then we can wait on the balcony for the man to turn up.’

Ten minutes later as we were going back into Jodie’s house we noticed that her dad and the Falcon had gone.
Jodie asked, ‘Mum, where did Dad go?’

‘The man—Mr Swift—turned up ten minutes ago. He looked at the car for two minutes, then got in and went for a test drive. The poor man couldn’t find our street. He had been looking for Canowindra Street, but he called it Can-o-windra. That’s the long way round, I told him. It looks like he really might buy it.’

‘Karen, why don’t we go down to Swimming Pool World and look at the pools? See how they fit together and everything. Then if Dad comes to pick up the pool we can see him straight away.’

‘Okay, it’s better than hanging around here all arvo. We might even see Rocco and George at the shops. Wouldn’t that be a laugh?’

But we didn’t see any of the kids we knew down at the shops. We looked at all the pools and imagined ourselves swimming in them. Only one was filled with water and it looked so delicious, oh so cool! Then Jodie’s dad drove into the car park in his white Volvo. We rushed over and he was smiling.
‘You sold it!’

‘Too right! And guess what I got—seven thousand one hundred dollars. I’ve got all the money right here.’

‘Tomorrow, could I have thirty dollars for some new togs?’

‘If you help assemble the pool and keep it clean.’

‘And can Karen have twenty dollars if she helps?’

‘Only if she swims in it afterwards.’

‘It’s a deal,’ I said.

‘Show us which one we’re getting again Dad. Is it that one?’

‘Sure is. Hey, why not let me buy it, and you girls go home, get changed into some old clothes so that when I bring it back you can help put it together.’

‘Sure. Come on Karen. See you in twenty minutes Dad.’

We climbed onto our bicycles and rode home. The sun was burning hot on my skin, the heat rose off the roadway in waves like a desert, and the air felt hot and sticky. The first hill we came to made sweat drip off my face and legs. I could feel the hot sun on my back, and the trickles of sweat under my arms. All the way home we dreamed of the pool. I imagined I was swimming underwater and looking at the dappled patterns the sunlight made on the bottom. Jodie and I would swim around and around along the bottom of the pool, then come up to the surface bursting for a breath, hair and face dripping with beautiful clear, cool water.

I went into my place and excitedly told Mum the good news about Jodie’s pool. ‘It’ll be here in ten minutes, Mum. Are you going to help assemble it?’

‘Oh Mr Thomas has got enough helpers I think. Don’t forget to come home for dinner.’

‘Of course.’ I ran back to Jodie’s place and we sat on the balcony waiting for the first glimpse of the white Volvo.

Half an hour passed and we became bored and restless. ‘Oh why doesn’t he hurry? Mum did you give Dad a shopping list or something?’

‘No dear. But perhaps he has to buy some tools from the hardware store to help assemble it.’

‘I suppose so. I just wish he would hurry.’

One and a half hours of sitting, waiting, and counting each minute trickled past. It was now five o’clock. ‘If he doesn’t get home soon, we’ll have to work till midnight to get it finished.’ I could see Jodie was getting exasperated that her father was taking so long.

‘It’s probably not his fault, Jodie. He’s just got to get something else. I’m sure he’s being as quick as he can.’

We sat waiting, waiting. Finally at five thirty she got up and said, ‘I’m going to phone Swimming Pool World.’ She went into the kitchen and dialled the number. After a minute she put the phone down. ‘They’re not answering.’

‘It’s too late, Jodie. They’re probably closed, so your dad must be on his way home now I reckon.’

Mrs Thomas agreed. ‘Both of you sit down and have some dinner. That way at least you’ll be ready to help the minute he gets in.’

‘Oh Mrs Thomas I’ve got to go home for dinner. I’ll go now, but come back as soon as I’ve finished.’

Mum had my dinner out when I got home. It was a quarter to six. I told her how we had waited two hours for Mr Thomas.

‘Maybe he had to buy more sand or something.’

‘Mum, they’ve got a tonne left over.’

‘Well maybe he went … I don’t know. But … I feel something is wrong, Karen. I really do. You’d better go next door as soon as you’re finished dinner. Tell me if there’s any trouble.’

At a quarter past six I was sitting in the living room with Jodie watching the news. We watched the sport, the business report, gold prices, the stock market and finally the weather. Jodie stood up, quite angry. ‘Where is he! I’m fed up with this waiting.’

Suddenly I felt a twinge of fear strike into my stomach, it had flowed down from my head; I knew there was serious trouble. Jodie sat down and the phone rang. She ran to it, but Mrs Thomas beat her to the receiver.
‘Hullo Dear. Where have you been?’

There was a long silence while she listened. Jodie was so excited she kept saying: ‘When’s he coming? What went wrong? Did he get the pool? Why isn’t he here?’

‘For goodness sakes Jodie, keep quiet! I can’t hear your father.’

And as I watched I saw all the colour drain out of Mrs Thomas’s face. ‘What? I don’t believe it! Y-yes. As soon as I can.’ She hung up.

‘What happened?’ Jodie asked.

‘Your father is at the police station.’

‘What! I don’t—‘

‘He’s been arrested for trying to pass counterfeit money.’