There was a girl with brown eyes and long brown hair who lived in the big blue house on the corner with the swingset in the backyard. I think we know who we are talking about but I’m not going to say her name. Esmeralda.
“Emmie,” called her mom, “it’s getting on to dinner, come wash your hands.”
Emmie was at the top of her favorite arc and couldn’t reply just then. The arc that would finally take her to the clouds. The best of all possible arcs. The sky was right there. The blue – if it were any closer – would stain her yellow shirt with the pink crane over her heart, forever. She was almost there.
“Ez Mer El Duh, did you hear me?”
Emmie was falling to Earth, the arc had passed. It had been her favorite arc.
“But there will be others. Maybe even better. Maybe arcs so perfect that…”
“Did you hear me, Esmeralda?”
Her mom slid open the patio door, holding a pair of tongs.
“Yes, but different,” her mom said.
“I just told you. It’s a different chicken.”
“One more swing…please, Mom, please?”
“I know you, Emmie. One more swing means…”
“…And I will be right in! I promise.”
“Okay, but when I call, you have to come running.”
Again, to the sky. Again on an arc. She was getting so close. The next one will…
“Are you trying to reach the clouds,” asked a girl.
She stood on the sidewalk. She did not have brown eyes. Their color? Hard to say.
“No. Just swinging.”
“Cuz it looks like you’re reaching the clouds. Almost.”
“I’ve had some decent arcs…I admit.”
“Would you like to see my swingset?”
“Can it reach the clouds?”
“Yes, it can.”
“Is it far? I have to be home for dinner.”
“When is dinner?”
“In one more swing.”
“Then it is but one swing away.”
And since Emmie would not be late, she followed the girl – who was a bit smaller than she.
They crossed Sculley Lane, then Carmelhead.They passed the Everskempers’ home, then the Trembles’ and the Madrican’s.
They passed Alan B. Shepard School and Emmie said, “That’s my home-room, there. That’s my picture in the window: the girl swinging in the clouds.”
“I see,” said the girl with eyes of no certain hue.
The sun began to set and Emmie said she needed to go home.
“Just a step or two more,” said the girl.
Emmie followed her until the stars chased away the red and gold.
“I need to go home. I will be late for dinner.”
“Let’s rest here. In the morning we will reach my swingset”.
The girl walked off the sidewalk to lie in the field of rye and dusty bluebells. Emmie followed.
“Want me to tell you a story about the stars,” asked the girl.
“No,” replied Em.
Emmie stared at the stars before falling to sleep.
When Emmie awoke she saw the girl walking away. She caught-up and they walked all that day – not arriving at a swing set.
“I will not take another step.”
The girl turned and frowned at Esmeralda.
“But it is only a little ways on.”
“I am going home,” said Emmie, turning her back to the girl whose eye-color was hard to name.
“It’s too far to walk. And, after all, we’re here.”
Emmie looked over her shoulder and saw the wide trunk of a rainbow arcing into the sky – as thick as a Sycamore. The girl began climbing. She sunk her feet into the rainbow and pulled them out as if walking in taffy.
Emmie ran to the rainbow. She pressed her toes into the footholds the little girl left in the spongy column of pure violet.
Emmie looked over its side: she was higher than the houses.
“When will we get there?”
Emmie followed. One hand in a spongy hole. One foot and one hand. One foot and…
She looked over the side: they were higher than the Elms and Oaks.
“Are we there, yet?”
Emmie followed. One hand in a spongy hole. One hand and one foot. One hand and…
She looked over the side: they were higher than the skylarks.
“When will we get there?”
Emmie followed. One foot in a spongy hole. One foot and one hand. One foot and…
She looked over the side.
“Is that a cloud?”
The girl stopped. She frowned.
“You’ve been here before?”
“No,” replied, Em. “A lucky guess.”
The girl swung her leg: one, two, three…timing her jump.
“It seems tricky, but it’s not. The clouds are really quite slow…”
And then she leapt from the rainbow onto a drifting cloud, sinking into its down. Emmie could not see her, but she heard her voice:
“…but I would try not to miss.”
Emmie bent her leg, stretching her foot, feeling for a lower foothold, wanting to climb down, but the rainbow had glazed slick in the sun. Emmie hugged the arc – the perfect arc – and felt almost a tear.
“I want to go home,” said Emmie.
“You can do it. It’s like jumping off a swing.”
Emmie swung her leg free: one…two…three. As she pushed off, as she thrust her arms forward, she heard:
“…Just don’t miss.”
Emmie jumped up and away, becoming an arc – an Em-arc. She landed on the cloud, sinking into the billow. Emmie giggled and bounced on the cloud.
“This is fun, but where is your swingset?”
“This is it,” said the girl.
“But where are the swings?”
The little girl craned her head left and right to see billows of white and grayish white. Emmie craned hers, too. All she saw were clouds.
“This is my swing set,” said the girl.
Em said, “Oh.”
The girl smiled.
“Look at this.”
The little girl bent her knees and sprang into the burnished blue. One, two, three…seven, eight…eleven, twelve, counted Emmie. The girl landed as quiet as a Maple-seed propeller. Twelve aerial somersaults.
“Who needs swings,” asked the girl.
“No one, I guess,” replied Esmeralda. “But they’re fun.”
“As fun as this?”
The girl bounded high and then back-flipped into a cartwheel, into a handspring, into a round-off, bouncing as high as Erin Everskemper’s bedroom window. Landing as neat as a dragonfly on a glass pond.
“I guess not that fun. But it is a swing. It does its own thing.”
“It takes me to the clouds.”
The girl craned her head left and right.
“But this is the clouds.”
Emmie felt for the little girl with the eyes of no certain hue: she just didn’t understand.
“Where are your swings,” Emmie asked. “Where is the rope ladder? The monkey-bars? How can you play Pirates without a walk-way between the rope ladder and the…Hey! Where is the slide?”
The girl had been frowning, but brightened at the word.
“I’m finished following you.”
“This time will be different.”
Then the girl ran, dived and tucked her legs and head into a forward roll. Rolling and bounding across the billows. Emmie tucked and rolled after her. The girl stopped and Emmie rolled into her. They stood on the spongy clouds. In front of them the other great trunk of the rainbow arced through the clouds back to Earth.
The girl smiled at Emmie, then smiled at the rainbow, then smiled at Emmie, then smiled at the rainbow, then smiled…
“Oh, no! I am not sliding down the rainbow!”
“I thought you were late for dinner?”
“That was yesterday’s dinner, replied Em.”
“What are you having tonight?”
“That was yesterday’s dinner,” said the girl.
“And today’s, and tomorrow’s, and…”
“So, what you are saying is that it’s impossible to be late for dinner at your home. Only early for the next one.”
Emmie smiled. This girl was now her new best friend.
“Want to come to dinner,” asked Em.
“Love to,” said the girl.
The little girl swung her leg and leapt onto the orange band, then scooted over to the yellow band, pushed off and slid through the floor of white. Emmie scrambled onto the rainbow, scooted over to the yellow band and then pushed off, following her friend.
Through the white clouds, into the ocean of royal blue, past the skylarks and doves…Em sang as she slid back home.
When she neared the trees, the rainbow grew spongier and stickier. She slowed down. As she neared the roofs the rainbow began to fade. At the height of a swing’s perfect arc the rainbow melted into the June breeze and Emmie landed on her feet and rolled to her knees – not far from her swingset in the backyard of the big blue house on the corner.
She picked herself up and looked at her green knees.
“Esmeralda! It’s dinner, now. Not in one minute; not in one…”
“I’m coming. I’m done. I said: one swing. And that swing is finished.”
She ran past her mother, through the patio and into the kitchen.
“Did you reach the clouds this time,” asked her dad.
“Pretty boring after the first excitement, huh?”
“You mean…you’ve been there before?”
“Lucky guess,” said her dad.
by Brian Wapole ©2012