The Evening Swing
The old man laid a hand on the cool marble tombstone and used it to pull himself achingly to his feet.
“Sorry ’bout that, Mr. Hamilton,” he said. “My shovel’s over yonder or I’d’ve used that instead.” He took a moment to stretch his back and wipe his hands on his faded overalls. He truly didn’t like to touch the markers, not without permission. It felt too familiar and he was merely the groundskeeper here, not family nor friend.
Though, sometimes he felt like a friend. Especially to those who rarely had anyone come to visit and there were plenty. Not Mr. Hamilton or his family, laid here over the course of 50 years, but others. He talked to them quite a lot as he trimmed the weeds, clip by clip. The owner wanted him to use a weed-whacker, but he refused. Too loud, he said. It’d disturb the resting.
Especially the little ones.
The old man took a faded handkerchief from the pocket over his heart and mopped his brow. The sun peered over the tops of the trees on the edge of the graveyard. It was time for the little ones and the best part of his day.
He passed by many graves, giving each occupant a short, earnest greeting, until he reached the great maple tree at the edge of the cemetery. From its thickest branch hung a swing, put there by…well, he’d never tell. No one needed to know. The owner, a fussy and practical man who cared a great deal about money and appearances, ordered him to take it down every few months. The old man would let a day or so pass then dutifully report its removal. The owner never checked. One time he asked the old man who kept putting the swing up there. He said it must be kids. Yeah, kids ran around the graveyard sometimes. What could you do except maybe put up an expensive fence and hire some security guards. But he didn’t mind taking it down. It wasn’t a trouble. The owner fairly oozed gratitude and even offered to give the old man a couple of days off to thank him.
He refused. Who needs a vacation from your friends?
The old man shuffled to the swing, took one of the rough, broad ropes in his hand, and looked back over his shoulder at a row of terribly small grave markers. An impish grin crossed his face and his eyes twinkled like he was Santa Claus stepping down a chimney. The owner didn’t know that he had no family left. No living friends either. Just his work here and…the evening swing. He sat down and waited, his feet dangling so that little hands could more easily push him along.
In a moment, he felt those hands push him in a halting arc. In a voice softer than a whisper he said, “Wheeeee!”.
The burst of giggles around him that only he could hear made his heart soar.
Normally, this story would be 250 words, but I felt like stretching just a little bit. The story I had in mind didn’t work nearly as well when I tried to cut off the edges to fit it in a smaller container, so I let it be the size it needed to be to work best. I’ll get back to good word-count behavior next week, I expect.
Until then, please enjoy the story. And mind the giggles.
Play along with the prompt here!