THE HAMMOCK by Amalia Dillin

“Faster!” “Harder!” “More!”

My cousins and I gripped the sturdy fabric with both hands, squealing with delight and laughter. Three of us in the hammock, two of us pushing.

“Higher!” my cousin called.

The birch tree swayed with the rhythm, calluses in the trunk where the hammock was tied and the bark had begun growing around it. It was young and strong, indestructible like we were.

“The hammock is not a swing!” my uncle shouted from the porch.

We ignored him. As long as he was still sitting at the table, we weren’t swinging fast, hard, or high enough. The hammock jumped when we reached the top of the arc and we all screamed.

“Keep pushing!”

My cousins and I jockeyed for the center seat, crawling over one another, climbing, twisting. The hammock twisted and one of them was hanging upside down on the outside, clinging like a monkey. We helped him back in, pulling him up like a sailors dragging a drowned man from the sea.

“Be careful!” my aunt called. “Don’t rough house!”

The hammock jumped and we all laughed, braced for it this time.

“It’s our turn!” our cousins said, the ones pushing us until we soared. From the top of the swing we could see over the trees as far as Albany, the mountains hovering behind.

“Just one more push!” my cousin said. The one who had nearly fallen.

She pushed, and we leaned forward. The hammock leapt, our stomachs dropping.

SNAP.

The rope on the birch tree gave and we landed hard on the ground with a shared cry of pain and dismay.

“Pop!” One of my cousins went running, before we had even shaken off the shock. “Pop! The hammock!”

“Is everyone all right?” my aunt asked.

But we were already climbing out of the wilted fabric. My tail bone felt bruised, but I didn’t dare even whisper it. If any of us got hurt, they’d never let us forget it. The hammock would be banned, and we’d be stuck playing catch and losing Frisbees in the leech field below the house. We’d already tried and failed to fly the kite three times, and we’d been forbidden from having another water fight. The hammock had been our last game that didn’t require shoes.

“Are you hurt?” my aunt called again, and we could see her silhouette behind the screen, standing and holding her hand up against the glare of the sun.

“No!” we shouted.

The screen door slapped against the frame and my uncle appeared, fresh ropes in hand. We held our breath as he looked over the damage, hoping against hope it was just the ropes. Don’t let it be the hammock. Don’t let it be the hammock!

He loosened the ropes from the trunk of the birch tree and looped new ones in their place.

“No more swinging,” he said, as he drew the ropes taut and the hammock rose back to life.

The two girls who had been pushing us were already climbing in, and my uncle tightened the ropes so the hammock rose another few inches above the ground, then knotted it. He glanced at the three of us, and we stopped rubbing our bruised arms and bottoms. “If I see you swinging again, I’ll take it down. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” we mumbled, not meeting his eyes. The girls in the hammock glared at us.

We waited until he had gone back inside, hands behind our backs. The girls reached down, grabbing clumps of grass to pull the hammock back and forth in a gentle swaying motion.

“Push us faster!” my cousin whispered. “Harder!” the other said. “More!”

AMALIA DILLIN obsesses over old gods and older heroes, but sometimes she breaks out and writes contemporary fiction, too. Her work has appeared in Birdville Magazine. You can find her on her blog and on Twitter.

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