He turned the porch light off as he stepped through the door, the hinges screeched, high and sharp as it slammed shut. The white swing glowing in the dusk, the little figure perched on the edge just managing to reach a toe to the ground, enough to give the swing a gentle push.
Sitting with a sigh he took over, propelling the swing back and letting it glide forward. Julie tucked her legs up, scanning the expanse of lawn for the lightning bugs he’d promised. In the almost dark, the red mark on her cheek was invisible--a flare of reaction for a small transgression. Clearing his throat brought her blonde head around, pale eyes visible, flashing reflective like an animal.
“Keep looking low to the ground, they’ll come out of the grass.”
She nodded, turning back, turning away from him. Her thin shoulders hunched forward, the blue of her t-shirt washed to white, the jeans collecting the dark from under the old porch and beneath the tall trees.
“I see one!” Her arm became an arrow, a pale pointing line.
A single yellow throb sparked on the lawn, rising, jerking first in one direction and then another. Her breath caught, held, transfixed.
He searched, “There’s another.”
Warm yellow lights rose, miniature spaceships piloted by drunken astronauts, swerving toward each other and away.
“Got your jar?”
She nodded, pulling it from beside her on the swing, a loaner from the canning shelf. After this Jane would clean it, boil and fill it with the peaches occupying the kitchen. They lined the counters, covered the table, all waiting to be peeled and sliced. The sweet scent hung over the whole house.
“I’m going to catch them all, Grandpa.” She sprang from the swing, sending it off balance, her absence catching him off guard.
She hopped down the steps, bare feet slapping stone, then silence as she reached the thick grass. He watched her, in the dimness, in the never quiet of the Kansas summer. The cicada song roared, her squeaks of delight blending into the night.
He curled his hand around the feel of the blow, the slap for a broken bowl, seeing peaches roll across the floor, willing it away. Children are resilient, Jane had said, and she hadn't meant to break it. His kneejerk reaction would be forgiven.
In the yard Julie held her jar aloft, the contents shimmering. “Look Grandpa!”
Kathryn Trattner writes from the middle of the United States supported by three cats, two kids, and one husband. Her fiction has appeared in several literary magazines including Wyvern Lit and Dragon Poet Review. Find her on twitter @k.trattner