We had been driving for hours. Past looming forests and landfills of dust outside sleeping towns. Past motel after motel, each missing some neon letter vital to its "Welcome" sign. I had been stringing all the blacked out letters together in my mind, trying to make some sense of(more) it all. I didn't know where we were going or when Dad planned to stop. Ella was slumped forward in her booster seat next to me, breathing softly, while some country crooner whined about his high school sweetheart heartbreak on the radio.
Dad hadn't said a word since we left. He told Ella that he was taking us on an adventure, but he didn't fool me. This was no vacation. We wouldn't have taken all the non-perishables from the house if this was some family fun trip.
After Mom's funeral, Dad hadn't been the same. He became this shadow perched in front of the TV set, barely speaking to us and forgetting to sleep. He reeked of stale beer today when he told me to pack my bags and get in the car, and the knot forming in my stomach has only tightened since then.
We were passing another town now. Look-a-like houses illuminated by dull street lamps, and gas stations that reminded me of abandoned tortoise shells. We were passing a park when Dad stopped the car.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"Wake Ella up and follow me" he said.
I scooped Ella up in my arms and told her not to worry, then trudged over to the dilapidated playground where my Dad stood by a wooden swing.
"Look at this" he said. "Your mom used to love watching you swing as a kid"
I nodded, and watched as he lowered the seats.
"Come on girls" he sighed, "swing for Mama". (less)
I was twelve; he was eighteen.
I was an awkward, gawking, skinny mess of braces and stringy blonde hair; he was a bundle of profanities, muscles, and sweat, as friendly as a Labrador puppy and twice as energetic.
We were swing dance partners.
"Oh no, stop right there Carver! Don't you even dare-!"
Headless of her protests he brought her into an exchange and spun her out, arm raised carelessly overhead as Jenny's world became a blur of motion. As he caught(more) her she brought her hand to his neck, gripped him firmly as bent low with a flourish.
"You jerk!" She exclaimed through helpless laughter, flushed and breathless from exhilaration. "If you drop me I swear to God I'm going to steal your cat."
He had the gall to laugh at her and oh, his lackadaisical stance was absolutely infuriating! "I would never drop you," he proclaimed as he pulled her back up, a mischievous grin dancing lightly across his face. "I love my cat too much for that."(less)
She never seemed to know what she felt. One moment love and apologies tumbled from her lips, and the next, she spat fire. She was constantly swaying between two equally horrid versions of herself, and it made her hate herself all the more.
Saintly sinners and
Curly-haired clouds broadcast
The glittering skyline
Anxieties hanging with a sharpness
Of broken stained-glass
(more) Beer flows a fairy-tale princess
Meticulously careless self-indulgence
Razor wire dreams cut deep
Hobo musicians hitching a ride
On deviant melodies
The night swaying, sweating
As the moon swings like a pendulum
Between broken boulevards
And flickering neon lights
Redbrick edifices imprison
Like a tomb of booze and lies,
The sidewalk sags and buckles
Beneath your cross to bear
A heat that rises from the streets
Falls from adulterated skies
Onto burned out allies;
Burned out faces
And the dirty old men
With their dirty old minds
Like these dirty old streets
Polluted by time
Nothing ever bothered Lucy when she got to the playground and found her favorite swing. She didn't have to think about anything except how high she could go as she kicked her feet up and up.
Back and(more) forth, back and forth, back and forth...
She didn't have to think about Mommy and Daddy arguing about Daddy's job or Mommy's needs. She didn't have to think about her big sister, Lizzy, and her friends picking on her at school.
Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth...
She didn't have to think about Grandma going to the hospital and then heaven. She didn't have to think about how the teacher always liked what Bianca did in class, but never what she did. She didn't have to think how Anna couldn't be friends with her anymore because Anna wanted to be friends with Susie.
Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth...
Instead she thought about the wind in her ears, the creaking of the chain, the rush of flying forward and falling back. She thought about how close the sky seemed as she went up, how she felt she could reach out her hand and touch touch it. She could just think about herself for once. Herself and the sky.
Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth...(less)
I have a clear memory of home. A memory of a swing under an old tree, it's foundation worn from all the feet that we're bursting with childhood. I remember sitting in the back of a bus going from the city towards home; a golden sun making shadows on(more) our faces, while me and my brother dug for gum in my mom's purse. My brother and I would always fight, but with an everlasting love that only a broken home could provide. I still wake up sometimes hearing a whisper of my grandma praying in the next room. I'd sit at the edge of the bed and pray, thinking she's in her room doing the same.
'Swing life away,' rings over and over in my head as sit here, 24 years old, writing about the past. (less)
Her eyes swing back and forth in time with the pendulum. Housed in mahogany, inlaid with gold scroll-work, the masterpiece of a grandfather clock stands proudly in the corner of the dimly lit room. When the pendulum swings just right a flash of gold illuminates the face the of the(more) man sitting across from her. His eyes heavy, face sagging, mouth twisted into a grimace. In his hands a strap of leather three inches wide and an eighth of an inch thick. His knuckles are white from gripping it.
"You don't have to do this", she says, hands folded neatly on her lap. "There are other options."
His grip loosens. Blood flows back into his pudgy knuckles. "I know", he says.
"But you are going to do it anyway", she says, a grin beginning to form.
"Yes", he replies, his eyes focused on the strap "Yes".
"Then be done with it."
He tries to stand, but his legs are as weak as his chin. Instead he slumps to the floor, tears streaming, snot bubbling out of his nose. The girl gently glides over to him and removes the strap from his lame grip. She raises it over head and brings it down with such force that it sounds like a clap of thunder when it strikes the mans bald pate.
"Pathetic." Her green eyes gleam in the half light, and she raises the strap again.
When I went to the house I noticed it had an old porch swing. The slats on it were slightly bowed but the chains holding it up seemed sound. I sat down on it and heard the wood creak alarmingly, but it held. I swung gently keeping my feet on the floor(more) and flexing my knees with each gentle oscillation. This place was where Joseph Akers killed his entire family using only his bare hands. With these he tore each member of his family to shreds so that only raw disarticulated skeletons remained. There was so much blood the police initially thought a cow had been slaughtered inside the house. Akers had taken all the flesh from their bodies, pounds and pounds of it, and dumped it down the backyard well. He was never found, but the townspeople surmised he must have gone off somewhere to kill himself because, who could do such a thing and keep on living? I was not there looking for answers, I just wanted to see the place, and now I was here at the house where it happened so long ago. The front door was ajar, but I felt no compulsion to go inside just yet. I swung gently in the swing and thought about the force required to separate limb from body using no tools at all. Akers was no large man, he had been an accountant for William's department store. I imagined his hands were smooth and unused to work much rougher than raking the lawn. He just snapped. There were no issues at work, no accusations of infidelity, no crisises of faith. Akers came home that fall Friday evening and, with his ten fingers, tore a hole in the ground that went all the way to hell. (less)
I have a clear memory of this moment. The bright afternoon sun, the stadium full of fans, the single little cloud passing by. I was on the bench at this moment. Then, the coach tells me: "Your turn". It was my chance. I take a bat, and go on(more) the field. I position myself.
Then, far in the crowd, I see my dad. Thanks god, he's alive! We did not talk to each other in ten years, and he's there right now, looking at me. An indescriptible joy replaces the stress I felt. I make eye contact with the pitcher, and he throws the ball. I take a quick breath, then concentrate all my energy, all my happiness, into my muscles. I swing my bat as fast as I can.
The ball flys over the field, and lands in the middle of the crowd, in a little boy's cap.
I had just beat my homerun record and found my father. All in the same moment.
I let out a scream, a scream of pure extase. My two most important dreams came true, in a single moment.(less)
Good rope. Ties well. You wouldn't believe some of the crap they've given me before now. Wouldn't hang a bloody cat. Door's working fine. I tested it a few times before - opens nice and smooth.
I'm pretty much ready now. Everything's set up and ready, and I've got(more) my gear on. It's always fun getting changed beforehand, seeing myself looking really intimidating in the mirror.
Oh, there he is. Poor bastard. There's a crowd, as usual, booing him as he comes up from the prison. Strikes me as undignified, all this public stuff. You'd have thought a man dying would want his privacy.
The protesters are out today as well. Ban the death penalty, la di dah di dah. I'd be out of a job if they had their way.
He's keeping his dignity well though. Holding his head up as he climbs those wooden stairs. He's young, younger than me, although he wouldn't know on account of my mask, ring on his finger, not crying or anything. They turn him to face the crowd and ask him if he has any last words. He doesn't. He's one of those ones.
They hand him over to me and I slip the rope around him. I think that's when it hits him. There's a flash of something in his eyes that looks like fear.
I step back and pull the lever. The trapdoor opens, he drops, and the job's done.
He pissed himself. They often do. Glad I'm not the cleaner around here.
Now I have to stand on ceremony until the crowd are gone. I clasp my hands behind my back and do my best to look imposing. Not difficult in this mask.
I think I might go for a career change soon.(less)
Old guy. I can take him.
I used to be a baseball player. Then the whole steroids thing happened. Now I only use the bat for other reasons. Still use my lucky bat though.
The old guy looks rich, coming from the stadium. He's one of the last ones(more) out. Feeding time. He goes to the last car in the lot. The big one with the four-wheel drive, colored silver. I never paid much attention to cars, couldn't tell you a ford from a mini. All I can tell is that this is a lucky catch.
People once said I had a future. Told me I did we'll in school. Said I was a talanted athlete. When I joined the high ranks I knew it wouldn't last. The coach wasn't happy with my performance. So I did what all the other players did, but I was the only one caught. Lucky.
I wait under the broken street lamp waiting in the shadows. When he gets near the car I move in. He sees me. Looks scared but doesn't run. I ask him the time. Stupid question, but no one ever questions it. He takes out his watch, not the cheap kind. While he's distracted I take the bat out behind me. He says shit. He runs. I catch up.
I beat his face. The sound is like cracking peanuts. Very hard peanuts. The kind your fingernails can't dig into because you just cut them, so you split them in half instead. Now image 26 of those being hit by a hammer.
I grab his keys. Get into the car. Someone was laying in the back seat. Probably a wife. I yell at her to get out. She follows the order, like a bitch. Can't leave witnesses. Swing batter batter, swing. (less)
As Jade enters the park, a bouquet of assorted flowers in her arms, her eyes scan all around her in search for her significant other. Eventually, she spots him sitting serenely on a bench not too far away.
She rushes towards him in excitement and presents the bouque(more)t with a wide grin.
"Konnichiwa, Yuuto-kun! These are for you!"
The boy looks at her with shock as his complexion reddens deeply.
"J-jade-chan! You didn't have to-"
She chuckles lightheartedly as she places the flowers beside him and presses her lips against his forehead.
"You should know by now, Yuuto-kun, to expect things like this from me. You are deserving of these gestures, seeing as we are boyfriend-and-girlfriend after all, and especially considering that you're a caring one as well."
Yuuto's blush only deepens at this statement, his body quivering from the intense feelings welling up within.
"...A-arigato gozaimasu...Jade-chan. For everything. Not just for all of this affection you give me, but also for being there to protect me no matter what. Even when things seemed bleak a few days ago, you did not accept defeat as an option. You...are truly inspiring."
Jade's eyes widen as her complexion goldens from his kind words.
Yuuto lets out a sigh, relieved that he was finally able to get that out.
"Now then, what do you want to do, Jade-chan? You have done so much for me...I feel you deserve a reward."
Jade grins coyly as she pats his head.
"Well, I think that considering we are in a park, perhaps we could try to use the swings together?"
Yuuto nods with excitement as he takes her hand in his.
"That sounds like fun! I haven't done it in so long, so I may...be a bit rusty." (cont.)(less)
The old love of dirt on the ground and off the chains that sometimes pinch my skin affectionately as they twist and rattle around me. Old scruffy trainers kick the ground under me that's been scooped out by scruffy trainers before me.
There are conversational moments as we rhythmicall(more)y push the ground to come away from it. Idle words and giggles before the oscillations set in. The rattling smoothens itself out with momentum but the shrill creak at the hinges gets shriller, adding to this orchestra.
he wind rushes back and forth past me as I rush towards the sky. My stomach plummets and I fall swiftly back. I lean as far back as I can go and close my eyes to disorient myself so it feels like I am falling through space. Or maybe like a feather rocking to and fro, caught in a breeze in descent. (less)