Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction
Synchronized SwingingSue lay face down on her bed, weeping into her pillow. She was surprised by her own tears; they came unexpectedly, and she felt ashamed of them.
Three weeks ago, on the playground at recess, she had been swinging side by side with Janet. The two of them loved to synchronize their swinging; forward together, back together - or they would stagger-swing, so they reached the bottom at the same time, and slapped each others' hands as they passed.
Mrs. Williams said they were like twins, the way they could synchronize like that, the way they talked alike, and even - on occasion - the way they dressed alike.
While they were swinging, three weeks ago, Janet had said to her: "I'll bet you can't guess what I'm doing in three weeks."
"Having a sleepover?"
"Nope. Guess again."
"Going to Disney?"
"Nope. Getting closer, though."
"I give up."
Janet said cheerfully, "I'm moving to Georgia."
Sue was startled. She'd never had a friend move away before. She didn't know what that was like, or even how she felt about it. "For how long?"
"Forever," Janet said, "unless dad changes jobs again."
Now Sue remembered that Janet had only been in her school for two years, and she had moved three times before that. It had never occurred to her to wonder if maybe Janet would move again. Two years is a long time in a child's life; Janet seemed like a permanent fixture in her daily activities.
"That's cool," Sue said. She thought about it some more. "Maybe I'll come visit you there." She didn't understand how far away Georgia was, or how much it would cost to travel there.
"That'd be fun," Janet agreed. She looked sad. Sue didn't understand why - didn't understand that Janet had heard "I'll come visit you" many times over the years, and had learned not to trust those promises.
"And we can write every day, and I can help you pack!"
Janet perked up at that; visits and letter writing she didn't believe in, but a visit from Sue at her own home here in town was something that happened often. She believed in that.
So for the next three weeks they had a grand time packing Janet's belongings, going through every cupboard, dresser, closet, and corner of the house. The place was filled with memories. As the three week deadline grew closer, Janet grew more and more quiet, understanding that she was saying goodbye to the best of her memories, memories that she couldn't take with her.
But Sue didn't understand.
And finally the day came. Sue was excited to watch the giant moving truck pull out; she had never seen so much stuff in a truck before. Janet clung to her and cried as they said goodbye, and made her promise to write - a promise that Sue easily agreed to. But Janet didn't seem comforted.
And then, that night, the excitement began to wear off. There was no longer a job to do, no longer a memory to pack. There was nothing left but the realization that tomorrow there would be no synchronized swinging, and Mrs. Williams wouldn't be shaking her head saying "Look at the twins."
So Sue began to cry.
Her mother came in and sat on the edge of her bed. She stroked her hair, patted her shoulder, and whispered words that should have been comforting, but weren't. After a few minutes, she said, "Well, Sue, it's not as though she's died, for crying out loud."
And Sue thought: Yes it is, mom.
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