The Fall

I start down the stairwell into the playroom. Charlie is sitting in the infant carrier, tiny, dressed in a onesie, contentedly watching me. He’s really barely clothed, and it’s cool in the basement, but it’s so hot upstairs. I pick him up in the carrier, and I’m walking down the steps, one step at a time, carefully and quickly. There’s no extra time to get anything extra done, so I’m racing around trying to get the laundry switched out while planning dinner in my head. Natalie is waiting for us downstairs, setting up her school. John is racing in from outdoors, screaming at the top of his lungs. I take another step. I feel my right heel slip out from under me. My arms fly up, out of my control. I’m watching them, traitors. I hold on tightly to the infant carrier, to Charlie, but the carrier jolts, and I realize Charlie is not buckled in. I see his little body sort of fly up in the air, flipping him around, wide-eyed. His arms flail out. He’s flying like a little angel but without wings to carry him. He spins and his blue eyes stare at me. The corner of the bannister comes up to meet him squarely as his little body falls down fast, so fast, and his head lands on the corner, his mouth opening to scream but nothing coming out. His little body falls to the floor, hard linoleum on top of concrete, cushionless and unforgiving, and his little mouth screams a silent plea. His eyes close as his mouth gets bigger and finally a wail comes from deep within him, filling my ears, the room, the house with anger and disbelief. And relief, for me, for he is screaming.

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