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Cloud-stained Jeans

Mark follows Dad to the skyscrapers.

By Brendan McGlynnPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 3 min read
Cloud-stained Jeans
Photo by Julia Kutsaeva on Unsplash

The back screen door creaked and rattled an hour before Mom would even care he’d gone. There were only two days left before school, and Mark’s got a long way to go.

There he is, flying down Fulton Street. See him riding his brother’s old BMX tilting it back and forth to the rhythm of his sneaks? Speed waters his eyes and tousles his dirt-curled hair while a laundry faded t-shirt ripples across his thin frame. Grass-stained jeans complete a picture eight years in the making.

Eight years crush into eight seconds as he jukes between cars and, with a quick handlebar yank, is over the curb and into the playground. Standing high on pedals, he traces a silvery line in the dew while gliding toward the swing set.

Ditching the bike with a spoke spinning rattle, Mark goes to work on the center swing.

Stepping back, he pulls the chain taught and flies toward the sky along with kicked wood chips. But the ground snatches him, pulling him down, and with kid instincts, tucks tight until the earth lets go and tilts away to vertical. The world stops, feeling the rubber jack press into his back pockets, he kicks flat out, snaps his head back, the sun in his eyes, and once again, his feet reach to scrape the sky.


It was awful, that last yelling. Then, Dad’s aftershave was gone from the bathroom sink.

Gone to the skyscrapers, he left Mom crying in their wrecked bed. He lives hours away now, ‘cept for one weekend a month, some months, not last month, or the month before, or all a summer. Birthdays don’t count.

His brother says Dad’s a douche-bag; he wouldn’t say that in front of Dad, but he says it in front of Mom all the time and doesn’t get in trouble for it. Douche-bag. Douche-bag.

Skyscrapers, hundreds of them, lined up like an army. Dad’s supposed to take Mark to see them. He’d said so, “One of these weekends.” But there are only a few days left to do it in; besides, none are weekends. So that’s not gonna happen.


The swing suspended between cloud and grass falls. Mark tucks.

Buildings scrapping clouds? What’s it sound like? How do they look all scratched and torn? Dad, sitting at his big desk, in front of a big ol’ window watching clouds scrape on by. Does he look? Too busy, probably.

Skinned clouds.

Higher! The ground brushes Mark’s hair, his feet straight up, the clouds a touch away.

Out there, beyond the window, skyscraper steeples prick the clouds like thorns caught in jeans. Wonder if it hurts? I wonder if someone gets yelled at for it, coming home, all torn up, needs a band-aid for sure, and Mom having to pick up ironing patches at the store? Someone ought to be more careful. So disappointed in you!

But Dad doesn’t give a douche about skyscraping. What it looks like, or if it hurts.


And he won’t see me fly! Stupid, jerk, dumb, stupid, higher!

Mark’s sneaker kicks something soft up there, but the sky falls away. Mark tucks back into a ball. So close! Down! Stretch out! Come on! Up!

His stupid Dad, jerk Dad, doing stupid work and not caring that his building hurts clouds.

Again Mark’s feet hit something, like a sheet on a clothesline.


Like sheets, Dad! But you don’t care. Do your jerk-work. You can’t stop and lookout your window, see me out here, pushing, reaching.

Scraping, tearing!

His foot punches through, soaking his jeans in rain water. A cloud catches a heel as Mark falls away once more, losing a drenched sneaker to the white.

Look, Dad. Look out your window, see my sneaker, douche-bag?


When the slapjack presses into him, Mark pulls against the chains, snaps back, swings up, up, up into the white.

Let go!

There he is, flying across the clouds, tilting back and forth to the rhythm of a swing? Can you see him? Up among the skyscrapers? Tears fall from his eyes while the wind tortures his hair? His favorite T, rippling like a flag, and his cloud-stained jeans complete a picture eight years in the making.

Eight years crush into eight seconds, but Dad doesn’t see the ground reaches up for Mark.

The empty swing dances in its chains, an empty sneaker lands among wood chips, and Mark ditches on the bike with a spoke splintering rattle.

By Dan Meyers on Unsplash

Short Story

About the Creator

Brendan McGlynn

3-2-1, liftoff! Major Rick felt the g-force as his rocket lost control. Ricky tossed his plastic toy in the air and caught it just in time.

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