No. 161

The sun glistened off the slight ripples of the brilliant blue as he ducked his head underneath and pushed off from the pool’s edge. He glided effortlessly just beneath the surface until he reached the halfway mark.
Once, as a boy, Martin McKinley had decided that there must be a portal to another world somewhere on the premises.
It had been a child’s fancy, but between the water and the vast painting that covered an entire side of the deck, he couldn’t be blamed.
Perhaps it was the mural that lent the place such an otherworldly air.
Henri Rousseau’s “The Dream” dominated the senses. Vibrant greens and yellows jumped off of the wall, with splashes of bright blue and red. It was worn, now. The colors were not as sharp as they’d been, the facade flaking in places, but McKinley could not remember a day he’d visited and not spent time studying it.
He had a print in his home, but the sheer scale here captivated him. He wondered why, of all the pictures in the world, the owners had chosen this one to reproduce.
The lifeguard had been watching a trio of girls sunbathe on the far side of the property. He was late to blow the whistle when McKinley failed to resurface.
“Heart attack,” said the woman from the ambulance. “There was nothing you could have done.”
The lifeguard felt sorry for McKinley. He couldn’t remember the swimmer’s first name although they’d shared many greetings. It was a terrible thing to have happened, but he found that he couldn’t look away from the dead man’s expression of supreme satisfaction.