Steps

My son sat with his ear pressed against the carpeting of the staircase as his siblings chased each other up and down them. I didn’t think anything of it as I walked past the first time to deposit a sack of groceries into our kitchen. By the time I had dropped off the last bag in the haul, concern nagged at my conscience.

“What are you doing, bud?” I asked him.

“Talkin’ to the stairs.” he said.

“Oh? Are they telling you anything interesting?”

“Yeah. They said Mikey and Allen are monsters.”

“I guess they’re a little rambunctious, yeah,” I said.

“Nooooo, Dad,” he whined, “monsters.”

“Okay, buddy.”

I ruffled his hair through the railing and went to help my wife cook dinner. We talked about our days as we cooked. Finally, the subject of Simon with his head on the stairs came up.

“Oh, is he up to that again? He was telling me earlier about how they don’t like being stomped on,” she said.

“What’d you tell him?” I asked.

“I told him that was true. I also asked him how he’d like to be stomped on. Hopefully he’ll walk more softly on the stairs from now. I just wish we could get Michael and Allen to stop clomping around like a couple of bulls.”

“Baby steps, I guess.”

My wife called the boys for dinner and we sat down to eat. Michael and Allen tucked into their food like they’d been starved for centuries. Simon, on the other hand, only pushed his food around on the plate. After each pea made circuitous route around the rim he cast dark glances at his brothers.

“What’s wrong, Simon, aren’t you hungry?” my wife asked.

In response he took a reluctant bite of his food and resumed circumnavigating vegetables around his chicken. I shared a glance with my wife. Our older sons excused themselves from the table, having cleaned their plates. The cacophonous pounding of feet resumed. Simon’s face became drawn.

“What’s wrong, buddy?” I asked. I received a mumbled nothing as Simon began to slowly eat his meal. My wife and I sat there with him, asking questions about his day and what he learned in school. He rewarded our interest with terse, short answers. Finally, after what felt like an interminable length, Simon finished his plate and excused himself. My wife began to put away the leftovers as I started the dishes.

We were making small talk as we listened to the boys’ general tomfoolery. My wife was standing next to me drying dishes and returning them to the cupboard when we the rambunctious play we had grown accustomed to end with a scream and a thud. The first thud was punctuated by a second thud in short succession.

My wife and I both rushed out of the kitchen to see Michael and Allen sprawled and motionless at the foot of the stairs. My wife flew into hysterics and rushed to our sons. I looked up at the stairs to see Simon standing looking guilty as the snake from the garden.

“Simon! What did you do?” I yelled up at him.

In response he offered a helpless shrug before saying, “The stairs told me to do it.”


Apropos of:  This Prompt

-Crouse

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