Chris. You home, dude?
Ripe peaches on 36.
I’ll swing down to your
place and pick you up.
place and pick you up.
Bring a bag this time,
Chris snorted and tucked his txter in his knee cargo pocket. He grabbed a mesh bag from the hooks on the kitchen wall and a cookie from the tray his Mom had left on the counter. Should he write a note? Naw, he’d be back upstairs before she even noticed he was gone. And he could surprise her with fresh peaches. That would cheer her up. She only baked when she was feeling down. Which was a lot more since his Dad had left for that stacked blond down on 48.
He pulled on his gloves as he walked out onto the patio, tugging the branches as he passed to check how they felt today. Good swing and resistance. The watering system had been out of commission for three weeks and everything was finally recovering. Noone had been swinging since Joey fell from 52 to 47. It was dumb luck he was still alive. Old Man Sawyer had let his tree branches overlap between his upper and lower balconies enough that they held Joey when he landed in them. Tore the tree limbs to shreds though. There was a huge break in the canopy, and Chris would have to remember to swing around it for awhile.
Looking out from the patio edge, he could see vultures circling below. He looked past them to the rooftops that stretched from the base of the towers to the horizon. He hated being down on the ground, where there was no green to be seen. He stretched his arms and grabbed hold of the weeping willow his parents had planted the day he was born. Then he jumped off the edge of the 78th floor.
Swinging was a combination of jumping between the staggered patios that ran the height of the complex towers and grabbing the tree branches to support your weight enough to swing from one to the next without stopping. If you lost your balance, the patio concrete burn was a mark of shame for days.
Chris started swinging when he was eight, but his parents didn’t know for two years. By then, he could swing 20 floors in five minutes. Now he was 15 and could do it in four and a quarter. Billy Dooley down on 22 held the record at 3 minutes, 40 seconds. But since he left the complex to go to college in the States last summer, Chris was steadily chipping away at his record.
He swung to the next patio down, grabbing more branches to slow his fall and let him “bounce” on the patio, before he jumped into the air towards the opposite patio. Once he got his rhythm, in three or four jumps, it was only about three seconds in the air and two or three on each patio. He loved the feel of it, the leaping and falling and branches pulling on his hands, and the jar of each landing when you had to crouch and spring up so you didn’t lose momentum for the next jump. By the time he reached the full patio on 54, he was ready for a break. Mrs. Benson was sitting on a lounge chair, reading her tablet. She looked up, unfazed, when he landed on the double-size patio.
“Hey Chris. How’s it going?”
“Good, Ms. Benson. Thanks. There’s ripe peaches on 36. You want me to bring you some?”
She jumped up and tossed him a bag from the side table. “That’d be great, Chris. I’ll give you five bucks when you bring them back up. Thanks!”
“Sure thing, Ms. Benson. Gotta go!” He grabbed the nearest branch of her cherry tree and leaped down. He felt a little bad about stripping all the blossoms, but she was cool. His mom hated when kids jumped on their patio. No time to think about anything but swinging as he continued down to meet Jake on 40. Certainly not about whether his Dad or the blond—he refused to say her name and usually called her worse than that—would be on their patio. But it was blessedly empty. He might have pulled a little too hard on their tupelo tree, cause the whole branch came with him on his way down to 47. He watched it fall wide away from the tower as he continued swinging down to 40.
Jake was waiting on the patio. “Dude, did you drop that branch? That’s not cool!”
Chris shrugged. Jake was okay, but he could be kind of uptight. They both yelled at the top of their lungs as they jumped together towards 39. They couldn’t get too crazy or they’d shoot past 36 and have to do the shame ride on the elevator. Nothing worse than swinging past your mark. They paused on 37 to check out the patio space. There were already a couple of other kids picking peaches, but they moved in to give the newcomers room to land.
Chris filled his bag and half of Mrs. Benson’s before they had stripped the trees of anything that wasn’t green. He felt bad, so he pulled a few from his bag and tucked them in hers. These were the first ripe peaches of the year, so the 12 kids who had made it all sprawled on the patio and enjoyed the fruit of their labors.
“I heard Joey won’t be back in school till next year.”
“Yeah, I heard he’s got a brace from his legs up to his neck.”
“That sucks, dude.”
“Yeah, his folks are even talking about leaving the complex. Can you imagine living on the ground all the time? With no trees?”
They knocked politely on Mr. Gannon’s patio door, and he let them troop through his apartment to the hallway. As they rode the elevators back up to their homes, they traded the jokes and insults that translate to friendship.
“Why you getting’ off on 54, dude?”
Chris held up his two bags. “Promised Ms. Benson I’d bring her some.”
The car echoed with raucous laughter as it continued up. Chris shook his head. The guys really could be jerks. Yeah, Ms. Benson was pretty, all right. But she was almost as old his parents, probably. He dropped the bag at her door, feeling oddly uncomfortable about going in and collecting money from her.
When he got back on the elevator, Janice Kingsberry, who lived in the suite on 93, was there, glued to her tablet. She was 14 and pretty, but never said much. Chris had never seen her swinging. She eyed the bag of peaches. “Where’s you get fresh peaches?”
“Down on 36.” He reached in and grabbed a couple. “Here.” She hesitated, but he held them out to her and she finally took them.
“No prob.” They avoided eye contact until the doors opened onto 78.
As he stepped off, she suddenly held the door open. “Thanks again for the peaches. Maybe…maybe you could teach me how to swing sometime?”
Chris stared and blushed. “Um, sure. That’d be great. Why don’t you come down on Saturday? We’ll start with some easy ones.”
She nodded and let the door close. Chris looked at it for a moment, listening to the car ride up, then he let himself into the apartment, swinging the bag of peaches.
“Hey, Mom. I’m home! I have a surprise for you!”
Dogs in house:
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