“This sure beats spendin’ the holidays in the Arctic, eh?” Stanley grinned.
“The weather certainly is more pleasant here in California.” Stanford admitted.
“And you wanted to stay on the boat.”
“I did not!”
Even though it'd been barely over a month since they saw the kids over Thanksgiving weekend, the younger twins had insisted their Grunkles come back to visit for Hanukkah and Christmas. Ford had complained for all of five minutes about having to come back to civilization just as they were getting used to life on the sea. He'd been kidding, of course, he was ecstatic for another excuse to see his wonderful niblings again, and more importantly that their parents didn't think the elder twins were too dangerous to be around the children. But Stan just wasn't going to let him live it down.
They weren't even halfway up the walkway when their playful argument was cut short. A pair of adolescent-shaped rockets shot out the door and charged right into the old men. Luckily the blow was softened by some very puffy coats.
“You're here!!” Mabel squealed, clinging onto Ford's arm like a monkey on a vine.
“So we are.” Ford agreed, not sure how else to respond.
“What's with the coats?” Stan asked incredulously, “It's like a million degrees out here!”
“It's 63 and breezey. That's cold.” Dipper defended.
“Heh, maybe in California.” Stan scoffed. “Y'know when Soos called me earlier he said they got another six inches of snow last night. And… how cold was it when we left Reykjavic?”
“3 Celcius.” Ford answered. “That's actually warmer than it's been in Gravity Falls, it's above freezing.”
“Yeah, well, it's been way below freezing on the Stan'owar II the last few weeks. What I'm tryin’ to say is, you two're wimps.”
Dipper and Mabel giggled fondly. Typical Stan.
“Well in that case, the Polar Bear Swim should be a cakewalk for you two.” A voice called from the door. The two sets of twins turned to see Shermie standing in the doorway, grinning conspiratorially.
“What's a Polar Bear Swim?” Ford asked, his curiosity piqued.
“It's this really fun family tradition we have!” Mabel explained eagerly, “on the coldest day of winter break, we fill up the swimming pool and the hot tub! You have to jump in the pool first and go all the way under, then you get to go in the hot tub!”
“Just a few seconds in the pool and then ya jump straight into a hot tub? Easy.” Stan said confidently.
“We didn't bring swimsuits.” Ford pointed out. “I mean, I do have our wetsuits for diving, because I wanted to watch pillow lava forming while we were in Iceland, but it's insulated and
that seems to defeat the purpose.”
“Don't worry, I've got some extras.” Shermie assured them, “ I think they'll fit. Might be a little tight on Stan, but…”
“Hey!” Stan grunted.
“That's not for another two days anyway, let's get inside and have dinner!” Dipper changed the subject impatiently. He was shivering despite his puffy coat.
They all headed inside for dinner, but that wasn't the last they heard of the Polar Bear Swim.
The next day Shermie's son, Micha, was filling up the pool, and the elder twins were helping by setting up the hot-tub. It wasn’t particularly large and was typically empty through the winter. But as small as the pool was, the hot tub was miniscule. It was just deep enough to come up to a grown man's neck if he crouched as he sat, and barely wide enough to cram three grown men into, if you ignored any need for personal space.
Stan scratched his head as he compared the size of the hot tub he'd just inflated with the pool set into Micha’s back yard.
“Uh, I'm not the math wiz here…” he started.
“Don't sell yourself short, Stanley.” Ford chided him, “You proved to be more than proficient in math when you rebuilt--”
“I'm tryin’ to make a point here, Poindexter.” Stan rolled his eyes. “I was sayin’, we got one big pool to fill with cold water, but just one little hot tub. No way all of us are gonna fit in there. I'm sure you an’ Debbs enjoy gettin’ intimate when it's just the two of you, but I don't think you wanna get squished in there with a couple of old geezers.”
Micha gave a short evil laugh. “Ahaha, that's the trick, isn't it? Limited space in the hot tub means you've got to be fast enough and smart enough to claim your space before it runs out. And if you're too late, what will you do? Force your way in and try to crowd the others out? Bargain? Lie? Or just give up and fall victim to the elements?”
“That sounds like a good way to start a family feud.” Ford said bemusedly.
“Well, I understand if you two don't want to participate.”
“Pch, are you kiddin’ me? After the freezing cold of the Arctic, this is nothin’.”
“Did you ever jump into the ocean though?” Micha asked, “Cold water and cold air are completely different animals.”
“No, we actively avoid that.” Ford said wryly. “Although, there was a time I jumped into a frozen river to save a drowning hinterlupe pup.”
“Oh yeah? Well I’ve had to cross a river in the middle of the winter to ditch the mafia tailing me, twice !”
“Yes, well, once I was on the run from bounty hunters and had to spend an hour submerged in hyperdrive collant .”
“Well one time I was smuggling canadian bacon across Lake Superior in the worst storm of the century …”
Micha could only watch with wide eyes as his uncles continued to one-up each other with more and more ludicrous stories of how they’d survived longer and in colder conditions. The worst part was, he couldn’t be sure what was an exaggeration and what was true. For all he knew, it could all be true! They were all so caught up in it, not one of them noticed Debbs had come out to the back yard to join them.
“Boys, boys, this isn’t a suffering contest.” She scolded them playfully. “It’s just a little bit of family fun!”
“Yeah, with a fight to the death over who gets the hot tub at the finish.” Stan grunted.
“Or you could just go take a hot shower afterwards, like a sane person.” Debbs suggested.
“Aha! But there are only two showers!” Micha grinned maniacally.
“Hon, stop messing with them.” She turned to the Stans, “He used to rile the kids up like this every year, but they’re old enough now they don’t scare like they used to.”
Ford gave small, sheepish smile. “I imagine there are a lot of things that don’t scare them anymore.”
“I’d say that’s a good thing.” She replied simply. “Now let’s get to work, it’s getting late and it’ll only get colder after dark.”
“Uuuuugh, I hate the waiting part!” Mabel complained. She was already in her swimsuit. “Let’s go jump in now!”
“Mabel, it’s barely past 11.” Dipper said. “Give the sun some time to warm up the water!”
“I thought the whole point of this was to jump in while it’s cold?” Stan asked.
“Well, yeah, but, within reason. ” The boy responded.
“Well what difference is one hour gonna make when it’s cloudy?” Mabel replied, “It’s already as warm as the forecast says it’s gonna get. Besides, if I go now, I get dibs on the hot tub!” With that, she got up and ran for the door to the back yard.
“Wait! Mabel, no fair!” Her brother shouted after her, dashing into his room to change.
“And they’re off!” Micha announced cheekily, bolting for his own room. Debbs was not far behind him.
“Nobody jump in until I’ve got the camera!” Shermie shouted, “I want to test my new GoPro!”
“They take this pretty seriously, don’t they?” Ford commented. When he got no response, he turned to see Stan had already left. “Hey!”
“Every man for himself, Sixer!” the old con man yelled from the guest-room.
The elder twins got to the back yard just in time to see Mabel jump in with a shriek. She swam to the other end and resurfaced. “C’mon Dipper!” She called to her brother, who was sitting on the little diving board, testing the water with his toes. “You know it’s better to jump in and get it over with!”
Dipper suddenly stood and stared at the water for a few long seconds, took a deep breath, and jumped. He screamed like a banshee when his head came back up out of the water, and he quickly swam to meet his sister at the end of the pool.
“Ok, that was great, now let’s do it again with a shot from a different angle!” Shermie called.
“Grandpa!” The two complained at his teasing, getting out of the pool and running straight for the hot tub. They both sighed loudly once they were in.
Stan was climbing onto the little diving board when Micha suddenly burst out of the house and dashed to the pool, jumping over the side like a penguin hopping into the ocean.
“One of these days,” Debbs shook her head as she just walked down the pool steps and submerged herself, “you're gonna slip and hurt yourself. And as long as you're not hurt too badly, I'm gonna laugh.”
Back on top of the diving board, Stan had noticed something. “Hey Shermie, where's your swimsuit?”
“You're wearing it.” Shermie reminded him.
“Oh, so you expect us to jump into the pool in the middle of the winter, but you're gonna stay high and dry!?”
“Well, someone's got to document this!”
“Isn't that camera waterproof?”
“Yeah, dad's a little old for this thing. He hasn't done it in a few years.” Micha explained as he climbed out of the pool and into the hot tub.
“But we're sixteen years older than he is!” Ford protested.
“Well, legally, yes, but it's actually closer to six years what with the time--” Shermie muttered.
“You both seemed so eager to prove that you were tough enough to do it.” Micha smiled innocently.
“We are tough enough!!” Stan steamed. He turned to Ford, “Ladies first.”
Ford smirked “We'd both better go, then.”
Stan chuckled and punched his brother's arm. It was very tempting to push Ford in, but he could tell by the conspiratorial glint in his brother's eye, they both had their eyes on a bigger prize.
“Get in close so you can take a good video, Shermie. I wanna show generations to come we didn't wuss out.”
“Fine, fine.” Shermie agreed, taking a step closer to the diving board.
Standing atop the diving board, the elder twins could feel a chilly breeze they hadn't noticed on the ground. Stan hesitated. The diving board was higher up than it looked, and he knew this was going to be COLD. He could feel Ford hesistate too for a fraction of a second. The tiny rational part of his brain told him to get back inside and into some propper clothes.
Stan had never paid much attention to that part of his brain.
With a whoop, the two brothers sprang into the water, carefully aiming to splash as much as possible onto Shermie. A giant wave washed over the old camera man.
It was so cold that Stan didn't really think about his prank, or anything really, except for getting out of that pool! He'd known it was going to be cold, but it seemed no matter how many times he'd had to jump into cold water, his body was never going to get used to it. He almost didn’t have the presence of mind to remember what he was going to do. Almost.
Stan and Ford surfaced right next to the edge where Shermie was standing, still gasping and spluttering from the wave that had splashed him. He didn’t notice two pairs of hands grab him and pull him into the water until it was too late.
“Hahahah! How’s that for an action shot?” Stan asked triumphantly, his teeth chattering with cold.
“Guh-gonnna drown you j-j-j-jerks!” Shermie stammered, shivering and pulling himself out of the water.
“I can’t believe you actually fell for that!” Ford chuckled.
“You three must have emptied half the pool!” Dipper cheered.
Between the lack of glasses and the dripping water, Stan could barely see, so he followed the sound of the boy's voice and blundered into the hot tub, not caring if or who he sat on. Ford was not far behind him. Shermie at least stopped to make sure his camera was ok. It was.
“Ooookay, I think I'll join your mother in the shower.” Micha decided when the old men started to crowd him out.
“Eeeew!” Mabel and Dipper cringed.
They felt instantly better once they were in the hot tub. Nobody had been in the cold pool long enough to lower their core body temperature, so they all warmed up quite nicely. Stan wiped the water out of his eyes and took a look at Shermie, who looked like nothing so much as a wet cat.
“Grandpa, I think we can all agree that qualifies you for the hot tub.” Mabel told him.
Shermie's only reply was to climb in beside her.
“You're getting in with your clothes still on!?” Dipper asked in alarm.
“They're already soaked, and I not taking the time to peel them off.”
Mabel and Dipper gave up their spots for their Grandpa. They figured they'd had enough time to warm up.
“Wasn't that fun?” Mabel asked.
The three brothers shared a bemused look. Fun was not the word they'd use to describe it.
“Y'know, Shermie, maybe we are too old for this.” Stan admitted.