THE ROPE SWING by Chris Wilson

There were three of them they were about twelve or thirteen, they cut down the trail of the ravine like hounds coming down a mountain they moved fast because thats how theyd done it since they could remember. Tommy was at the back he had a brown paper Safeway bag held tite in his arms and every time his feet hit a rock or a branch you could hear the bottles inside clink together. dickie donnely was upfront with his dumb smile and his blonde hair poking out of the black beenie he always wore, carrying a carton of Tarrytowns in his left hand. They didn’t know if they were being followed and every now and then they’d stop to listen but as they got further into the ravine they started to relax.

nobody saw us man im tellin you.

well two cars came down lexington as we were climbing over the fence.

but they didnt fucking stop did they im tellin you they didnt see us.

were gonna get drunk were gonna get drunk were gonna get mother fukin wasted sang paul in the middle and reached over to open the top of the bag in tommys arms.

just look at that liqer im gonna puke all nite.

come on dickhead said tommy lets see if shes still there.

she was sitting outside the old ply wood fort just up the hill from the ropeswing. she didnt have any shoes on and her brown hair was full of twigs and dead leaves she was trying to get her Zippo to catch lite one more time so she could smoke the last bit of a roach she had wrapped in a match book cover. Her thumb was blisterd from striking the roller on the Zippo again and again.

hey said tommy

hey said the girl

we got some liqur and ciggeretes and some bags of beef jerky said tommy lifting up the bag in his arms

you got a lite said the girl

i do said dickie

well come on up here what you waitin for she replyd and patted the dirt at her side.

maybe she was fourteen maybe she was eighteen you couldnt tell, shed run away a week ago and had been sleeping nites in the fort down the ravine. in the mornings shed climb up and wait at the school bus stop and the kids would give her sandwiches out of the bag lunches there mothers had made for them. her step father had been looking for her each evening at six when he got home from work. he walked around the neighborhood offering the kids twenty bucks if they told him where she was hiding so far no one had said but it was just a matter of time.

they started with a fifth of southern comfort and chain smoked the tarrytons and when she went to open the bells tommy said hey lets play spin the bottle cos he was feeling brave with the alcohol and she was bored so she said ok and they sat in a circle and shed spin the empty southern comfort bottle and whatever boy it landed on went into the fort with her holding his hand for the length of time it took to smoke a ciggertr then the other two would start throwing rocks at the ply wood walls and shouting come on mother fucker times up lets spin again.

two days later she was gone they couldnt figure out what happend because her jacket and her shoes were still inside the fort, some kids said she must have fallen off the rope swing which span over the ravine almost 60 feet high but nobody liked to go all the way down the cliff to check because it was hard to climb back up again. some time later tommy saw her photograph on a tv show about missing children but he didnt say anything because he thought she wouldnt want him to besides he was thinking of running away himself. sometimes it felt like there was nothing else to do.

Chris Wilson is a painter born in East Africa who became a runaway child in California. He was deported to the UK after several spells in prison in the US. He lives and works in London.

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