I was honored to discover that I was a finalist in IHRL’s 2022 Photo Prompt Contest. They wrote me a lovely letter (albeit rejection) that celebrated the piece even though it wasn’t chosen to be published. In any case, I thought I’d share this special story in the hopes that all my readers will enjoy its charm.
The first love story I ever witnessed was between my sister and a swing.
Daddy dropped us at the fairground parking lot. Crowds were his kryptonite. “Stay together. No talking to strangers. Penny? Tony? You two listening?”
Penny wasn’t listening, so I answered for us both. She sat next to the window transfixed by the twirling tan top of the carnival swing. It poked through the forest foliage; a toadstool sprung up overnight. Penny’s heart pounded through her shoulder.
Soon enough, we were in line for her ride. Penny counted the number of people ahead of us then repeated the count, her fingers clammy when they settled in my palm.
“So, what color basket you want?”
“Oh, I don’t care Tony.” Penny fidgeted. “I just wanna swing on the outside.”
“Well, me, I want a yella’ one. It’s sunny.”
At first, we sat where we could hold hands. Penny on the outside, me in the middle.
“No handholding.” The ride operator rasped as he gave each of our metal safety bars a quick tug. I had been listening to the clinks all the way round, stakes straight into my sister’s heart.
Penny’s eyes pleaded, so I sacrificed my sunny seat for the shade of the inside.
When the carny got to the front, he shook his head again. “Sorry, girl. No flip-flops allowed. Exit over there.” He pointed to the gate.
“But I’ve been waiting forever…”
He pointed to the sign. “Says no flip-flops.”
The sign read “No loose footwear allowed,” which made me wonder if the ride attendant could read it, but I kept this thought to myself.
I watched my sister grip the two chains, flex her toes, and fling her favorite pink flip-flops skyward, rubber rockets launched into the air. “I’ll get ‘em when I get down.”
Not prepared for a tussle, the operator mumbled under his breath, “Not responsible for those,” then turned to tug the next rider’s safety bar to complete his circle.
Since dusk was settling in, the lights on the ride started to chase one another like fireflies.
Penny’s heart would soon be air-bound, and she’d feel that swoopy feeling in her stomach, the one she’d dreamed about the whole year ‘round. As we took flight, she stretched her arms, spread her legs as wide as the basket would allow and shouted, “Whoopee!” Tears of happiness glowed on her face.
“My wind whirl,” Penny later called it. And flung to the far corners of centrifugal force, I understood my sister’s infatuation with the ride, her love affair with the air.
© 2022 | K.Hartless