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Second-Place Summer Flash Contest Winner: “Bouncing”

 

Standing at the kitchen sink, blinking away sleep, he hears his wife’s scream “Oh God!” followed by a terrible bumping and crashing, which he knows as sure as he’s standing there in his boxers is his baby son bouncing down the stairs, just as he has always feared, and he drops the coffee pot and runs to the foot of the staircase in time to catch the startled body as it tumbles off the last carpeted stair, a plastic toddler gate crashing behind and hitting – Thock! – the wall, leaving a big hole that could have easily been his son’s perfect head, but instead he’s holding that head in one hand, cradling the rest of his tense, Pooh-clad body in his arms, staring at the tiny face, contorted in a frozen, soundless scream of fear and wonder, smooth skin turning crimson, breath held for an eternity as he hears his wife’s “Please God,” echo his own prayers along with his voiced pleading “Breathe, Lorne,” when the logjam breaks at last, tears flow and cries like someone is sticking him with a sewing needle erupt out of the suddenly heaving body, threatening to rupture his membranes, and then just as suddenly the cat strolls by, blissfully unconcerned with the drama before her, and the tortured expression of his son clears as sunny as a solstice morning, leaving only a mother and father, their lives no longer their own.

 

 

 

—Keith Carter is a graduate of the Emerson MFA Program in Creative Writing. He continues to work on multiple writing projects at various levels of commitment and, when not doing so, enjoys playing hockey, coaching hockey and baseball, and spending time with his four boys. He lives in Lancaster, Massachusetts.