I look out through the bars, clutching the orange candy in my palm. Every Iittle while, it slips out and I drop it nearly, for my hand is wet. The bars are hot to touch and the sun is in my eyes. I look back at the squeaking swings where the children crowd about. I look for Dana’s yellow frock. She is behind the snotty kid in the red shirt. Dana always pushes the children in the queue.
I shift the candy to my other hand and wipe it on my brown shorts. I have pockets but I hold it still.
There is the lady with the brown curls. The curls hang over her forehead. She looks through the bars too, from the other side and smile at me. She looks at the crowd of kids near the swings. Her head to one side and her hand on her cheek, she looks down. Her curls cover her face and her ring with the crystal, shines strong in the sun.
I hear a shout from behind and someone pulls me by my shirt. Abe is pulling at me roughly. “Don’t you look at her! Don’t talk to her! She is a witch.”
I lick my dry lips and turn away from the bars. I am sure she has heard him. I know that. I look back and she is still sitting on the bench across the flower beds, looking down, looking down.
I touch the bars of the park gate one last time and then pull them back again. The bars are hot.
I run behind Abe to where Dana is and hold her frock tight. She looks down at me in anger and then sees the candy in my hand. Dana pulls my cheeks and I hand it over to her. The candy with the wet cover. As if I had dropped it in a puddle and then fished it out. The way Dana and I do, sometimes, when there is rain and we put our coins in the paper boats to ride in.
I get on the swing and she pushes, hard, so that I grab the chains with my hands, glad that the candy is gone and my hand is not wet and I can hold on tight. I go up and up and then I look across the big green park and I see her, the pretty lady once again, not looking down but at us, at me, her eyes small against the sun and her smile little and hard.
Dana screams and a boy with long hair pushes her down in the dirt. No one pushes my swing any more and I want to hit that boy but the swing is still high and I cannot jump off. It slows down in a while and Dana is sitting in the dirt, her face has a dark brown blotch and tears down her cheeks . Dana has short black hair.
I look through the bars at the boy in the brown shorts, his hair wet with sweat and limp. He has eyes that glitter and he looks at me.
Whenever I come and sit on this bench next to my little Arnie, now deep in the earth and the daisies and the grasses growing over him, I see the boy playing in the park next to the cemetery. There are a bunch of kids there, yelling and shoving and fighting.
The children come on the weekends, towards the evening, when the sun is less fierce. I am always here, wanting to talk to Arnie, looking for him in that bunch of kids and my Arnie would have been taller than all of them. He never liked the swings but ran along all the paths.
The forest beyond the park looks dark and inviting. I often walk there, listening to the sounds of the jungle. There are birds that sing and there are birds that bring a message. From the long gone. I listen. But Arnie never talks.
Would he have liked to come here and play with them? With these children? Would he have liked my handing over the candies to little ones? Arnie would have shouted and snatched them from my hands first of all. That little boy always takes it from me so shyly. And then he holds it in his fist like treasure. Opens his hand every little while to look at it and sometimes giving it to another kid.
I like his hair. Like a wet mop. Not like Arnie’s brown mane. Shy and quiet with eyes full of understanding. Would he come to me if I called?
I see the children now, in a cluster around the swings. They yell so much that it makes me wince. But they could have been Arnie’s friends and perhaps Arnie could listen to them now, the noisy bunch. They are running and screaming and alive and Arnie was running in the street one last time as the blue car careened forward slow, slow and hit Arnie so slow. But he fell and bled and moaned. Is he moaning still, beneath the flowers and the warm, rather hot sun?
I get up from the bench. My long white dress gets stuck in the bushes. I pull at it impatiently. The children are fighting and someone is down on the ground, crying and the little child is up in the swing, looking down at the girl with anxious eyes.
I walk to the gate of the park and push it open. The bars are hot to touch in the fierce sun. It creaks on its hinges and the children look my way. Their faces form a perfect O, as they look in with rounded eyes and a frozen countenance. I mumble the spell under my breath as I walk towards them but I stumble and trip. The boy rushes forward to help me up, his eyes limpid pools of pity. But the spell breaks and the bunch runs back screaming in horror. I smile at the boy who hesitates and I hold out the candy.