The Magic Swing Set
Copyright 2007 by Heather Rose Brown
The chains jangled and groaned as Mark slumped into the plastic seat next to me. I dug my heels into the soft sand to stop my swinging and looked at my friend. "Hey, I didn't see ya trick-or-treating last night."
Mark stared at the ground and started making spiral designs with his toes. "I kinda chickened out." With the setting sun right behind him, it was hard to read his expression, but the ache in his voice told me plenty.
"That's a shame," I said, wishing I could think of something that didn't sound so lame. "You woulda made a cool Tinkerbell." Actually, when I'd seen him last week in the costume he was planning to wear for Halloween, the only real way of describing him was ... cute. But how do you tell another guy he looks cute? You don't.
"Actually I did eventually go. I just went after I saw everyone else had got back home."
"Whoah, you're way braver than me."
Mark kicked at the pattern and looked up at me. "Whatcha mean by that?"
"Well. ..." I let the word hang as I tried to come up with an honest answer that wouldn't hurt his feelings.
My friend cracked the tiniest smile. "Go ahead and say what you're thinking."
"I guess there just ain't a whole lotta guys who'd go out wearin' a dress."
"Well, it was just for Halloween."
"Yeah, I guess you got a point there."
"Besides, you wore it too."
I tried to yell at Mark, but all I could get out was a gurgling sound. I took a quick look around. The only other people I found were a couple of kids hanging from the monkey bars at the other end of the playground. Even though they were too far away to hear, I still leaned closer to my friend and whispered, "Not so loud."
He whispered back, "Sorry 'bout that. Ya did wear it though."
"Yeah, but only after ya dared me. I felt pretty dumb in it." It had felt strange, but not really as bad as I'd expected.
"You didn't look dumb. You looked cute."
"Hey!" I gave Mark a sharp smack on the arm. Any other guy would have gotten a solid punch, but Mark took being hit differently than most guys. "So, didja get any of Mrs. Fritters chocolate covered Oreos?"
"Nah. She was all out by the time I got there, but she did tell me a story."
"Oh cool!" When we were younger, our parents used to take me and Mark to Mrs. Fritter's story time at the library. Even though I knew being ten years old made me too old for story time, I still missed it.
"Yeah, it was pretty cool." My friend peeked around the chain with a sly grin.
"So give already!"
Mark giggled. "Okay, okay."
He kicked at the ground and began swinging. When he came back I shoved off with both feet and matched his swing. "So, what's the story about?"
He looked up and stared at the sky. "Actually it's about this swing set. She said it was magic."
I chuckled and swung harder. Mark pumped his legs until he was swinging next to me again. "What's so funny?"
"Well, after all the years we've been going to this playground and swinging on these swings, I'd think we woulda found if there was any magic here."
My friend looked at me, frowned, and pushed out his bottom lip. "I ... I guess you're right."
I felt bad when I saw him pouting. "Maybe, maybe not. Magic is kinda tricky sometimes."
His pout turned into half a smile. "That's true."
"So how'd the story go?"
"Well, nobody can tell a story like Mrs. Fritter, so I ain't gonna try telling it like she does. Basically, she told me a story about a boy who was swinging on this swing set on the day after Halloween. She gave some name to that day, but I forget what it was now. Anyways, what happened is he'd kept on going higher and higher, until he completely swung over the top."
"What's so magical about that?"
Mark shot his legs out as he swung forward, then looked over his shoulder as he passed me. "He turned into a girl when he came back down."
I pumped my legs until I was swinging next to him again. "That don't sound like one of her regular stories."
"I don't think it's a story."
"What? You think it really happened?"
"I dunno, but there's one good way to find out." Mark gave me the cheesiest grin before stomping at the ground to push himself higher.
We were both pretty high before I managed to catch up with him again. "Wait a minute! Your mom'll kill you if she looks out the window and sees you trying to pull such a stupid stunt."
"No she won't. She's usually watching that game show 'round this time."
"Yeah, but. ..." My stomach did its best to flip over when I found myself nearly upside-down. As I swung back, I tried to think of something that would get my friend to stop acting stupid. All thought left me when I nearly slid out of my seat at the end of the swing back.
"Hang in there Andy!" I barely heard my friend shout as the wind whistled past my ears. Together we swung up ... and up ... until the swing set, and the whole world, was directly overhead.
I felt completely weightless. Time slowed to a crawl. It seemed to take hours just to turn my head and look at Mark. Mostly I just saw beams of sunlight flickering around a dark, fluttering shadow. The fluttering confused me, since most of it was around his legs and behind his head. Did jeans move like that, and wasn't his hair too short to be flowing that far behind his head?
Eventually, gravity found me again and decided to yank at my gut until I thought I was going to puke. Time shifted from super-slow-mo to fast-forward. I screamed for days as the ground rushed up to me.
The next thing I was aware of was being carefully rolled over onto my back and hearing Mark's voice. "Andy, please be okay."
An older voice said, "Don't move her, hon. Let me make sure she's in one piece first." Someone lifted up my left arm and slowly moved my hand around. "Let me know if anything hurts, Andrea."
I opened my eyes and saw Mark's mom and a familiar looking girl. "Who's Andrea?"
"Oh god," the girl whispered. "Does Andy got amnesia?"
Mark's mom gently laid my arm at my side and leaned closer. "Sweetheart, do you recognize me?"
"Yeah, you're Mrs. Johnston."
Mark's mom smiled as she pulled back, then reached around the girl's shoulders and gave her a one-armed hug. "I think she's okay, Marcie. It looks like Andie just has a case of tomboy-itis, not amnesia."
My chest tightened around something cold when I started realizing what was going on. "Marcie?"
The girl leaned around Mrs. Johnston. "Yeah?"
Her voice was one I'd recognize anywhere. I studied the girls face. It was softer, surrounded by long hair, but it was definitely Mark's face. It was then I realized the impossible was really true.
Me and Mark had flown over the Magic Swing Set.