Volume 15, Issue 6: Flotsam
I can hear someone fiddling with the front door knob. It is on the other side of the house, but it is not a big
house. There is a clatter as well. A clatter of plastic wheels on hardwood floors. The door clicks its easily identified
unlatching click, and I know that my presence will be needed shortly. I am not there, but I can see it. My son's
small sweatpanted body is laboring to hoist the weight of his scooter bike. He is capable of opening the screen door, but
he does not. He prefers to heave his bike out the opening that used to be filled. The opening that gave the door its
name of "screen." It is now a "hole in the middle door." A hole through which a small boy can throw his bike. The
appropriate waves formed in the air by a wooden tyke bike landing on a concrete porch and making its way down
concrete steps reach my ears, and I prepare to leave my chair. The screen door now opens and I can hear his breathing as
he attempts to pass beyond it while closing the front door behind him. He achieves a slam. My son is silently outside
in his socks.
It is not snowing, or raining, or I would have already fetched him. Maybe. He'll be fine outside for a
minute, though I know his feet will be cold on the concrete. My only hope is that his mother will not return while he's still
out there. His little sister is still asleep.
Studies show that children who are breastfed receive higher SAT scores than those who are not, as long as
they are not nursed into kindergarten. Studies show that children nursed into their preschool years are more likely to
ride in Volvo wagons. Studies show that infants and toddlers who receive regular massage sessions are more likely
to exhibit positive, supportive personality traits, or something or other. There are no studies about allowing
your children to overcome great difficulties in escaping the house with scooter bike in tow. They are not needed.
Every day in my son's life is a novel. A novel no one would read. Every little destination and goal could be
epic, on a stage with finger puppets. He is a giant in his world, crushing bugs on the front window. He is
Odysseus attempting to scale, or descend, enormous flights of stairs without the great (two-eyed) giant of his father
catching. Though catching means tickling and laughter, depending.
There is a goal. A bike must be discovered. It must be transported beyond the boundaries of the empire,
of civilization itself. It must, for the magic to truly work, for the spell to be broken, be hurled through the door. Then
it must be ridden down long stairs between small stone walls and onto the sidewalk.
"Do not open the door, but pass through it," the hermit said. "And your bike shall be truly free. Push it
before you, down the broken steps but do not ride it `til your shoulder sits in the shadow of the stone wall beyond the
aspen grove, and West of the tire swing. Then look to the South. Free of its prison the bike will be pulled by the Earth
itself, pulled South to the Independent Baptist Church on the corner."
There have been times when I greeted my son at the outset of this quest. I have walked behind and
watched, occasionally been acknowledged, but never, as in other circumstances, been asked for assistance. I follow
along, reading this book, wondering about the end, the goal, or destination.
"What happens after the Baptist Church?" I ask the hermit. "What is he to do next? I can help him."
But the hermit does not speak to me, and I must simply read the story. But we have not passed the
Church. Distractions and temptations lie along the way. Giants, beasts with venomous paps and cannibalistic spawn,
sloughs, and neighbor Betty's dog. Ants and beetles to track with fingers. Moss to be picked off the stone wall.
Once, as a summer sun set after dinner, the story began. I picked up the book and read what I already knew
so well. But bugs could not distract. Moss was not picked. No dog showed its face. One cat could not even inspire
a dismount. We reached the corner in the gloaming. The church sat on our left hand, small and steeple-less. And
the page turned. The story continued. The quest went on. The temptors had failed. Sansloy and his dark brothers
had failed to lay their snares. My son left his bike and turned, without question, toward the church. Lights were on in
the windows and shone out beneath the door. I realized that this was a Wednesday night. Who knew what rituals
were underway inside. Small feet climbed stairs that led to a walk, and more stairs, these to the very door. Sir Guyon
met with artificial vines, Studdock with metallic trees. This small adventurer found artificial grass, plastic green, lining
the stairs. He reached the top, and caught his breath, proceeding immediately to the doorknob.
I closed the book. I am ashamed to say I was afraid. My small, but thick-bodied son rode home on my
shoulders, his bike hanging from my hand.
I put my book down and leave my chair. I pull shoes on my feet, pick up a much smaller pair and head
ouside. My son stands at the top of the stairs, his bike before him. His mother stands on the sidewalk below.
"Did you know he was out here?" she says. "Where are his shoes?"