Nik Perring

 

 

Push

I noticed the old man before he noticed me. He was sitting on the swing, looking up into the dusk, and the swing was moving gently.

‘Are you okay?’ I asked and he looked at me, turned his wrinkles into a smile and nodded. ‘What are you doing?’ I said.

‘Swinging,’ he replied.

‘Yes, ‘ I said, and this time it was me who nodded, and I sat on the swing next to his.

‘I used to love spaces like this when I was little,’ he said. ‘I used to spend hours in the Memorial Gardens while Dad rebuilt our house. It was after the war.’

‘I like them too,’ I said, though I was much closer to my childhood than he was to his.

‘My children loved them too.’ He pointed to his right. ‘My wife taught Julia how to make daisy chains over there. It was all grass then. And I taught her how to ride her bike there.’ He pointed again. ‘There were no cars back then. But the swings, they were always right here. They used to be painted green.’

His shoes, Velcro-fastening and dusty, pushed against the ground, scuffing it, and he swung higher.

‘Julia worked in the media,’ he told me. ‘And we’d babysit for her. We took them out all over, but they liked it here best. It’s a simple place.’

He swung higher then, feet pushed out in front of him going forwards, and then tucked under the seat as he went back. When he swooshed his cardigan was a cape.

‘That sounds lovely,’ I said, and then, ‘Where are they now?’

He swung higher, and then higher again. The frame quivered and the chains clanged under his weight.

‘Wife’s gone,’ he said, feet forward, cardigan billowing. ‘Cancer.’ Feet back, tucked. ‘Of the bowel.’

‘I’m sorry to hear that,’ I told him, and I was.

‘These things happen,’ he said, swooshing, the frame straining, still. ‘Julia moved abroad. Her husband got work there. Good money.’ He allowed his legs to dangle then, and as his momentum stuttered the frame seemed to sigh, seemed to relax. ‘The grandchildren are all grown up now too.’ He slowed, and his shoes scuffed the earth. ‘I still see them, sometimes. Christmas. Birthdays. If they’re in town to see friends. ‘ He grinned. ‘I still give them chocolate when they call. There’s a drawer in the kitchen full of it. My wife’s idea. Couldn’t give it up.’

He stopped then and I noticed how quiet the night was.

‘You know,’ he said, ‘sometimes, I prefer the memories.’

‘I know what you mean,’ I told him.

He looked down at his shoes. ‘I come here to remember,’ he said. ‘Before I forget.’

‘I know,’ I said again, and I sighed, and he looked at me then and think he might have been crying.

‘And you?’ he said.

‘Me?’ I replied.

‘Yes, you,’ he said, and for long moments I said nothing. There was nothing to say.

So the old man stood and he turned to me.

‘Would you like a push?’ he asked.

And I told him, ‘Yes.’ Said, ‘Yes, I’d like that a lot.’

 

 

Nik Perring‘s stories have been published in many fine places both in the UK and abroad, in print and online. Nik’s the author of the collection Not So Perfect (Roast Books, 2010) and the co-author of Freaks! (The Friday Project/HarperCollins, 2012). 

 This is his website.   And you can find him on Twitter @nikperring

 

 

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