My heart can’t take all of these energy drinks and my brother and sister-in-law aren’t speaking to me because I dropped their baby. It’s not as though I’m so unlucky as to have been struck by lightning but it’s close. I won’t argue that the baby–my niece!–was slippery because babies are usually the opposite. By all accounts, the child is fine. The parents see it as more symbolic. But if that’s the worst thing that ever happens to this baby then it will have been well-loved and actually very lucky.
I tried to move on, but of course a bruise developed. My own wife does not have my back on this one. My brother wants to take me aside, onto the back patio. “You know, this isn’t the first time,” he says, but of course it’s the first time—I just now met my niece. Now he’s speaking to me after fifteen minutes of silence.
My wife says, “I’m staying,” but I leave, thinking, well maybe I deserve a little suffering. I’ll walk home as penance for these perfect people, who don’t make mistakes, are never clumsy, or never think about something else while they’re doing something.
I don’t worship babies—I value conversation.
The walk home is about five miles and a stray pit Bull follows me at twenty yards back, like a desert vulture. These strays are common in the neighborhood and are mainly harmless. They have lost a fight and been set loose. The wimps, I guess. If I had some bacon in my pocket, I’d make friends, lonesome as I felt.
How long until I’m forgiven? I’m number three in charge in my office. I was once in an adult softball league and hit a game winning home run. But I knew, when my niece hit the shiny hardwood, that I’d be blamed.
Sean Ennis is the author of CHASE US: Stories (Little A) and more pieces from this project have appeared, or are forthcoming, in New World Writing, Bending Genres, X-R-A-Y, Diagram and HAD. More of his work can be found at seanennis.net
image: Lindsay Hargrave