The house was small. Two floors, barely, as if the small room at the top of the stairs was an afterthought, a place to hide an addled relative too weak to care for themselves or, ideally, make it down the stairs to interrupt the rest of the family trying to enjoy a Sunday dinner, a dinner that wasn't served on trays in front of the television or taken in solitude in the small room that lived off the back of the kitchen and charmingly looked out over the back corner of the parking lot of the local elementary school where they wheeled the dumpsters every Thursday afternoon for collection.
The house's shutters were barely green and barely functional and the window's screens were absent, piled in the front yard as if their owner had wandered off to find a hose and some steel wool and had ended up joining the navy instead. The roof, or at least its component parts, were neatly stacked in the back.
It was the kind of house that the neighborhood children talked about, telling stories of a music box in the master bedroom that never stopped repeating the first eight bars of Fur Elise, or about the rose bushes that bloomed every summer on the same day, supposedly nourished by the bodies of all the neighborhood's missing pets.
Lyle, a man who in his much younger years created some of the stories about the house that, through some bizarre and stupendously improbable logic kept the place from ever getting either bought or condemned, passed the place every week on the way to and from the one building that was home to the town's post office and bank so he could pick up and cash his social security check. He never paid it much attention anymore - it was just that place with the undeserved and almost totally fabricated history, the place that people would at one time point to, mumbling about hippies and Mary Jane and the state of the world, the little demon in the middle of the block that served as a distraction from the real demons they couldn't quite fathom, couldn't put a face to.
This week was different, though. As he passed the little plot of land a small sound, barely audible above the rustling of the late summer leaves, made him stop. Hanging off the tree that kept the front porch in perpetual gloom and made the portico and darkly painted front door cavernous and maw-like, was a swing drifting in the breeze. It was drifting side to side, its chains apparently in no better shape than the shutter's hinges as they emitted a quiet and insistently periodic squeal, just begging to be euthanized.
He remembered this swing. As a child he had pushed Judy Appel in it, higher and higher until he thought she would loop the branch and maybe, just maybe, make it into orbit, her summer dress billowing out behind her like the wake left by a jet engine and her terrified shrieks daring him to push her harder. He remembered, too, the fall she had taken, a fall that had granted her two gold teeth, a cast signed by her little classmates in purples and blues and, oddly, a vision problem that had, by the time she graduated high school, left her myopic and dreamy. Her glasses made her eyes small, dark and intensely gravitational, pulling him helplessly towards her until she was gone, left for a city where her secrets were truly her own, where her desire to fly could be kept to herself; where nobody knew she was voted 'most aerodynamic' by her high school graduating class.
Lyle sat in the swing, moving gently with the wind and patiently waiting for her to sneak up behind him, her hands flat and hard against his back. He waited for her to send him rocketing out of his body, an eight year old boy on his way to the moon.