Twists and turns: No matter how hard he tried

By S. Peter Lewis

BN Columnist

Many years ago when the man’s son was little, the boy discovered the big red plastic cylindrical “twisty-turny” slide at the playground and for everyone less than four feet tall, time skidded to a stop. Up and down the boy went endlessly, giggling throughout, while his young parents sat hunched at a decrepit picnic table, aging before their very eyes. After an hour the man wandered over and pleaded.

Aren’t you sick of this yet? It’s always the same, right?

No! It’s different every time! Just five more minutes, pleeeeeease?

And so mom and dad slumped for another hour, composting. And the hour stretched into a blur of twisty-turny hours and seemingly endless twisty-turny days and the boy just kept on laughing. One warm November the family even missed turning the clock back to Eastern Standard Time and the next day were surprised to be an hour early for everything until someone quietly told them.

And the little boy grew up and went to college and got married and moved away and the man forgot all about twisty-turny slides.

Two-and-a-half decades after that first twisty-turny day, the man met a friend in the dim hours before the inevitable office to go mountain biking, to have fun and get their heart rates up over 140 for an hour, to work up a good sweat and (for him at least) fend off middle age. A warm thick salty fog had welled up and rolled in off the sea and the leaves were down off the trees and the air in the boney woods where the two friends spun their wheels was sated with droplets and weepy. The man wore glasses which teared up and made his vision fuzzy and so he had trouble seeing the trail. And no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t wipe his glasses dry.

Rounding one muddy corner the man saw something slate-dark and flat through the gravy mist and tried to gain his bearing in the black skeleton forest.

Is that the pond over there?

No, that’s the elementary school parking lot.

And the two friends stopped at the playground and dropped their bikes in the wet bark mulch so the man could wipe off his glasses again. Slipping his glasses back on, he saw a twisty-turny slide and he instantly thought of his son: the little boy with the interminable twisty-turny obsession. And the man remembered and his memories were quickly laden by a far-off fondness and he was suddenly compelled to turn the clock back.

We have to do it!

And without hesitation the two friends grabbed the dewy pipes and clambered up the apparatus until they stood on the plastic-coated steel mesh before the throat of the big red tube. I haven’t done this since I was in my forties, the man said, and then he grabbed the lip of the molded plastic maw and flipped his legs up and flung himself inside and was gone in an instant, rumbling down around the glowing red curves.

Are you down?

Yes, I’m down.

It sure doesn’t sound like you’re down.

Of course I’m down.

I’m coming anyway, you better be down!

And his friend pushed off, suspecting. And of course the man wasn’t really down. And of course his friend knew it all along because the man’s voice had echoed back up the tube as if from a locker room, but slid anyway. And the man leaped out of the way at the last instant and the bark mulch went flying and there was giggling throughout.

Later, on his way to his office, sipping hot coffee and daydreaming, the man thought about his son and about the morning and about twisty-turny slides and about all the hours and the days and the years and everything in their lives that had since then twisted and turned. He swung the car over onto the gravelly shoulder of the quiet road and stopped and turned off the radio and slipped his glasses off and laid them in his lap.

You’re right, son, he said into still the air, it is different every time. And the man loved his boy so much, and as he thanked God for him a new warm salty fog welled up from deep inside himself and he had trouble seeing. And no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t wipe his eyes dry.

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