HALLOWEEN CHALLENGE HONORABLE MENTION
It sits there, barely visible in the dark, fog so thick it tastes like licorice on my tongue. I hate licorice. I hate fog. I love this place. I love this aged set of swings. The metal from which the warped seats hang is masticated, the brilliant neon blue paint completely devoured by the insatiable rust.
Further away, dilapidated timbers lay on the ground. Remnants of a home that once housed my mothers parents, for years. No one has been here since their passing. Has it really been over fifty years? They are long gone and now, so my parents have followed them one at a time into that black abyss that awaits me. I can feel those tentacles, tinged with the nauseating smell of licorice beckoning me, reaching for me, straining to drag me into that wormhole behind them.
The seat of the swing holds my weight, much more substantial than the weight of the ten year old me it was purchased for so long ago. I lift my legs, dare I try it? Rust flakes from chains frozen stiff by the ravages of wind, rain, snow and time. The flakes turn to red dust as they strike my arms and head; momentarily turning my white curls back into the auburn of my youth.
Lifting my legs I push off, the chain holds, I do not fall. My heart skips in my chest, a feeling of glee slips from my toes to the top of my head. Extending my legs, I push myself higher and higher, I can almost see over the fog, banked so lovingly in these backwood hills of Arkansas.
I have never lived here but still, it feels like home. Out there somewhere is the deep well my grandfather dowsed and dug himself, giving my grandmother the first running water she had ever had. He hated that well, my grandfather did. Said it was a money pit, forever needing repairs, upkeep and attention. Worse than a sow in labor, he’d complained more than once. It had given up the ghost, years before; no longer functioning without the gentle, if impatient touch of his gnarled, old hands.
I swing higher, the rheumatic joints holding the abandoned old swing-set together pop and scream at their imposed movement. Burnished shards of overstressed metal rain down on me, coating my arms and legs with fine red dust.
Higher and higher I go, I know I can see over the top of grandma’s house if I just stretch my legs a little more. The seat beside me sways gently. I hear a soft voice tinged with worry yet laughing with my own exuberance say, Not so high dear.
Looking down, I see my mother sitting petite and ladylike on that curved pew dangling precariously beside me. I want to see her, to talk to her, to touch her.
Slowing down ever so carefully, I stop and she’s still there. A visage of the young woman in the picture I have hanging on the wall, in my hallway. She moves with such grace, such elegance. In the stillness of a moment, she reaches for my hand. I slide my much bigger, weightier hand into hers.
We walk around the timbers of the home now relinquished to time. Turning I look back to see the swing-set aglow in its glorious coat of neon blue, disappear into the thickening fog, no taste of licorice upon my lips. Abandoning it to its resting place, we leave it and its memories behind.