Swinging – Pat Dutt

Our swing set is regarded with awe by the entire neighborhood – a country neighborhood with five-acre lots and dairy farms. The swing set is an enormous structure whose concrete footers are as solid as the steel plant where my father, an engineer, manages the laborers who work in the coke ovens. He ensures that no overhead chains break and that safety protocols are followed, but this is the ‘60s, and safety is at the beginning of what it will be. A chain does break. It hits a man knocking him into a vat of molten steel. He dies instantly, probably without the knowledge, and it’s so loud in the coke ovens that no one initially notices. We sit around the kitchen table that night, wide-eyed. My father has a bad night.
But everyone loves the swing set. Besting even the Brach’s climbable, multi-branched giant weeping willow, it becomes the premier play destination. You could simply swing. Or you could jump off a swing at the maximum height of the ascending parabola. Or you could perform twirly-gigs on the bars, balance on the trapeze, shimmy up the poles set at 45-degrees. You do whatever you can to achieve that joyous rush of childhood.
Once again, I am face down, my belly on a wooden swing. I crab-walk my five-year-old legs on the ground in a circle, twisting the chains above me until they creak and resist, then I lift my feet and spin. When that isn’t enough, I spin with an intentional and irregular elliptical orbit that lands my forehead, at high velocity, into a steel pole. When this happens there is no time for pain, there is only a reverberation, shock, and a deep sense that the pain will come later. As I stumble into the house with my hand on my head, thinking this would keep my brain inside, or at least protect it now from virtually everything else, my body goes into overdrive. I vomit without warning onto the new living room rug.
All night long my mother pleads to my father, “Keep her awake!”

I work as a landscape estimator in Ithaca, NY and although I am not a librarian, I visit the library often and read 52 books last year.

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