The Swimmer by John Cheever (1964)
Not one, but a series of poolside garden parties feature in John Cheever's short story about a man who decides to swim home via the pools of all his neighbours.
Neddy Merril is in the garden of his friends, relaxing “by the green water, one hand in it, on around a glass of gin … breathing deeply, stertorously, as if he could gulp into his lungs the components of that moment, the heat of the sun, the intenseness of his pleasure.”
But something stirs within, and he feels compelled to go home to see his family, all eight miles of it, pool by pool. A few lengths down, he wanders into the Bunkers' garden, where a drinks party is in full swing:
“Preposterous men and women gathered by the sapphire-coloured waters [of the pool] while caterer's men in white coats passed them cold gin.” He is kissed by the hostess, and wades through the crowd stopping only “to kiss eight or ten other women and shake the hands of as many men”.
The Bunkers' is as good as it gets for Neddy, whose journey gets darker after that – literally and figuratively. As dusk falls, he becomes gripped by a sense of existential foreboding. He gets tired, each pool sapping his strength and virility further. An entire year passes in a single afternoon until, finally, he returns home where there awaits a terrible surprise. Still, The Bunkers threw a good party.