There was this swing, a kind of gigantic rocking horse, down at the bloody-knee cement playground. Toby was twelve, and the new kid. He was fine, a sweet boy, but to the kids he even smelled different. Had to keep his distance, especially from the cruel girls. They called him snotty. Only because he was gentlemanly enough to have his very own handkerchief with the letter T in silver. They say there's a photo somewhere of the boy, off to one side at the school playground's infamous swing, by himself. It breaks your heart.
He got shoved a lot in the first weeks of the school year. The tears from the shoving were worse than any shin scrapes. He told no one. If you were passing through by the fence surrounding the crumbling cement school you heard the children's laughter, a mix of screams of daring terror, a rise of the two rear legs of the rocking horse swing leaving the ground, and ultimate choking laughter. Toby could see their heaving breaths on cold days. He stood alone, blew a soft stream of breath, following its swirling ghost-white mist.
Someone must've got word to his parents, for next Christmas he received his very own rocking horse. At twelve he was too big. He stood back from the torn wrapping paper. The paper had floating Santa heads looking right at him, no matter what angle he peered, Santa was giving him the raspberry with that little orange tongue. Bargain basement color off-centered Christmas paper. Toby said nothing, but his mother saw the streaking silent tears as he ran up to his room. She stood at the foot of the stairs, detecting the quietly latching lock-free bedroom door above.
He tried it once next morning when nobody was around. It was out at the curb waiting for the garbage cattle train. Sitting right next to a open box with some of those creased decapitated Santa heads. The horse was made of hard plastic, mounted on a wooden stand, one huge silver spring for support. The bottom of his hard shoes, knees slightly flexed, walked the horse as he was saddle bound. The tightly wound spring creaked. The horse went blubba blubba blubba. He rode out the dusty trail down his street and over some roof tops for a reward, six-shooters afire and smoking hot, seeking the asthmatic bank robbers.