Bathing Suit Bingo
Balki sighed as he carried his towel to the community pool. "Isnít it the perfect day for a swim, cousin?" he asked as he plopped on the concrete alongside the water. He happily dipped his toes in the pool. "Cousin Larry, come on in! The water is nice and warm!" He sighed. "Iím glad we were invited to the Chronicleís pool party. This is going to be so much fun!"
Larry peeked out of the locker rooms, still clad in his green robe. "Balki, is the coast clear?"
Balki shook his head. "Cousin, I tell you, you can come out! We are early. No one has arrived yet."
"Keep your eyes closed until I get in the water."
Balki frowned, but put his hands over his eyes. "Cousin, why wonít you let me see your new bathing suit?"
Larry sighed. "I donít like how it looks on me."
"Why you buy it, then?"
Balki heard footsteps on the concrete, then a small splash. "It was the last one available in my size at the department store. It was either this or nothing. My old bathing suit got ragged." There was another splash. "Balki, you can open your eyes now."
Balki took his hand off his eyes. Larryís hugged his arms around his chest. "Balki, how can you take this water?"
"Po, po!" Balki exclaimed, rolling his eyes as he got in the water. "You never went swimming in Lake Myposia before! The lake is on the south side of Mount Mypos, and itís so cold, you can go ice skating on it in June!" He jumped on his cousin. "Gotcha! Iíll bet you canít get me!"
Larry and Balki chased each other around the pool, swimming and splashing each other. Balki made very big splashes. Larry made smaller splashes, and pointed out to Balki that if he kept knocking all the water out of the pool, there wouldnít be any left for later.
"Hello?" Larry returned to the surface for air after he and Balki held a contest to see who could hold their breath longest, and the first thing he saw were a pair of feet. "Is anyone there? I know I heard someone splashing around."
"Hi, Balki! Hi, Larry!" Two blonde women, one tall and wearing a green one-piece swimsuit, the other short and wearing a shiny peach bikini, sauntered into the pool area and dropped their towels on a chair. The smaller woman sighed. "Itís so hot out! I canít wait to get in the water!"
Larry tried to duck as far as he could into the water without actually going under. "Could you do me a favor?" he begged. "Could you get rid of Jen and Mary Anne before they see my bathing suit? Iíll be the laughingstock of the party if they see it!"
Balki muttered something in Myposian and went to head off the giggling duo. "Hello, Jennifer," Balki started, nodding at the taller woman. "How are you girls today?"
"Glad that we have off and you invited us to this party," Jennifer admitted. "We donít have air conditioning and itís supposed to get up to almost a hundred degrees today." Mary Anne sat on the chair and puffed into a rainbow-stripped beach ball. "Iím going to do some dives. I havenít been on a diving board since I was in high school."
"Um, maybe thatís not such a good idea," Balki began. Larryís face was already the color of cherries, and Balki knew he hadnít been in the sun that long. "Why donít you wait for a while to get in the pool?"
Jennifer put her hands on her hips and made a face. "Why should I?"
"Cousin Larry looks funny in his bathing suit," Balki told her. "He thinks you will make him a livestock if you see it."
Jennifer raised her eyebrows. "This should be interesting." She nodded at Mary Anne
Mary Anne obediently trotted over to her friend, her now-inflated beach ball resting under her arm. "Whatís going on, Jen?"
Jennifer sighed. "Larry supposedly looks funny in his bathing suit."
Mary Anne frowned. "Are you sure?"
Her friend shrugged. "Well, thatís what Balki told me." The two women ran over to Larry, but he quickly swam behind Balki. "Larry, please," Jennifer complained. "It canít be that bad. We wonít say anything, will we, Mary Anne?"
Jennifer elbowed her friend when she remained silent. "Uh, no," Mary Anne squeaked as she rubbed her ribs. "Weíll be nice."
"Itís worse than you think!" Larry moaned. "Balki, hide me!"
His eyes widened in horror as another pair of legs joined the ladies. Sam Gorpley wore a tan bathing suit, his silver-gold hair pushed under a bathing cap. "Ok, people, whatís going on?" the tall, middle-age man grumbled. "The last time I checked, this was a pool party, which usually involves getting in the pool."
"Mr. Gorpley," Mary Anne explained, "weíre waiting to see what Larry looks like in his bathing suit. He keeps trying to hide, but Balki says he looks funny."
Mr. Gorpley crossed his arms and smiled. "Well, this spectacle ought to be worth the sunburn. Why donít you come out and show the world your lovely new apparel, Appleton? Iíll bet it looks adorable on that Pilsbury Doughboy stomach of yours."
Balki separated from Larry, who continued to hold his arms over the offending piece of clothing. "Nothing doing, Gorpley!"
"Larry, you canít hide forever!" Mary Anne reminded him. "Youíll end up wrinkled and shriveled, like a California Raisin." She rubbed her arms. "And I think Iím getting as red as a really ripe tomato. Why donít you let us in?"
Larry winced as the doors to the locker room were flung open and a large group of people flooded the concrete. Carl Winslow, a big, plump police officer, hauled a portable grill. A young man followed him, carrying a cooler. Two girls, one younger than the other, both giggling, raced to the deep end of the pool.
"Harriette, thanks for driving me to the party," Lydia Markham told her best friend. "I would have driven myself, but my Mercedes is in the shop." Lydia took off her wide-brimmed straw hat collapsed on a lounge chair.
"Again?" Harriette Winslow frowned. "Thatís the third time in the last four months that carís been in the shop. Why donít you dump that piece of junk and buy something new?"
"That Ďpiece of junkí happens to be an antique," Lydia snapped.
Harriette snorted. "Youíre just attached to it, Lydia. That car is the closest thing you have to a child."
Larryís eyes nearly bugged out of his head when the younger of the Winslow girls took a running jump into the pool. She drenched her sister, the cousins, and her mother, who glared at her. "Judith Charlotte Winslow," Harriette scolded, "how many times have I told you not to jump off the sides of the pool?"
"That was a great cannonball, Judy!" the older boy called out as he and his father set up a picnic table. "You did it just like I taught you."
"See, Mom?" Judy insisted. "I didnít do it. Eddie taught me that."
Carl Winslow frowned. "Judy, donít jump in the pool. Eddie, donít encourage your sister to jump in the pool."
Larry looked like he was going to have a nervous breakdown. Jennifer and Mary Anne sat on the side of the pool and dipped their legs in. "Canít you all just go away, at least until I get out?"
"Whatís all the fuss about, Larry?" Lydia asked. "Why donít you want anyone to see you?"
Mr. Gorpleyís grin was shark-like. "Appleton looks attractive in his bathing suit."
The two girls peeked around Balki, but Larry ducked the other way. "Laura, Judy, leave Mr. Appleton alone," Harriette insisted.
"Hey, if you get a look at his suit, tell the rest of us, ok?" Gorpley shouted.
Larry made a face. "I donít see whatís so funny."
"If you were on this side of the pool, baby, youíd know," Harriette chuckled. Lydia, Jennifer, and Mary Anne tried to hide their smiles.
The girls chased Larry around Balki. Larry dove away from his cousin and scrunched in the corner again. "Mom, he keeps running away!" Laura grumbled.
"Stop bothering Mr. Appleton," Carl ordered his daughters. "Iím sure he has a good reason for hiding behind his cousin."
"Yeah," laughed Eddie Winslow, "heís a chicken!"
"I am NOT chicken!" Larry protested. "I donít like being embarrassed, thatís all."
"You embarrassing yourself more by playing ring-around-the-Mypiot with the kids," Balki pointed out.
Larry shivered. "Balki, Iím freezing!"
"So why donít you come on out?" Jennifer insisted.
"Yeah," Gorpley sneered, "we canít wait to get a load of Larry Appleton!"
Slowly, grumbling all the way, Larry dragged himself up the stairs and out the pool. He stopped to grab his towel and felt ten pairs of eyes bore into his shorts. His bathing suit was covered with little frogs in sailor suits riding sailboats, each sporting a big froggy grin, on a bright blue background. Water dripped off his round cheeks, his suit, and his bedraggled curls, forming puddles on the concrete.
Balki couldnít help it. The annoyed and frustrated expressions on his cousinís face were so amusing that he started laughing. Jennifer and Mary Anne burst into giggles and were soon joined by Laura and Judy Winslow. Soon enough, everyone sitting around the pool area began laughing helplessly.
Balki got out of the pool and looked his cousinís suit over. "Itís true, Cousin. You do look funny."
"I know!" Larry groaned. He wrapped his towel around his legs and stormed into the locker rooms.
Harriette shook her head. "We shouldnít have laughed," she said. "It wasnít nice, and he didnít look too bad."
"Mom," giggled Judy, "I know kids at school who wouldnít be caught dead in that suit!"
Mr. Gorpley was the only person who continued laughing. Lydia swatted him on the back of his head with her hat. "Sam, get a hold of yourself! I think we really hurt Larryís feelings."
"Iím sorry, Lydia," Mr. Gorpley chortled, "but did you see the look on Appletonís face when he got out of the pool? I havenít seen anything that funny since the last Comedy Relief special."
Balki went after his cousin and found him in the locker room, vigorously rubbing his curls dry. "What are you doing here?" Larry muttered.
"Cousin," Balki began, "we want you to come back to the party."
"Of course you do," Larry snapped. "You can make even more fun of my suit that way." He threw the towel down and pulled his shirt over his bare chest. "Balki, thereís nothing you could say or do to make me go back tin that pool."
Larry started out of the locker room. Jennifer met him at the door. "Hi, Larry."
Larry narrowed his eyes. "Well, arenít you going to laugh at me again? I couldnít find a suit in my size in the menís department. They were all too long. I had to get one from the kidsí section, and this was all they had left."
Jennifer frowned. "Larry, I wasnít laughing at your bathing suit. I was laughing at the looks on your face. You really do have a very funny, expressive face."
Larry blushed. "I do?"
She grinned and kissed him. "I think your expressive face and your bathing suit are cute. I didnít mean to hurt your feelings. I donít think anyone did. You did look very silly."
"I guess I did," Larry admitted. "I was so worried about what everyone would think of my suit that I forgot to have fun and laugh with everyone else."
Jennifer squeezed his hand. "Why donít you take your shirt off and join us? The other guests should be arriving soon, and Mr. Winslow is starting the barbecue."
Larry smiled. "I think that sounds like a good idea. Iíll see you in a minute!"
He ran back in the locker room and peeled his shirt off. He ran into Balki on the way out of the pool. Balki was stuffing a hot dog in his mouth. "Cousin, you are not going home? You stay?"
"Yes," Larry exclaimed, "Iím staying! I wouldnít miss this for the world!" He beamed. "You know, Balki, I shouldnít let what other people think of me get on my nerves. What matters is what I think of my bathing suit, right?"
"Um, right," Balki said between mouthfuls of hot dog. "Cousin, why donít we play a pool game? I can teach the Winslow family volley-bally-hitoverthenettiki."
"Um, yeah." Larry raised his eyebrows. "How about I pick the games, Balki? The last time we played volley-bally-hitoverthenettiki, I was in the hospital for two weeks with head injuries and a broken wrist. My wrist still feels sore in damp weather."
Balki licked the last of the ketchup off his fingers. "Well, cousin, I told you to hit the boulder when it came in your direction."
"Hey, Appleton," Gorpley taunted, "why donít you come show the other guests your adorable new bathing suit? We could all use a good laugh."
Larry grinned. Gorpley didnít have the power to get him upset anymoreÖat least, not today. "Sure, Gorpley. Iíll give them the full fashion show."
With that, he and Balki jumped into the pool, making sure Sam Gorpley stood close enough to be soaked by the water that came after them.