All Joy, No Fun
Dave looked forward to seeing Kendra in her bathing suit. She was the only WaterWigglers mom that wore a two-piece. Kendra was in shape but not a supermodel or anything. Her butt was substantial, the backs of her thighs a bit dimpled, her belly slightly rounded between the top and bottom of her suit. Dave thought she looked damn sexy, though, with her dark hair in a bun—probably, he figured, to keep it dry—and her glasses on even in the water. There was something of the naughty schoolmarm about her: the severity of those cat’s eyes frames and the tightness of the bun contrasted with her ample cleavage and the way the seat of her suit rode up just a little when she got out of the pool. Dave had become adept at exiting the pool just far enough behind her to watch unnoticed. She’d hook a thumb under one edge of her bottom and pull it lower, shift her daughter to her other arm and do the same on the other side. Sometimes, depending on the angle, Dave would get a quick glimpse further up her suit as she pulled on it.
Kendra’s daughter was Penelope. Dave knew this because the other mothers said, “Hello, Penelope,” while waving the chubby arms of their own children. He knew the names of all the babies in WaterWigglers—Penelope, Smythe, Jaiden, Janessa, Tom, Dinah, Mary, Paulo, Ricky. Dave said hello to each of them, too, waving his son Declan’s chubby arm. He made a point of learning the babies’ names day one of a new session since there was so much turn over, a mostly new crop every nine weeks. This session the only holdovers were himself, Kendra, and a strange Ukrainian woman who always wore curlers in her hair during class. He knew all the kids’ names but not a single one of the mothers’. Even Kendra’s. Kendra was just what he called her. He had settled on it because he had never heard the name in real life. It gave her the aspect of a dream, made her strange. Dave liked that.
Dave was the only father in the WaterWigglers class. The only man in a pool full of women. Well, aside from Jamieson, the instructor. Jamieson had obviously been a competitive swimmer, maybe still was. When he lifted his arms, his lats looked like tiny, washboard wings. Dave knew he, too, had lats. He must have. Even so, when he lifted his arms in front of the huge mirror in his master bathroom, all he saw was flesh puddling above his waist.
It wasn’t his self-deprecation or Jamieson’s lats that kept Dave from talking to the women of WaterWigglers, though. It was propriety. Dave was terrified that cheating on your spouse was exactly as effortless as it appeared in movies, on television, even in books. He enjoyed his fantasy, his slow undressing of Kendra in what he pictured as her bright, warm, richly-appointed bedroom, the look on her face as his kiss confirmed her suspicion about his above-average sexual prowess. Actually talking to her might lead to an awkward situation. In his daydreams, he didn’t have to figure out what to do with Declan while he trysted, wasn’t required to pay for a motel room, would never have to explain his CPAP machine.
No matter how late they left the house or how slowly Dave changed his and then Declan’s clothes in the locker room or how long they loitered under the hot water of their mandatory pre-pool shower, they always arrived on the pool deck ten to fifteen minutes early. Dave hated it because then he would sit and obsess over whether or not Kendra would be at class, Declan bouncing happily on his knee. She’d only missed one class in eight months, but Dave had come to rely on his eyeful of her each week. Perched on one of the chairs ringing the pool, alternating between one of his Kendra-based daydreams and fretting about her not showing up, Dave was surprised when she dropped into the chair next to him, placed Penelope on her lap, and said, “Hey.”
Mechanically, Dave waved Declan’s arm and in a singsongy voice said, “Hi, Penelope.”
Kendra laughed and waved Penelope’s arm. Then she said, “And hi to you.” She stuck out her hand. “I’m Lydia.”
“Oh,” Dave said. He looked at her hand, then took it gingerly. “Dave.” He was aware of his breathing, could feel the three days of stubble on his neck itch. Why hadn’t he taken an actual shower today? Or yesterday? Or Monday? He should have at least found time to shave. Maybe she found his unkemptness charming. He realized he was missing the feel of holding her hand but then worried he had already held it too long, so he let go, catching only a brief impression of the warmth and smoothness of her skin.
“He’s a cutie,” Lydia said, gently booping Declan’s nose with her fingertip. Declan laughed and grabbed at her hand.
“He takes after—” Dave was suddenly faced with a choice: mention Declan’s mom, Daphne, from whom Declan certainly got most of his cuteness, or make some sort of joke in order to avoid mentioning his wife at all. He was torn. Mentioning Daph would likely suppress any accidental flirtation. Not mentioning her might make him seem desperate, since it was obvious Declan had a mother, somewhere. Mentioning her could, though, make Lydia bold, issue a sort of unspoken challenge. Not mentioning Daph, on the other hand, might give Lydia the wrong idea, a dead spouse, a brave, lonely, father in need of—
“He looks a lot like you,” Lydia said, her eyes still fixed on Declan.
Lydia had just told Dave she thought he was cute. Or she had possibly just made an offhand comment. Dave wasn’t sure which it was. She hadn’t looked at him when he said it, which probably meant it was just something to say. However, if she was trying to tell Dave that she thought he was cute, she might not look at him out of embarrassment. If he said thank you, it would call attention to the fact that she was calling him cute. He could play it off, maybe by protesting, mentioning Declan’s resemblance to Daphne. If she wasn’t into him, she wouldn’t notice anything and they could just get in the pool and do Wheels on the Bus and the Hokey- Pokey and Ring-Around-The-Rosie and then he could watch her get out of the pool and go home and put Declan down for his nap, just like always. If she was into him, though, and he mentioned Daph—
“You ever go to The Flying Unicorn Cafe?” She was looking at him now. Her expression was open and friendly. Her shoulders and neck were relaxed. Penelope wiggled in her lap, batting at Declan as he batted at her. “We go there sometimes on Thursdays. It’s half-price playtime and you get lunch for both of you. Penny loves it. Great toasted-cheese sandwiches. You should bring Declan sometime. They seem to like each other and we don’t really know any other kids her age.”
It was happening. Dave felt his head nodding yes. Declan and Penelope were holding hands, pulling each other back and forth between his and Lydia’s laps. Dave realized he was going to have to start calling her Lydia now. Maybe one day while lying naked, his legs tangled with hers on her sun-soaked bed while the kids were at school, he would tell her about the whole “Kendra” thing. Or maybe it would just be a funny thing he told her some Thursday at The Flying Unicorn Cafe as Declan and Penelope ran in circles and Lydia barely paid him any attention.
Jamieson stepped out of the program office and onto the pool deck in all his swimmerly glory and called everyone into the pool. “Your number on the contact list?” Lydia asked as she stood, hoisting Penelope onto her hip.
Dave nodded some more.
“Good. I’ll text you later and we’ll see what we can work out.” With that, she turned, kicked off her flip-flops, and headed into the pool. Dave had been letting Declan walk across the deck to the pool and down the first few steps on his own but this time he lifted him and hung him upside down, hoping his son’s head would obscure the half-erection he had. Declan squealed in delight, kicking his feet and calling the attention of all the WaterWigglers moms, so Dave reversed his hold, set Declan down, and shuffled into the pool, his hips shifted back slightly, awkwardly.
After Humpty-Dumpties and Blast-Offs and Jack-Be-Nimbles, when they had listened to Jamieson’s end of class announcements and sung the Goodbye Song, Dave watched Lydia get out of the pool like always. This time, though, she stopped on the pool deck and looked back at him. They locked eyes and Lydia smiled as she adjusted her suit bottoms. Dave felt fear-covered hope rise up the back of his throat.
Lydia was too flustered to play with Penelope, so she let her wriggle on her hip, laughing, as she pulled the diaper bag from the locker. That guy, Dave, had been checking out her ass. Like straight up staring at it, laser focused on her butt as she pulled out a wedgie. She realized that she always got a wedgie on the way out of the pool, always stood there in the wide open and pulled on her bottoms to get the cloth out of her crack. That Dave guy was probably always watching. Drooling, practically.
And she had asked him on a play date. Smooth move, Lid.
Penelope, who had recently discovered the joys of pinching, clamped down on Lydia’s right nipple. Lydia winced, let out a little cry, and shifted Penelope off her hip into a cradle hold low across her bare midriff where she began to kick her mom’s boob in a frantic bicycling motion. Lydia noticed how pronounced her nipples were through the fabric of her swimsuit, the topography clear to anyone who was really looking. That Dave guy was probably really looking.
Lydia felt an unexpected flush run through her when she thought of Dave wanting nothing more than to see that slight bump rising at the middle of each breast. Well, just off- center. Well, more off-center on the left one than the right, Lydia realized as she stared down at her chest. She hadn’t thought about how her nipples didn’t match since before she and her husband Alan had entered the phase of their relationship where she would loudly pee with the door open and he would nonchalantly scratch his balls while they watched TV. Suddenly, she was self-conscious about it again. She rolled her chest, adjusted how her boobs were situated inside the top with one hand as Penelope, no longer kicking, tried to stuff all the toes of her left foot into her mouth.
Shouldering the diaper bag, Lydia saw the line of WaterWigglers moms waiting to use the one changing station in the locker room. Suckers. She turned and walked toward the door to the hallway connecting the men’s and women’s locker rooms. Halfway down on the left was the entrance to the physical therapy room. Directly across from it was the single “family changing room” in the place. Most of the women assumed that some other mother was already using it. Dave, being the only dad, apparently never had to worry about anyone else using the changing station she assumed was in the men’s locker room. Lydia considered this her major parenting achievement, being the one mom to think to use the quiet, spacious family changing room every week. It made her feel capable.
When she opened the door into the hallway, she saw Dave ambling toward her, Declan flapping like a fish under his arm, diaper bag hanging around his neck. She stepped back and shut the door all but a crack and watched him. He opened the door to the physical therapy room. His eyes went wide as a woman’s voice yelled, “This is a private session, sir!” He mumbled a few sorries as he closed the door gently then shook his head as if to clear it. He did a double take at the door to the family changing room, pushed the door open slowly and called out, “Hello?” He peeked around the edge of the door to be sure it was empty and then stepped inside.
Lydia couldn’t use the room now. She’d have to wait outside for Dave to finish and then they’d have to have a conversation and it would be weird.
Still, aside from the spare tire growing around his middle and an almost unconscionable amount of back hair, he wasn’t a bad looking guy. He was scruffy in a way that Alan would never let himself be, half-unshaven, his hair badly in need of a trim. Alan was so straight-laced, so buttoned-up. He was good-looking, sure, but it was a curated handsomeness. And Dave really loved his son, the way he talked to him in the pool, making him laugh, encouraging him. It was adorably selfless, the babytalk and the swooshing sound effects. But creepy-peeping is creepy- peeping, regardless of the creepy-peeper’s cuteness. Lydia let the hallway door shut and walked over to the line of moms waiting outside the changing station. It was a small room, maybe 5 feet square, with a plastic curtain across the doorway. The line was down to two of the class’s newest members, Janessa and Dinah’s moms. Lydia hadn’t spoken to them yet, just waved Penelope’s arm hello at their daughters. She put Penelope on her hip and waited behind them.
“That family room is always full,” Janessa’s mom said to Lydia. “Always.”
“Must be that guy, Declan’s dad,” Dinah’s mom said. “Which is kinda’ shitty since he’s the only one in his locker room.”
“Thitty,” Dinah said, smiling at her mom.
“Of course,” Dinah’s mom said.
Lydia felt bad. For Dave. Not bad enough to cop to being the one who always used the family room, took her sweet time, but enough that she softened a bit on her judgement of his creepiness. If they were fifteen years younger, maybe even ten, she’d probably have been flattered by his attention.
“I’d like to get in his locker room,” Janessa’s mom said. “If you know what I mean,” she finished with a knowing smile at Lydia. The smile lingered and Lydia realized the woman was expecting some sort of response, an affirmation.
Luckily, a sound that couldn’t be anything other than an enormous fart came from inside the changing station at just that moment, followed quickly by a frustrated, angry-whispered voice saying, “Paulo, no! Bad! No! Ah, no, not in your mouth!” After that came Paulo’s trademark high-pitched giggle and the overwhelming smell of baby poop. Paulo’s mom, obviously naked and partially covered in poop, stuck her head out of the station. “Sorry, Paulo, uh,” and here she looked back into the room for a second then continued, “well, he sprayed shit everywhere.” She offered a sheepish grin.
“Thitty,” Dinah said, clapping her hands.
The other moms sighed and laughed, walked over to the lockers, and claimed one bench each, spreading a towel out and laying their child down. Lydia wasn’t sure what to do—she could risk running into Dave and check to see if the family changing room was open or she could take the third empty bench and change Penelope and herself right there in the middle of the locker room.
“C’mon,” Janessa’s mom said. She was a short, thick woman in a black one piece suit over which she always wore a pair of gym shorts, even in the water. “There’s almost never empty benches. Grab this one,” she said, laying her extra towel over it and nodding to Lydia. Lydia moved toward the bench, laid Penelope down, and set the diaper bag on the floor. “I’m Monica,” Janessa’s mom said as the pulled her suit’s straps off her shoulders, rolled the top down over her enormous breasts, and shimmed the suit and the wet shorts down to the floor.
“That’s Eileen,” naked Monica said, jerking a thumb over her shoulder at Dinah’s mom, which set everything she had to jiggling.
Eileen, with a dopey grin on her face, waved the swim diaper she had just removed from Dinah at Lydia. Lydia smiled and nodded. Eileen was already naked. She looked a little like a spider, with her thin, ropey arms and legs and her bulbous mid-section. Lydia wrapped her towel around herself and tried to take her top off underneath it. She’d never been comfortable in locker rooms in high school, never went in for changing in front of her girlfriends in one another’s bedrooms while trying on clothes. When other people were around, she could feel every imperfection of her body.
“Girl,” Monica said, as if in response to Lydia’s thoughts, “if I had a body like yours, I wouldn’t be shy about showing it off.” She pulled on a pair of high-waisted, full-bottomed panties and added, “I bet your husband can’t keep his hands off you.”
Lydia and Alan hadn’t had sex since she got pregnant.
In the car on the way home, Dave pressed the phone button on the steering wheel, told the vaguely-English automated voice to call Daphne at work, and listened as the phone rang over the stereo speakers. “Hey,” she said when she answered.
“How was WaterWigglers?” Declan recognized his mommy’s voice and cooed. “Hi, baby,” Daphne cooed back.
“Class was fine. He hated being on his back this time but otherwise, he was great. Even kicked his feet on his own a little.”
“Did you put a towel under him while you changed him? We don’t want that fungus thing coming back.”
“Yes, of course I did, Daph, I used the private family changing room.”
Daph began talking but Dave zoned out. He was imagining being in the private family changing room. He’d finished drying, diapering, and clothing Declan, had just slid his trunks off when the door, which he was sure he had locked, swung open. There in the doorway stood Kendra. Lydia. Lydia was standing in the doorway, Penelope on her hip. Dave looked down at his nakedness. When he looked back up at Lydia, she was unhooking her top as she pulled the door closed behind her. Penelope wasn’t clinging to her anymore. Declan was no longer on the changing table.
Daph finished whatever she was saying. Dave flipped on his turn signal and said, “So…”
“No, nothing bad. One of the moms, she asked Declan on a playdate. She has a little girl around his age, wants us to go to The Flying Unicorn Cafe with them sometime.” Dave thought he shouldn’t have used the word date, even with play before it. He was sure Daphne was going to see right through him. And even if she didn’t, she was at least going to make a joke about the mom wanting to hook up with him and he’d get all flustered and then they would end up in couples therapy and he’d only get to see Declan Saturdays and every other Wednesday.
“That sounds great. It’ll be good for you to get out of the house and to get Declan socializing more regularly.”
Dave started nodding then realized Daphne couldn’t see him, so he said, “Yeah. Yeah, it will.”
Declan was sound asleep in his car seat when Dave pulled up the driveway. Dave carefully unpacked the boy from the straps and buckles holding him in place, hoisted him up and out of the back seat, and carried him inside and up the stairs. Even though Declan didn’t stir as Dave removed his coat, shoes, socks, and tiny little sweat pants, he knew that nap time would be short. Normally Dave could count on a solid two hours to himself post-lunch. But Declan hadn’t eaten lunch and so he was going to wake up early, crying with hunger, probably be inconsolable for thirty or so minutes. Dave figured he had, at best, 45 minutes, so once he laid Declan in his crib, rested Glowy the Glowworm against him, and covered them both with a blankie, he grabbed his laptop and went into the master bathroom.
His first search—+brunette +glasses +hair-bun +big-ass—failed to turn up any hits, as usual. Dave wondered at how porn had become so much easier to obtain but so much harder to enjoy. When he was a kid, he remembered that any picture or video with a naked woman was amazing. It didn’t matter what color hair she had or how much pubic grooming she had done, she was naked and you were getting to see it. You got what you got and you didn’t get upset. Now, the search bar at the top of the page taunted him. The heart wants what the heart wants and Dave’s wanted a clip of a woman similar to Lydia having sex in a library or classroom. Or maybe in a nice suburban-looking home, where a handyman or her son’s best friend bent her over the sofa or took her on the kitchen island after a bit of playful, sexy banter. Why put a search bar if it wasn’t able to deliver?
Dave fell back on his usual, clicking the “schoolgirl” tab and browsing through the hundreds of screencaps until he saw a girl with a pretty face and white knee socks. After he finished, he washed up and made himself some lunch. As the frozen rigatoni Alfredo with broccoli rotated in the microwave, he pulled the WaterWigglers contact list from the thick-stuffed folder marked “Declan Docs” in the top drawer of the desk in the first-floor office. There was only one Lydia listed, Lydia MacIntyre. Dave sat down at the desk and pulled out his phone, hit the “+” button in his contacts list, and typed in the phone number. In the field marked First, he typed Lydia. He wondered if he should type anything in the Last field. Just listing her by first name implied familiarity or, as he thought Daph might think, the desire for familiarity. But putting in her last name felt permanent, like he was adding her to his contacts for good. Someone with no last name was an acquaintance. A last name made someone important. Right? He backed out of the entry screen and scanned his already added friends. It was a crapshoot on who had a last name and who didn’t. His best friend was simply Mike. On the other hand, Marcie from college was listed as Marcie Davis even though Dave had slept with her on two sad, alcohol- soaked occasions when she was still Marcie Andrews. Daph didn’t know that, of course—she liked Marcie Davis a lot, occasionally went to the movies with her. Daph didn’t really care for Mike, though. That sometimes struck Dave as funny. The microwave beeped as an idea so simple struck him that he laughed out loud. In the Last field, he typed “WaterWigglers.” He made her Lydia WaterWigglers. How could Daph object to that?
Lydia put down the knife, wiped the onion juice off her hands, and grabbed her cell from Penelope, who was sitting in her high chair, turning the phone screen off and on, pointing at the picture of herself that Lydia used as wallpaper and squealing, “Muh, muh.” Lydia sighed when she saw Alan’s name. He was calling when he should have been walking through the front door.
“Liddy,” Alan said.
“Eight, maybe nine?”
Lydia counted to ten, slowly, before she responded. “I’ll wrap up dinner and keep it in the
“I’m sorry, babe,” Alan said. “This case is just a fucking mess.” “Language, babe,” Lydia replied. “I’ll see you when I see you.”
“Love you,” Alan said.
“Me, too,” Lydia said and hung up. She didn’t hand the phone back to Penelope, though. She opened the junk drawer and pulled out the folded contact sheet for
Alan’s job afforded them a lot of niceties—a big house, the Land Rover, and Lydia’s not having to work. However, it had gotten out of hand over the last year, ever since his paternity leave. Working late, working weekends, business trips for depositions. Alan claimed it was all to cement his place at the firm, to make him a mover and a shaker, the kind of senior associate that slides right into equity partnership, skipping the lean, terrible years of eating what he kills, in his words, as an income partner. And he was probably telling the truth. Probably. But then why hadn’t they had sex in 23 months?
Lydia had gone so far as to have her sister take Penelope on a weeknight so she could pull a sex-ambush on him, wearing nothing but six-inch stilettos and a smile. Instead, she sat on the couch, in the nude, eating most of a tub of Chunky Monkey and watching Dancing With the Stars until she got tired and went to bed. She routinely checked his internet history and could find no evidence of porn or chatting or cybersexing or whatever. She couldn’t believe Alan, who used to wake her up in the middle of the night just to go down on her, could be completely celibate. And if he was, well, that was troubling, too.
“Hone, hone, hone, hone,” Penelope said from her chair, banging her tiny fists on the tray.
“One second, baby girl.”
Hey, Dave. Having cable problem, have to stay around here 2morrow. Want 2 bring Declan here? She hit send before she could chicken out. She stood there in the middle of the kitchen, pasta water boiling on the range, salad onions half-chopped, staring at the phone, waiting for a response.
Lydia turned and handed the phone to Penelope. Of course he was’t going to respond immediately. He was a father with a son and a wife. He was probably having a nice family dinner, laughing and making munch-y sound effects at Declan while his wife smiled her no- doubt beatific smile with perfect, white teeth and hair that didn’t have applesauce from lunch dried in it. And Alan? Alan was probably walking through the lobby of the Peninsula or the Drake or some other ritzy downtown hotel, arm in arm with some 24-year-old legal secretary with chunky highlights and low self-esteem and no inhib—
Penelope squealed when the phone in her hands chimed. Lydia pried it from her spitty fingers.
Lydia, that sounds great! What’s your address? And what time would be good? Declan naps at 1pm, usually.
Lydia noticed the full words and the punctuation. This Dave was an enigma, with his scruffiness and his grammar. Still, Lydia wasn’t really going to do anything untoward. Probably. Mostly, she wanted to be able to tell Alan about Dave coming over tomorrow and then to recount the good time they had together over dinner afterward. If Alan made it home for dinner tomorrow night. And if she caught Dave looking at her ass or down the low-cut shirt she was, as of now, planning on wearing, well, she’d let him look. What could it hurt?
She texted her address and said to come at 11am. Then, quickly, she sent one last text.
*We can have lunch and if Declan falls asleep, we can just hang out. *
After she hit send, she turned the phone off, handed it back to Penelope, and went back to making dinner.
The sun was very bright. The sky, too. Declan held his daddy’s hand as they walked up a bumpy white stone path to a big, brown door. He had his blue and red Rescue Bot in his other hand. Daddy knocked and said, “If she’s wearing a dress, we’re leaving, kiddo.” Declan laughed —his daddy was so silly.
After a while, the door opened. One of the ladies from swimmy-class was there. She wasn’t wearing a dress, she was dressed like Declan’s daddy, in rough blue pants and a tee-shirt.
“Hey,” she said and Declan smiled.
“Hey,” he said, at the same time his daddy said it, too. Declan laughed. Silly daddy. The lady moved back, opening the door all the way. Declan pulled his hand out of his daddy’s and ran inside.
“Dec, hey, manners!”
“That’s ok, Dave,” the lady said. When he looked back, he saw that the lady had put a hand over his daddy’s heart. “He’s a kid, he doesn’t know better.” Declan laughed because the lady was silly, too.
Just inside the door was another door, this one with no door in it, just the door hole. Declan stopped and looked through: it was a candy-colored room with a big fluffy couch and chair and toys and a blanket on the floor. Sitting in the middle of the blanket, all those toys spread out around her, was Penelope from swimmy-class. She was wearing a bright pink shirt and purple pants that were very tight. Her dark hair was up in a pink and purple bow. She smiled at Declan and waved him inside.
Declan’s only thought when he saw her was, “I hope she likes robots.”
About the Author
Eric Rampson is a Chicago-based writer who spent almost 20 years studying, performing, and teaching improv comedy before getting his MFA in Fiction from The MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. He spent 14-months as a stay-at-home dad with his then-infant son and wouldn’t trade those days for anything. His fiction has been published in Change Seven Magazine, The Matador Review, Typishly, Metonym, and is forthcoming in both The Gateway Review and Broad River Review. His comic book work is published by Lonely Robot Comics and Markosia. When he isn’t working or parenting, he’s writing. When he isn’t writing, he’s playing board games or binge watching TV shows. Read more at Eric's website www.ericrampson.com.