MORNING COFFEE 10 - bluebird

by Susan Weber

Henry liked to unlatch doors and climb into small spaces. Juno mostly found this cute but at the moment, with two finals to study for and Mom late again getting home, this game of his was super annoying. Something sounded weird so the girl wandered down the hall from the bathroom, zippering her jeans. She found the toddler on all fours inside the dryer, thumping his knees against the dark blue drum. “What’re you, a guinea pig?” she started to say, cut short by the wild pleading in her brother’s eyes.

Juno lunged at the child, dragged him out and dropped down, sprawling in the mound of clothes, yanking her phone from her pocket. Siri call nine-one-one, she burbled as her brother flailed and knocked the phone from her hand. It spun out and slid under the washer. She pulled him backwards into her. His head wobbled on her chest, his arms flaccid. She folded herself around his limp torso, trying to remember the maneuver they had talked about in class. She huffed and squeezed, delivering a few quick jerks. Come on, Henry, breathe, she cried, pressing a forearm under his ribs, buttressing the other arm against it. How much was too much force against this sized human? She tensed and released her muscles, pulling harder each time. Five little bluebirds sitting on the floor, one flew away and then there were... Her words came out in a rhythmic pinched staccato. Four little bluebirds… When her voice faltered she kept up the chant inside her head, improvising twists and tugs of her wrist against his belly. She imagined a distant siren. Every engine on the street was her mother’s car.

One flew away and then there was... One sky blue disk of dimpled plastic sailed in an arc across the rumpled laundry. The button clattered down the dryer as small lips flew open, the boy sucking air in gulps. When he let out a cry, the piercing sound was more beautiful than any his sister would hear in a lifetime. She wiped sweat and tears from her face and noticed time advancing at its normal, predictable velocity. She turned the child and his whimpers toward her. Hugging him she began to breathe.

Photo by Antony-22 CC BY-SA 4.0