Swingset Chain

Ellie walked through the playground.

It had been years since she had left her old neighborhood. A lot had changed. The tire swing was no longer hanging around. It had been transformed into a planter, near the entrance of the park. The normal swings were still around, but the cement which was underneath, was now covered in wood chips.

She chose to sit at the bench under the big maple tree. Someone had hidden a makeshift bird feeder in its branches. The air was cool, but not bitter. A gentle breeze passed through the leaves of the trees, making them shift and turn in the wind, as if dancing. She was alone.

Something about visiting this old park, stirred up emotions over life and growing older. Ellie thought about the time she fell of the slide. She managed to chip her tooth. It was the second one, to the left of the center front teeth. She would still emit a slight whistle when she spoke certain words.

Ellie touched her cheek, thinking about the first time she got a kiss from her crush. There was only a few weeks left of school when it happened. The kids that noticed broke out into songs. They loudly teased her with pointed fingers and disgusted groans.

She pulled out her notebook, and began to jot down the memories that began flooding back. So much time had passed, and remembering her childhood had been so distant. Life had been filled with work, dating, traveling, and barely sleeping. It was nice to finally have a moment to rest.

When she finally felt it was time to go, Ellie paused. She gave the playground one last look over, before slinging her bag over her shoulder. She left a tiny paper crane on the bench. It was a memento for her time at the park, a place she thought she had left behind. The years had touched her. The gray hairs, like the old maple trees, were her only witnesses.

 

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Candy Hunt

Janice quietly slipped out of bed. She crept past her parent’s bedroom, and slowly, stealthily made her way down the stairs. She was on a mission for a late night snack.

She pulled out the step-stool from out of the closet. Carefully she unfolded it, and placed it in front of the cabinets. The best treats were hidden on the very hard-to-reach, out-of-the-way, topmost shelf. With the aid of the step-stool, Janice reached the sugary contraband with ease.

She grabbed marshmallows, chocolate bars, jelly beans, and caramels. She was proud that she was able to do this so well, and so quietly. That’s when Janice let her early success get the best of her. There was a jar of lemon candies, sitting in a fancy etched glass jar. She just had to have some.

Janice thought she had a good grip on the jar, but it managed to slip out of her fingers. She watched mouth agape, as it splintered into pieces after a resounding crash. That is when the hallway light flicked on, putting a spotlight on the stairs. A door opened and closed, and the sound of heavy rushed footsteps hurriedly made their way down the steps.

She was caught. Janice quickly tried to get the broom to hide the mess, but there was no time. She crawled into the cabinet space under the sink, and waited.

“Is it a ghost or burglar Harry?” a woman’s voice asked.

“Well Nancy, I don’t see any signs of a break-in. So, I suspect it’s just a ghost.” Harry answered, while looking around. He swore that the cabinet space under the sink was slightly ajar, if just for a split second. Harry paused to see if anyone or anything would make a sound, and quickly give itself away.

After a few moments of silence, Harry swept up the mess of glass, and put away the other items. He rummaged in the refrigerator to get himself a glass of juice. Harry was thirsty after engaging a moment of heightened adrenaline.

Janice breathed a sigh of relief, as she heard the light switch click off, and footsteps trudging back up the stairs. She wondered who Harry and this woman were. Did her parent’s know that someone had moved into their house? Maybe she should call someone? But who?

Janice made her way into the living room and plunked down onto the sofa. She quietly mulled over what just happened. Digging into her pockets, she began popping some marshmallows into her mouth, which she had managed to hide away.

Eventually, Janice fell asleep on the couch. She kept thinking how strange it was, that some stranger, and not her parents, had come down stairs to investigate. Suddenly, she found herself remembering the accident at the pool, and the flashing lights and siren.

She was the ghost.

 

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A.M.

“Well, we were all hoping for some hot water.” Her voice fell with noticeable disappointment as she returned from the bathroom. “It’s always something in this city? Ain’t it? Damn plumbing.”

She stomped off without missing a beat. “I’ll make breakfast in a few, just let me get a cup of coffee going.” I watched as she scurried off to the kitchen. The sound of pots and pans banging around, cabinet doors opening and shutting, amid frustrated sighs caught my ear’s attention.

I couldn’t help but lay in bed. My mind was flooded with thoughts. Thoughts on my future, our future, and whether I was nothing but a disappointment that she couldn’t bear to cut ties to, just yet. Staring at the plain eggshell paint that covered the ceiling, watching the ceiling fan slowly, lulled me into a stupor.

It was a state of mind that I didn’t want to leave, as it was strangely calming, but not productive. The aroma of instant coffee wafting about the apartment shook me out of my head, and I returned back to reality. It was time to get up, I guess.

Wiping the sleep from my eyes, I stretched my limbs with a yawn, and headed into the kitchen. She was already busy scrambling eggs, in that English-looking ceramic bowl we picked up from the thrift store. Cracked eggshells were littered about the counter.

“I’ll make some toast,” I said as I pulled out some English muffins, and popped them into the toaster. Rummaging through the fridge, I noticed there was only a little bit of butter left, and half a jar of apricot marmalade. “What’ll it be, butter or marmalade?” Hoping that she would let me have the pat of butter.

“I’ll just take my toast dry.” she replied evenly, as she dumped the swirl of eggs into the skillet. I didn’t know how she never managed to burn anything, ever. It was magic watching her cook. I stared transfixed, allowing myself to get lost.

“Hey, the toast is burning!” she exclaimed as she looked over her shoulder, noticing the beginning of a plume of smoke rising toward the ceiling.

“Oh crap!” I hurried over and popped the muffins out of the toaster, and braced myself to see what I could salvage. “I’ll take the more burned one.” seeking to remedy my error.

“Ok, no problem.” she said without missing a beat, as she scooped out the eggs onto two plates. “Salt and pepper?” she asked.

“You bet.” I replied with a smile. I was happy she wasn’t too upset.

We sat down at the small 3-legged table that we rescued from curb. I playfully began picking at a chip on my right side. “Remember when we found this?” I asked, hoping to start a conversation.

She sipped her coffee with a matter-of-fact look in her eyes. She looked up at me smiling, “Yes, I do.”

Today was going to be a good morning.

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Reflecting Pool

Jumping into the baby blue Ford pickup, to ride out with Uncle Isaac and Aunt Gilly to Wolf Lake was always a welcome adventure. At seven years old, I had already figured out the beauty of catching fireflies in an empty mason jar. Trips out to Wolf Lake meant fiddling around with a fishing pole and braving putting a wriggly crawler on the hook.

Aunt Gilly would walk me along the trails in the woods, excitedly pointing out the difference between Queen Anne’s Lace and milkweed. I greatly enjoyed my souvenirs of curious stones and tiny shells, which I would place carefully into the pockets of my overalls. There they would stay, until they found their new home on the top of my hand-me-down dresser.

A lot of time has passed since those days. Memories of how I would stick my head or arms out of the window, to feel the air rushing past me as we zipped down highway 38, seemed so close yet distantly blurry. At middle-age, my pastime actions would probably be seen as archaic and risking a child’s safety. Scabbed knees and a little dirt, seem like a novel injury, compared to today’s child comforted only by the persistent stimulation of electronic devices.

Sometimes I think about how it’s been two decades, since Aunt Gilly and Uncle Isaac took the last train out of town. I wonder if their parents had fears or notions about them as children, reflecting on my own trepidation as a parent. Whenever I find myself perched on a bench, looking out at the water, curiosity calls to me.

Do we reflect on the memories of what is, or what we wished to have or be? Such is the nature of the reflecting pool.