Hand Over Hand

At the college they’re reenacting famous plane crashes. It’s a fundraiser. We all go. In the auditorium we’re waiting for the first plane. The woman sitting next to me tells me a story I don’t ask to hear. She tells me about a girl who lived in a town on a plateau and a man who came across the plains, all squint and callus, pulling a rope that stretched behind him to the horizon. At the center of town the man placed the end of the rope at the waiting girl’s feet and clapped the dust off his hands beneath a sun that could have been any sun, high and flat. The girl didn’t know what to do with the rope. She asked the man but the man didn’t answer. He just retraced his steps and disappeared in the distance as if he was climbing down the edge of the world. The woman stops talking as if it’s the end of the story. What did the girl do? I ask. What? the woman says. The girl, I say, with the rope? Oh, I don’t know, the woman says, she could have done anything. What does this story have to do with me? I say. I think they’re starting, the woman says, and resituates herself in her seat. The auditorium darkens and a spotlight follows paper streamers of flame and smoke from a failed engine across the stage.

Patrick Swaney lives in Athens, OH, where he is pursuing a PhD in poetry. His work has recently appeared in Conduit, Inch, Indiana Review, Redivider, and elsewhere.