Swing is beginning to show his age. All summer he's been like a mallard, molting feathers of dark green wicker to the porch floor. But wicker's not going to grow back like feathers do. Early in the season, he fell on his right side. At first he blamed Hook, in the ceiling, but later he conceded he wasn't built to hold three near-men riding him hard and fast to see if their toes could reach the tongue and groove ceiling of the porch. He was more shaken by the incident than the boys who found themselves dominoed onto the porch floor. Since then, I keep a quilt over him, hoping to protect him from the dog's claws and the blistering rays of the afternoon sun, to hide the constellations of small scars, to somehow cushion him from our weight.

Now the children are back in school, and the afternoon shadows grow long. I am inside reading when I notice Swing on the porch, swaying side to side so slow and easy that I have to join him.

"It's James Taylor," he whispers to me as I sidle up to him, and sure enough, I hear James' voice and an acoustic guitar blowing through the yard with jeweled leaves on a current of crisp autumn air. I sing along - can't you just feel the moon shine - and with his stubby woven arm, Swing produces a lighter and holds the flame high. With his other arm he pulls me tight. We sway together, and at the end of the song, without warning he kisses me on the mouth. The kiss is scratchy and earthy and not long enough.

I must look surprised, because he lets the flame go and relaxes his grip. "I'm sorry," he says. "That line about the moon gets me every time." He searches my eyes. "You haven't been here in a while. You don't have to stay."

I put my finger to his weathered face. "The breeze gets me," I say, and I lean into his body. We are quiet for several minutes.

"I thought you'd left me for that Schwinn fellow," he murmurs in my ear.

"Oh, Swing. He's just a summertime distraction."

"Or Adirondack? Wouldn't you rather have someone with legs?"

"You're joking. Can't you see he doesn't know how to relax?"

James is still singing. We both hum along to "Something in the Way She Moves." At the end, Swing creaks more than once, the words catching in his throat.

"And what about Altima? You spend so much time with him."

I touch a cracked piece of wicker on his arm and try to smooth it down, as if I'm petting a cat. "Oh, Swing. Only because I have to. That's a work relationship. I promise."

Swing wraps both arms around me and we rock together. A current of cool air hits the back of my neck. I think it is Swing's breath, but it might be only a breeze. Either way, it stirs me.

About the author:

Kory Wells' recent publications include the lead essay in She's Such a Geek: Women Write About Science, Technology and Other Nerdy Stuff, a short story in Muscadine Lines: A Southern Anthology, and poetry and prose in Southern Hum, Low Explosions: Writings on the Body, and Kudzu. Her novel-in-progress White Line to Graceville was a finalist in the William Faulkner Competition. She is a software developer who lives in Tennessee, where it was so hot this past summer that she quit sitting on her porch swing - but only for a while.