Maryland police find woman pushing her 3-year-old son on park swing

The chains creaked as Marsha pushed her son on the swing. The air had become colder than it had been earlier that morning, and Timmy, her son, was being rather quiet, making no comment on the orange sunset playing hide-and-seek between the trees.

Timmy liked sunsets. He was still in preschool, and every drawing he came home with had a sunset in the sky, as though he knew no other time of day. Or maybe he just liked the color orange—Marsha had never asked.

An unsettling growl gurgled out from her abdomen. She was hungry. Her brow furrowed, realizing just how hungry she was. She supposed she’d forgotten to eat lunch. And what had she had for breakfast? She couldn’t remember.

“Your father’s probably making a great dinner, Timmy,” she said, but she continued to push him on the swing. She wasn’t quite ready to leave.

Timmy didn’t say anything. His hair ruffled in the breeze as she pushed him. The chains groaned with every return.

“I know you’re angry with your father, but that’s no reason to have it ruin your whole day,” Marsha said. “Tools are for big boys. He just doesn’t want you to get hurt. You can help him when you’re a little older.”

The chains creaked, but Timmy remained quiet.

Across the park, on the road that curved around the jungle gym, a police car with the lights off pulled into the parking lot. A moment passed, in which the engine stilled and silenced. Then the doors cracked open.

Two men in uniform crept across the gravel. Their stance seemed uneasy—not the usual authoritarian stride Marsha was used to seeing. They moved in and out of shadows around the jungle gym and paced across the field toward where she and Timmy were enjoying the swings.

As though for the first time, Marsha became acutely aware that her wrists were sore from pushing her child. The arc of the swing drew lower.

“Ma’am…” One of the officers spoke, but didn’t seem to know how to finish.

“Ms. Branson.” It was the other officer. She knew this one—it was a small enough town—his name was Jim. He advanced over the rubberized turf—meant to keep children like Timmy safe—but he stopped a few paces away, staring at the boy in the swing.

“Good evening, officers,” she said. The words were a bit thick in her mouth. Unease clung like tar to her ribs. “Can I help you?”

“We’re… We’re going to need you to step away from the child, Ma’am.”

The swing came to a stop. Marsha put her hands on Timmy’s shoulders, her eyes flicking back and forth between Jim’s face and the other officer’s. They both looked ashen—their eyes were too wide. Discomfort was etched into their expressions.

Her hands bit tighter into Timmy’s shoulders. “Why?” she asked. “We’re not doing anything wrong; the park stays open until ten.” She turned to Jim—he was her neighbor; he had to help her. “What is this?” she asked, searching his face. “Jim, why are you here? This can’t be for truancy—he’s three, for Christ’s sake. We’re just enjoying the day in the park.”

“Please, Ms. Branson…” Shadows lurked between the furrows of Jim’s expression, threatening darkness. “Your son… We need you to come with us.”

Marsha took Timmy under the arms and scooped him up from the swing, cradling him against her shoulder. “But why?” she asked. “Why are you here?”

Jim stepped cautiously to her side—brushing past the swing as he did so. Marsha found herself unbearably focused on the way the chains clinked together—how the seat turned in the air—how tired her arms suddenly seemed with the weight of her son.

Jim touched her shoulder with a heavy hand. “We received a call,” he said quietly. “You’ve been here a long time, Ms. Branson—since two nights ago.”

Marsha felt his words cut her like a bear trap, but she couldn’t seem to look away from him.

“Your son is dead, Ms. Branson. The boy in your arms is dead.”

The above story is based on this news article: maryland police find woman pushing her dead 3-year-old son on park swing

I couldn’t stop thinking about it.