By Dan Morey
The boy on the swing was too old to be swinging. He had prickly black hair, and a noose tattooed around his neck. His T-shirt read: “Who loves heroin? This guy!”
He tightened his grip on the chains and flung himself into a violent plunge. Above him a drooping power line crackled with current. He slid forward on the upswing, stretching his legs at the wire until gravity pulled him away.
On the neighboring swing, a man in a sweater stood behind a small girl and pushed. “Last one,” he said.
“No!” said the girl, her blonde curls blowing back in spirals. “More!”
The man grunted and gave her an extra hard shove. His hand left a sweaty print on the back of her pink shirt.
“Higher, Daddy! I wanna go super high. Like him.”
The man squeezed his aching knees, smudging perspiration into his khakis. He looked over at the boy, who was swinging very high indeed. His thighs, sheathed in denim, bulged with every pump. Curly chest hairs sprouted from his collar.
“He’s a big boy,” said the man, tonguing spittle from the corner of his mouth. “You can’t go that high.”
The girl squirmed. “But why, Daddy?”
“His legs are bigger,” said the man. He slipped his hands under the girl’s arms, lifting her from the swing. She kicked and connected twice with his kneecap.
“One more!” she said.
“All right. But then we’re going home.”
The girl squealed, bouncing on her seat. “An underdog, Daddy!”
The man moved into position behind her.
He gripped the girl’s waist and was drawing her back, when the boy spoke: “If I jumped now, you think I could snag the wire?” He was swinging furiously. The chains whined and creaked.“Well?” he said. “Do you?”
The man held his daughter in midair. The boy swung by once. Twice. Three times.
“Fuck you, then,” said the boy. “I think I can make it.”
The man’s tongue was drowning in saliva. He swallowed, and wiped his mouth on his sleeve.
“All right, honey,” he said. “This is it. Last one.” He lifted her as high as he could. “Here we go!” He charged forward, released the swing, and flopped on the grass. The girl began to wail, but stopped suddenly.
The man rolled onto his back. A shadow blotted the sun. A swing clanged against the bars.
The boy was bowed in the sky, slightly rotating, like an Olympic diver. He glided closer to the humming power line, arms reaching, fingers grasping. He made it, and clung fast to oblivion, feeling the hot sparks dance on his fingernails and singe his knuckle hairs. The boy’s brain cracked into blue visions of lightning bolts and electric hula girls, and then he dropped, crashing knee-first onto the ground.
“My, God,” said the man. “Are you okay?”
The boy scowled back, pounding his legs with both fists.
The man spread his arms wide across the grass and closed his eyes. He saw steaming razor blades. Pubic hair. A sleek, glistening bullet. Then he heard clattering chains and clunking wood, and when he opened his eyes, he saw his daughter sail overhead like a whirling pink starfish.
Dan Morey is a freelance writer in PA. His work has appeared in Cargo Literary Magazine, McSweeney’s Quarterly and others. Find him at danmorey.weebly.com.