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Between the Woodchips and Me

by Robert Ball

Rusted chain-link metal fused with the soft 7-year-old flesh of my hands where the protective plastic had worn away. So many children grabbed at those chains and clung for dear life as they swung into the heavens. My parents appeared from behind the prickly bushes at the street corner of the park. Dad forgot how to walk that day. He normally cursed-up a storm if his arm even grazed the thorns, but I watched him walk directly into the thickest patch without so much as a grimace.

I laughed. I kept swinging.

My sister was supposed to come swing with me. She could push me so high I would forget there was a world below awaiting my return. She coaxed me to jump every time. I was always too scared, so she would get bored and play with someone else. On the coward’s end of fight-or-flight, my legs curled and thrusted downward when I got too high, gliding me back to safety. Suddenly, my sister would be gone. I hated her when she did that. She occasionally hated me too, but that was okay.

As my parents got closer, I could see Dad crying. I didn’t know he could do that.

Jagged flecks of orange and brown metal worked their way under my skin as I gripped the chains tighter. Neither one of us wanted to let go of the other. My legs pumped faster, my heart began to pound, and I propelled myself higher than I dared before. Something had happened, but it didn’t concern me yet; it was still on the other side of the park, though I felt it encroaching step by step. I remember thinking, Keep pumping your legs. Keep swinging. Don’t jump down there. Stay up here.

I should have jumped when she was watching.

About the Author

Robert Ball graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English/writing from Northern Michigan University in December of 2018. While attending, he worked as an editing intern for Passages North literary magazine. He currently works as an English tutor, and his work is forthcoming in Third Point Press.

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