Was there something to be celebrating? He didn’t know, but all the same, he found himself on the shoulders of his dad, and he was laughing. He rarely got to go up there because his dad had a bad back from the years he spent lifting people onto gurneys as a paramedic.
The house the boy lived in with his dad, mom, and sister was low-ceilinged, and above the opening where the dining room became the living room hung a white shelf. And on that white shelf sat a collection of fragile things with sentimental value—a picture of his mom’s marriage, two Russian doll-sets, a black-glazed sculpture of a wolf that he had made in elementary art class.
Although the boy could not recall why he was on the shoulders of his dad, he remembered that it was fun, and his dad was not simply walking, but prancing with a bounce in his step. And each time one of his feet would push off the ground, the delayed effect was like that of a slinky. The energy would move from the base of the dad’s step, up through his body, and then through the boy’s, propelling the boy ceiling-ward.
“I’m gonna hit the ceiling!” the boy thought excitedly. For him, it was a rush. It was the same sensation he got standing on the tire swing at Shirley Hills, rocking it back and forth so high everyone riding had to pay close attention to avoid getting beamed unconscious. It was the same sensation he got when his parents would swing him into bed. In those moments, he would become the tire swing. The only difference is there would be no bars or chains to hold him back, and for a split second each night his parents would do it, he would be flying.
He held onto his father’s head the way he would hold onto a basketball before shooting it, and in both cases, neither gave him much control.
“Ahhh! There’s no one in-control,” he thought, but he let it go because honestly, he couldn’t stop laughing; the joy was so intense.
The feel of my dad’s hair and ears between my hands.
The moss-green carpet of the living room.
TV on the left.
The enormous thumps of our combined weight.
Duck under the overhang leading into the hallway.
90-degree left turn onto white tile— we’ve entered the kitchen, and mom is making dinner.
We’ve landed on the border between the white tile and the moss-green carpet.
We didn’t fully make it out of the kitchen.
And all those fragile things are now dispersed around our splayed bodies–mom’s wedding picture, those two Russian doll-sets, and my clay-fired wolf.
Laughing so hard.
The boy remembered his mom freaking out, and his dad checking to see if he was alright. Seeing that the boy was alright and laughing uncontrollably, his dad apologized to his mom. The boy could tell that he only half-meant it, though, because everything was fine. 17 years later, the boy realized what they were celebrating.