When I was six years old my father took me to the waterpark for the first time. I remember wanting to try all the waterslides, jumping through the waves in the big pool. In fact, my father was the one who first got me interested in swimming. Over here, I said, and dragged him to the big waterslide in the corner of the pool. Hurry up!
He’d laughed and caught up to me, scooped me up, carried me on his shoulders up the top flight of stairs, and we stood at the back of the queue. I remember looking down to the rest of the waterpark, at the families splashing in the wave pool, the lifeguards blowing their whistles at misbehaving children. Dad, look! I yelled, pointing to the queue ahead of us, It’s almost our turn! We inched closer, I watched a pair of teenagers step eagerly onto the slide
There was a sign next to the slide, off to one side, slightly covered by the lifeguard. Dad had pointed it out to me, saying, There’s a height limit, you might be too young, bubba, and I’d frowned and insisted that I wasn’t, and then we were at the front of the queue, and the lifeguard had glanced at me and waved a hand dismissively. Dad caught up to me at the bottom, suggested we sit down for a snap, and we found a table outside a takeaway place near the entrance.
I remember, in the main pool, the round of waves was starting. Dad had rented me a tube from reception, and I climbed on top of it, and shot across the pool, giggling, with each current, over and over, until one round, when the force of the wave knocked the tube out from underneath me, and I fell underwater, far over my head, kicking and flailing. I hadn’t quite learned the art of swimming yet, and panicked, and somebody grabbed me by the wrist pulled me out of the water, spluttering. Let’s put the tube away for a bit, Dad had said, and began to lead me back through the water. I’ll teach you how to swim, he promised, taking my hand, weaving through the crowds back to the dressing rooms.
We’re leaving? I’d asked, frowning, plopping down onto a bench, and Dad had tousled my hair and said it was a long drive home, and Mom was planning tea, and that I could invite Adam over if I wanted. We’d become friends a month ago, at that point. Okay, I said, and grabbed the bag of clean clothes from the locker.
On the way home we listened to the radio and told each stories about superheroes. Of course, to me, my father was still the greatest superhero that could have existed. Mom was in the middle of preparing tea when we arrived home, she greeted me absent-mindedly, and I sat down at the kitchen table. I almost drowned! I announced, and she glanced over, stunned, and I shrugged. But Dad saved me. He’s like a superhero! And I’m your sidekick, right, Dad?
He’d nodded, kissing my mother. Of course, bubba, he said, helping my mother wash off some vegetables, Every superhero needs a sidekick. Now run and play, and after tea, you can help me in the lab, how does that sound?
I was always fascinated by what went on in that laboratory, so the offer was exciting. Mom and Dad were talking in the kitchen, nearly finished getting fittle ready, and I ran down the hallway, into the room that would later be Ellie’s, pulling toys onto the floor to play with whilst I waited.
Dad sat beside me during tea, telling us of his day and the new project he’d begun with his colleagues. Afterwards, when the dishes had all been cleared away, he smiled at me. ‘Come, bubba, let’s go do some science.’
I’d grinned, beginning to run down the hallway toward the laboratory. My mother’s voice floated down the hallway. ‘No experiments, Elias.’
He turned, shaking his head, looking at her soothingly, soft. ‘No experiments.’ With that said, he opened the door to the laboratory and waved me inside.
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