by Mac Eagan
Late one autumn Saturday, the park was filled with noise. A half-dozen teenagers tossed a Frisbee around, several dogs pulled their masters along, an ice cream vendor clanged his bell. A dog’s bark scurried through the trees, over, under and around the voices of children shouting, laughing, screaming and crying, followed by someone yelling, “Heel! I said ‘Heel!’”
Under a stand of trees at the park’s edge, Tony tossed his two-year-old daughter, Abigail, up toward the clouds. Her eyes widened in sync with her gain in altitude and widened exponentially with her descent. Tony’s sure hands grasped her around the ribs, swung her down and between his knees and then back up above his head, finally holding her directly in front of himself. Laughter poured from Abigail’s belly.
“Did you like that, Abby? Want another one? Say it . . . tell me you want another.”
The bottom half of Abby’s face still showed remnants of a smile, while the top half, her eyes, showed stern concentration.
“Come on, you can do it . . . say it.”
Abby focused, then focused more. Her lips moved left, right, around, but not yet with any sound.
Finally she blurted out, “Den.”
Tony repeated the toss, the catch, the swing. Abby’s laughter danced from his ears to his heart.
They continued their game, Abby’s voice growing softer with each round, until most of her voice was nothing more than a whisper. Tony pulled Abby to his chest and settled her head on his shoulder. Her eyelids wavered.
“Den,” she said. She was all whisper now.
Tony stroked her head and her back and gave the top of her head a gentle kiss.
“Next time,” he said.
He thought about two more Saturday’s from today, when they would return to this park and spend the afternoon playing and being together.