It was a scorching hot July morning, the kind that would only get hotter as the day went on. Asphalt streets were too dangerous to drive on, because car tires were sinking three inches into the gooey crap. The sun beat down like a gigantic electric bulb, so hot that even the bugs had stopped buzzing around. Yep, it was the perfect day to lounge about at an ice-cold pool, swimming in watery luxury. Lucky for me, I was currently at a pool, and would be until 8:00 tonight. Unlucky for me, this pool wasn't fit for swimming, and I was being held here against my will. But I guess that's what you get when you become criminal. You can't pick and choose.

I climbed up out of the deep end, walked over to the flimsy, stained card table and poured myself a glass of lukewarm water from the yellow pitcher. As I proceeded to empty it's contents, a quick jab on the side told me that I had been caught. "No water 'till you get your assignment done for the day. You know that. Now get.", Lt. Skatts muttered angrily, too hot to make any real threats today. I drained the last couple of drops slowly and grudgingly went back to work, under his watchful and hated eye.

Hopping down the ladder again and I landed with a squish at the bottom of the pool. I picked up my mop and began cleaning away years of algae and scum that had become encrusted on the tiles at the bottom. Beads of sweat poured down my face and the mucking boots I had on soon became as heavy as lead and twice as hot. Lt. Skatts watched me for a few moments, then placed his hat back over his face and commenced to snore away.

I glared at him vengefully as I mopped. Why, of all places, was I stuck in some old, run-down pool for my community service? I could be working at the YMCA, in some air conditioned school room, teaching kids about the dangers of commercialism. But no, I had managed to land myself in the middle of Smutsville, Illinois, in a run-down pool while the temperatures soared to record highs. I angrily plunked my mop into the bucket of near boiling water and continued to scrub, my mind hot with annoyance.

With a name like Smutsville, you'd think that the pool would be pretty dingy and small. Well, it seemed that the residents of Smutsville long ago, on a whim, decided to build themselves an Olympic-sized swimming pool. It was really big, though I'm not sure Olympic size was the word. (Perhaps to these small town hicks it was huge.) In it's golden days, this pool would have been gorgeous. It sported an impressive diving well 21 feet deep,and three lanes just for lap swim. There was an old broken basketball hoop that extended out over the shallow end, along with a huge ash tree that kept dropping it's leaves into the pool, making a bigger mess for us. Just to the left of the tree was a tattered awning with a few scummy lawn sets scattered about. Just beyond that was a sludgy old hot tub that bordered on cesspool. Every once in a while, goopy bubbles would weave their way to the surface and pop with a small blip, letting us know that the jets still functioned a little bit. I could imagine myself sitting in it, leisurely drinking a Cola and chatting with some hot girl next to me. The sounds of the pool and the smell of chlorine was so strong that for a moment I thought I was there. Unfortunately, reality has a nasty little habit of eluding you at the most inopportune times.

As a wet sponge hit me in the back of the head, I whirled around to see Diego laughing at my expense. I gave him the finger good naturedly and chucked the sponge over to Derrick, who caught and whipped it at Jong, smacking him between the eyes. Our little game went on for about five minutes before Lt. Skatts caught on. "OK girls, that's enough," he growled. I wiggled my eye brows at Diego, then resumed my mopping.

Diego was known, good-naturedly, as my partner in crime. Part Hispanic, part black, he usually charmed the storekeeper while I did the dirty work. We were a perfect pair; he was a smooth talker and a looker without an athletic bone in his body while I used to stutter and was on more sports teams than you would believe. We always got away with what ever we planned to do. Well, almost always.

It was really my fault that we got caught. If my little sis hadn't found the stack of cds then none of this would have happened, and I would still be at home, vegging out in front of the air conditioner. But she did find them, and in little kid fashion, presented them to my mother as a gift. Of course my mom flipped out, and in between flogging me with a spatula and calling the police, she managed to figure out that Diego was involved as well. So both of us were cuffed and sent to a "correction facility" in Illinois, where we still were now. While the situation sucked, it did give us a chance to meet some interesting guys.

Derrick was the all-American boy gone wrong. From his spiky bleached hair, to his muscular tan, to his deep blue eyes, you just knew that somewhere along the line a parent got lazy and decided to spoil the kid. Derrick was on the lacrosse team, a straight A student, and had made it his personal goal to vandalize every single building in the town that he lived in. Too bad that town was Chicago. After being busted for lighting a few trash cans on fire, his parents decided to send him down here to get "the help he needed". My guess if they were too mortified to keep him at home. This work of cleaning up a pool must have been torture for the "graffiti guru" as he called himself.

Jong was an interesting character. Forget about all the stereotypes about Asians being smart; this kid was dumb as a rock. He had been caught trying to free animals at the Humane Society. This simple act wouldn't have landed him here, but the animals he was after were the bite cases. Muttering something about a rebellion waiting to happen, Jong was nabbed by workers and dragged off to the police station where it was discovered he was an orphan and was sent here.

I heard a whistle behind me, but didn't stop to see what it was. I knew it was Zach, the youngest of the lot. Zach was the residential monkey. Thin and wiry, he some how managed to get his freckled body anywhere that was in sight. The only trouble was the he was prone to bouts of random whistling. This habit was what got him caught. The poor kid had climbed up a three story motel and was enjoying the show of a prostitute getting undressed. He still revels in telling the shocking story to this day. "And then she took off her boobs. Yea, TOOK them off! It was a GUY!" Unfortunately, this guy heard Zach's whistle of disbelief, whalloped him over the head, and before the kid could regain consciousness, the police came.

I squinted and shaded my eyes to survey the pool. A dark shape was lounging in the shallow end, just under the ash tree. I grinned. That was Damian, or "Black Mamba" as he called himself. Damian was a cool kid. In fact, if I hadn't already met Diego, I would say he was the coolest kid I knew. Damian grew up in New York City, right on the street from age 10. He was responsible for one of the largest, yet virtually unknown, gangs in the country called "Forgotten." His motto: "Black like the night, I'll getcha. Don't try to run cause three steps and your dead. Then your forgotten." The Black Mamba was very poetic.

Suddenly a sniffle was heard behind me as I watched Damian work. I rolled my eyes. It had to be Tracy. Why would any parent in their right mind name their son Tracy? That was just settin' him up for life. Tracy was a short, fat little kid with round glasses and a bible constantly in his hands. None of us could ever figure out why Tracy was here, cause he never seemed to do anything wrong. In fact, he never really seemed to do anything. The first week he was here, he sat on his bed and cried. After that, Tracy worked, but rarely spoke. Many thought he was a push-over, but I once woke up in the middle of the night to see him practice martial arts with his shadow. He wasn't half bad either. I kept my eye on him after that.

That was it for now. All seven of us worked from sun up till sun down on this god-forsaken pool with our only company being the flies and Lt. Skatts. But he didn't count much. For all of our labor, we actually managed to have fun every once in a while, and we had all become friends. We got along pretty well.

"Chris you ass!"

Well most of the time.

I ducked just in time as Derrick's broom came smashing down inches away from my head. Grabbing my mop, I assumed fencing stance and glared at him. "What the hell? What'd I do you bastard?" I yelled, swinging my mop like a madman. Pretty soon everyone had stopped their work to watch our duel to the death. Lt. Skatts snorted, and looked up.

"Stop horsing around goddamnit! The sooner you get finished cleaning, the sooner you can enjoy the rest of your summer." he yelled, chuckling slightly at his own joke. I rolled my eyes at Diego and went back to mopping. There was no way we would enjoy this summer. All of us were stuck at this hell hole for another six months. Diego silently agreed with me. This was the worst summer ever.

Or so we thought...