The Swing

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
In the tradition of H.P. Lovecraft and Richard Mattheson, an aging man finds that a swingset in his local park might be the fabled fountain of youth.

Submitted: April 21, 2010

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Submitted: April 21, 2010

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The Swing

By Steven McLain


In the dead of night, a single spectral light glowed in fits and spurts across the playground and threw abysmal illumination across a silent swing-set. Marvin Straussman shuffled slowly down 13 Street, leaning upon an ivory cane for support, blithely ignoring the insistent ache in his right hip. The orange lamp reflected off his bald pate as he walked down the street. Some urge brought him from his bed, perhaps a dream; some nocturnal rambling which pulled him from sleep and led him in a state of somnambulance to this street.

To his left, a berm of dirt and brown grass descended to a hollow where gangly aluminum beams thrust from the ground like the bones of a decrepit antediluvian beast. The somnambulant quest drew him down the shallow slope to the playground.

Wood chips spread across the ground to the base of the slope and he was reminded of the foaming waves of the sea sweeping across placid shores. The gentle sound of chips shifting under his orthopedic shoes limped to ears, muted by the weight of night. He gazed at the swing-set, memories and dreams carousing within his mind. A rubber seat sagged between two rusted chains, swaying silently in an unfelt breeze. How long since last he had played on a swing, felt the rush of air as his pumping legs propelled him in a pendulum’s arc against gravity’s pull?

Childhood pleasures remembered brought a smile to his face as he walked to the girdered structure. He raised his hand and let his fingers drift over the cold chain. A surge of nostalgia burst through him. He had been carefree as a child; an innocent in a slower age. This swing-set reminded him that some pleasures were never abandoned. Children would always be children.

He carefully set his cane to the side and lowered his aching frame to the seat. The chains groaned under his weight and the structure balked like a stubborn ass, but he could only grin. The swing swayed slowly and his smile broadened; he remembered the simple joy of the swing and pushed himself feebly back and forth until he had built to a slow rhythm.

Soft night air blew against his face and whispered in his ear. Embraced by the giddy joy of air ruffling his hair, he pushed harder, ignoring his joints’ protests. Higher, he demanded, and harder he pushed, until the air whistled past his ear and parted about his cheeks. His grin widened. He hadn’t felt this happy since he was a child. Carefree and blithe, blissfully innocent. His only care a desire to push himself higher.

Unmindful of groaning joints or sore muscles, he flung himself forward and kicked back with youthful abandon. The structure croaked and groaned for him, but he paid scanter attention to that. The wind whistled past him and his face broadened by a grin. He felt alive in a way he could not remember. The wind seemed to draw out the waning vitality of his wasted frame and the dark screen of night lent license to nostalgic memories childhood.

He could not count the time that passed, but all too soon the eastern sky was lightening to dawn. Still grinning, he slowed and bade himself to return to the swing again. The feeling of youthful bliss was an elixir he wished to drink deeply of again. Perhaps Coronado had gone looking in the wrong place, he though as he dismounted and bent to retrieve his cane.

As he bent to gather his walking stick, that ivory crutch, he realized that he did not need it. With a look of shocked wonder, he gazed at the hand which curled about the head of his cane. His own hand, so familiar, was unutterably dissimilar. Where were the gnarled rheumatic joints, the age sports, the liver spots which had dotted his flesh? This new hand was smooth and fresh, strong and young. He gripped the cane tight but did not feel the accustomed palsy which so often shook his grip.

Amazed, he stood and felt his hips articulate freely. The twinging pain was gone. He knees bent easily, his shoulders were broad and muscled. He was rejuvenated, he was young!

Shocked and delirious with joy, he leapt and danced about; he capered and shouted amazed ululations to the new dawn. He flung his cane high and threw himself upon the swing-set, eager to test his new, restored body.

His flesh responded quickly to every demand, filled with the vigor of youth. He soared high and fell with the wind at his back, the morning star glinting upon the horizon, winking with him as he shouted for joy.

Then a curious thing began. While he pumped as hard as his youthfully exuberant legs could take him, gradually he felt himself slow. The wind blew but no longer whistled and no matter how hard he flung his weight about, the apex of his arc grew lower, until at last he barely moved.

Shocked dismay stole over him. Were the gods so cruel to allow him this moment of youth, then to take it away? Tears began a course down his heeks as he struggled to dismount. Tears flowed freely and blurred the world, but as he stretched his feet to find the ground, he realized he could not touch it.

He peered through his tears at the ground, suddenly a world away.

Panic made his heart race. He looked to his hands and saw that baby fat made his forearms puffy and soft. The weakness of his grip came not from advancement of years, but by an extremeness of youth.

His thoughts grew stilted, their tenor and thread both weak and short. What was happening to him?

His last cognizant thought was that the swing had made him young and that he had dallied too long.

Dawn had grown to mid-morning, and the grounds were populated by mothers and children. Possessed only by a desire to dismount, he struggled and kicked and bawled. Within a few minutes he had succeeded only in drawing the attention of a young woman ripe with child.

“You poor baby,” she cooed. “Where’s your mommy?” She looked over the little Marvin and then saw the cane lying in the wood chips. “Did you come with your grandpa?” She bent awkwardly and peered into Marvin’s unfocused eyes. “You have such beautiful blueberry eyes. Well, I don’t suppose he’ll mind if I push you for a few minutes, until he gets back.”

His response was a single, wordless bawl, for although his rationing mind had regressed to infancy, he felt an overwhelming urge to just get off this swing!

Perhaps mistaking his cry for some other meaning, the young mother stood behind him and began to push.


© Copyright 2020 Donny. All rights reserved.

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