500-5000 short story for Distorted Minds
"What swings in the tree outside my window," she had asked.
The old climbing rope had been rotting for years. Guess it hadn't given up the ghost yet.
"Just an old rotting rope. You'll get hurt if you climb it. Promise you won't?"
My husband had bought a new swing and was planning to put it up tomorrow. Sheldon loved to surprise Holly. Lawd knows Holly's father didn't bother. Didn't give a darn about the daughter that looked so much like him that it hurt. I tried not to let it show. Sheldon however doted on her. He wanted children but was told he was infertile. We had talked about adopting but Holly didn't want a rival. So selfish ... just like her father. We bought a dog instead.
Spot, yes I know that name is lame, chased Holly wherever she went. Always carried a stick hoping she'd throw it so he could fetch. Sometimes she did. She was a strange child but Spot adored her. Only Sheldon and Spot could get her to smile. She frowned at me whenever she could. She blamed me for everything. Just like her father.
My ex and I managed to stay on speaking terms. Sheldon encouraged us to play nice. Everyone loved him. Even the asshole had admitted that I'd done good. Lawd. Am I that awful?
Yes, I have a demanding job. Sheldon works too but I'm the money-maker. He's a teacher. One of those natural lovers of all creatures great and small. He's taught high school and junior high. This year he has a rowdy class of 10 year olds no one else wanted to teach. He has them eating out of his hand. Mister Li! they shout in glee.
This old house. When dad died Mom said I could have it. She wanted to live in a fancy senior place with no obligations. She said I could keep whatever was in it. She was buying everything new.
I guess the tree and the rope came with it. That and rooms of my father's memorabilia. We sold some, gave some away, kept some too. Like that old chair in the corner ... the one I keep trying not to look at ... as if dad would magically reappear. None of us had been close. It was a family of convenience.
That rope. Why hadn't anyone taken it down?
My cousin Calvin had climbed it and fell. Nearly broke his neck but 6 weeks in a brace and he was as good as new. Well, as good as new until a bullet found him. Accident they said. Bullpuppies. Calvin was never happy unless he was pissing people off. Someone had put him out of his misery.
Time for a walk. "Here, Spot."
The tree still looked sturdy albeit a bit scary when the autumn wind blew. As a child I imagined it uprooting itself to come get me, it's branches reaching out to grab me. I always slept on the other side of the house.
The rope felt like new when I tugged on it. "Strong enough to hang a man," Sheldon said. He laughed. I didn't.
The next afternoon he swung a new swing from another limb. Holly immediately complained that she couldn't swing high enough. So she swung higher and let go. Flying like a trapeze artist she landed with a thud.
Sheldon ran over and looked down as Spot licked her face. Holly looked up at me and grinned.
Nothing was broken.
Her bruises attended she went to bed early. Sheldon made me some tea to calm me down. We sat on the porch as the waning moon came out.
I couldn't stop crying.
"Why are you shaking," he gently asked.
"I see my mother sitting on that swing and my father hanging from the rope."
Sheldon held me close as wind whispered through the tree. There was nothing there to see.
© Kåre Enga [177.204] (31.avgust.2020)
~~Image #2157797 Sharing Restricted~~