The humid summer heat was murderous. Every year one or two were killed in our town, cooked in their rooms. At our house on the avenue, a fan in the attic drew refreshment from the night through our open bedroom windows and pulled the hot air up the attic stairs. Or so Dad told us as we lay awake sweating while he did the door check. Boys’ room door: open. Little girls’ room, young boys’ room: open, open. Baby’s room: open. Girls’ room door: open. He stood briefly at the attic door as if enjoying a powerful draft, then went to bed. Parents’ room: closed. There was no refreshment at night, only darkness and the thumping of the fan. Now, a person with a light step on a night like this could inventory all the beds and never be noticed if he knew which floorboards creaked. I hadn’t made friends with the baby. He was too new. I carried him down the stairs to the front steps and sat with him and listened to the sluggish crickets. He didn’t do much. He looked as if he might never do much. Those of us who had come before him hadn’t done much. Mom and Dad are silly, aren’t they?, I asked him. Yes they are yes they are yes they are. What do they need another baby for?, I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know. I heard Mom shriek. I heard thumping and voices raised. I dashed inside to the foot of the stairs and saw her on the second floor, wobbly in her nightgown, clutching the handrail, her face as white as milk, and knew at once what I had done. I knew she would never regain her balance while her babies were out of their beds.

Copyright © January 15, 2008 David Hodges