i was on another blog site, http://kellieelmore.com/, and saw a picture prompt inviting people to make up a story. so i did. here’s the picture, a book cover, and my story…
Two children hid in the tall grass behind a very old house as an elderly couple slowly managed the front steps and shuffled to their car. Although the house had seen much better days, the car had perfectly polished chrome and gleaming white wall tires. The old gent closed the door for his smiling wife, grandmother of fourteen, before walking back to the driver’s side door. Just before getting in, he peeked over the roof at the tall grass in the field behind what was still their home after 67 years.
“Now?” said a freckled boy.
“Not yet,” said his 13-year old sister, three more years than his.
“But they’re gone,” said Joey.
“Doesn’t matter.” She kept a sharp eye on the setting sun as it crept below the far hills of Shenandoah County. She knew it would only be another minute, but she didn’t want to give away everything.
The boy huffed, looked down, then quickly looked to his right where there were noises. Still looking right, he blindly reached left and tapped his sister on the arm, then pointed to the noise when she was looking.
She looked once more at the sun, just seconds from ending the day. She rolled over her brother and army crawled as quickly as she could. Joey couldn’t see her as she disappeared into the grass, but he could still hear.
“You got ‘til three to run, or you’re gonna wish you never met me,” she barked in a loud whisper. It was noticeably darker when she crawled back, looked at her brother, and said, “Let’s go.”
Rose hadn’t totally lost the anger from the tall grass, but slowly her eyes were softening as Joey’s eyes widened. The crossed half of the large yard, perfectly manicured lawn, and slowed as they reached the outer branches of what had to be the largest maple tree in the county. A light summer breeze flowed through the rest of the neighborhood while many in their rocking chairs enjoyed yet another glorious sunset, and lemonade, on their front porches. But not here. Once they reached the outer branches, the air stopped and nothing seemed to move. There were no birds, no flies or mosquitoes. No squirrels were nesting in this big oak. Nothing alive could be found, except two straw-haired children with anxious feet.
“You wanna go first?” Rose asked. Joey shook his head and hadn’t blinked since he left the tall grass. “Okay by me.”
They stopped at an object hanging from the tree. There were only four things in this yard, the largest yard in town. There was the mighty oak, the perfect lawn – although nobody ever heard or saw that smiling old man mowing it – the tall grass that went on for a mile behind the house, and the tire swing that hung from the tree.
The thick, brown rope that held that tire to the tree was once a bright white back when the old man had carried it wrapped around his shoulder. That was the day he walked off a navy ship at the end of World War II, and his lovely wife-to-be was waiting at the end of the gangplank. “Of all the things,” she cried, “a rope? Really, Jerry?”
“Not just any rope,” he smiled. “It saved my life.” They went home, and the first thing he saw as their car turned the corner was that mighty oak that he’d known all his life.
As Rose reached for the rope, the tire turned just a little. She looked around for a second but knew there couldn’t have been anything else. She put two hands where the rope held the top of the tire, jumped up, and needed one swift motion to thrust her legs through and park her bottom on the bottom of the tire.
“Stand back a little,” she said. Joey nodded as his eyes followed the rope into the tree. The smaller branches and leaves were so thick, and the sun so gone, that he couldn’t see there exactly the other end of the rope was tied. “Now watch.”
Joey stepped back and watched. Slowly, then more, the leaves were rustling above as if a storm was coming. The previously still air was now alive, and the tire began to move. Joey looked up again and watched as the tree itself moved, a great bough began to push itself back and forth, and the tire swing, and Rose with it. Each push sent Rose and her giant eyes left and right, greater swings each time, and all she had to do was hold on. Her dry, wavy hair blew across her eyes, but she dared not let go of the tire and shook her head instead.
Joey watched, still might not have blinked since leaving the grass, but was starting to get worried as his sister and the tire were swinging so far, with the rope so long, that he feared she might fly off. His joy started to change to worry and concern, and his eyes were now blinking plenty, and his smile was lost. The swing slowed and slowed, the tree stopped moving, and Rose quickly came to rest beneath it.
“Did you get worried?” she said. He only nodded, now more worried, but of her, not the tree. “I forgot to tell you. It knows. You can’t do that. There’s nothing to be afraid of. But if you get afraid, then it gets afraid.”
“Is it my turn?” Joey asked.
“Nah. Won’t work now. Once it gets worried, won’t swing again ‘til tomorrow.” Joey’s eyes fell to his worn shoes. “But you go first tomorrow. It’s my fault, not yours. I shoulda told you.”
The big sister put an arm around the little brother as they headed back to the tall grass. Although it was only a minute from complete darkness, there was a wonderful full moon that watched over them and kept a lit path as they walked back home.