The Night Tommy Swanson Died
Synopsis: Tommy Swanson died the summer before my tenth birthday. He hanged himself from the monkey bars of the playground across the street. That entire summer, I had dreams about him. Sometimes, we would go to the carnival and look at one another in the funhouse mirrors. Other times, we’d ride our bicycles up and down the street until our legs were so tired, we could barely walk.
All my life, I thought those dreams would be the best I’d ever have, but the summer of my fourteenth birthday, I had even better dreams. They’re different now. Tommy and I don’t ride bicycles anymore. Instead, we kiss. We kiss all night long, and when I wake up, I cry because Tommy Swanson is dead and he’s never coming back. Why did he do it? He must’ve had a reason. Does anybody know? Doesn’t anybody care what happened the night Tommy Swanson died?
Chapter One: The Morning We Found Tommy Swanson’s Body
Tommy Swanson was the boy who always cut the neighborhood lawns in the summer. He had bad acne all over his face and back, but he still took his shirt off when he cut lawns anyway. Whenever he was cutting mine, I’d watch him from my bedroom window and try to hide if he ever looked up. I made it into a game. I think he saw me, once or twice, but he just smiled and pretended that he didn’t so I could keep playing.
I didn’t know Tommy very well, but I always wished that I did. I feel like he would’ve liked me. Maybe we could’ve been friends somehow if things were different and I were older, or maybe if he were younger.
In the summer that my grandpa got sick, Tommy hanged himself from the monkey bars on the playground across the street. Mrs. Turner was the first to find him in the morning. Midway through her jog, she saw his body swinging from the monkey bars like the pendulum of a grandfather clock. She didn’t scream when she found him because she didn’t believe it at first.
I didn’t either. I was young back then, only nine-years-old. The entire neighborhood had gathered around the playground because there were a lot of sirens and flashing lights. I saw one of the older boys, Harold, barefoot and wearing rocket ship pajamas that were probably two sizes too small. Normally, he would never let any of us see him like that, but today was different because something was happening. I didn’t quite know what it was, but I could tell that it was bad because everything kind of stopped for a while.
Before the police cut down the rope, the news truck came by. A balding man stormed out of the passenger side and snapped a few photographs that made it onto the front page of the paper. The next day, when the paperboy rode by on his bicycle, he tossed the small, rolled up bundle between the sweating milk bottles that stood on the front porch like bowling pins. The photo of Tommy was blurry and dark, but when I squinted hard, I could see the nail polish on his fingers. I think about that, sometimes. That was the strangest part about that morning.
Tommy had painted his nails green. Somebody down the street told us that Tommy had taken his younger sister’s nail polishes and mixed the blues and the yellows and used that to color in his nails. Afterward, he dumped it all down the front of his white t-shirt. In the light of the rising sun, those green splatters looked like vomit.
“Give us some damn space!” one of the policemen griped, herding the crowd of onlookers away from the playground. “Nothing to see here!”
“I… I saw him blink!” one of the boys beside me hollered. He pointed frantically toward Tommy Swanson, or at least, what was left of him. “Didn’t you see? He… he winked at us!”
“He couldn’t have,” another boy whispered, taking a bite out of a candy bar and then talking with a mouthful of chocolate. “Before the cops came, I poked him with a stick and he didn’t move. He wasn’t even breathing.”
I was about to ask him what Tommy’s eyes looked like because he had died with his eyes open and I was too far away to see them, but before I could ask, I was interrupted by the policeman, who’d moved so close to us that I could feel the spit from his lips.
“Move back!” he demanded, his voice straining. “Nothing to see here!”
But there was something to see. At least, I thought so. My eyes were wide and filled with wonder, and even though he was forcing us back, I tried to push my way to the front of the crowd so I could see it all.
*Youtube won’t let this description be any longer… A TRUE FLOP. Thanks, Youtube*