Thug Life

Henry wakes up in his poop diaper and rolls over out of the covers, the nightlight glow upon his face. Pretty soon he pulls himself up the slats of his crib and looks around with his sleepy eyes.

Pop.

He lays a little left jab on Piglet’s cheek, and Piglet flips this way and that, the whole mobile shaking along with him.

One left jab and Piglet and Winnie and Tigger, and the sad donkey, I forget his name, but one shot from my boy and they’re all running for cover.

Strong kid, huh?

The kid just woke up from a nap and already the whole neighborhood’s running for cover. Impressive, son. Nice one.

Henry throws another few jabs and gets bored with it and he lets out one of his throaty cries to let Mom or Dad know that: Hey, this poop diaper ain’t changing itself in here youse guys.

Pretty soon, I come in and flip on the switch and we are both soaked in light bulb light and I tell him, Hey whassup, Killer! and he closes his eyes because it’s so bright all of the sudden and he bounces up and down on his mattress because he’s happy that he is getting out of that cage pronto, Tonto.

I swap diapers for the little guy and hold him in my arms and we descend down the big Victorian Death Steps, so slippery with their shiny stain, from so many years of people buffing them with their sock-y feet and their brogans and their work boots and their church shoes. We move slow because I am in socks and I know what can happen.

It sucks. Still. I live in two worlds with these kids; what’s happening/what can happen. What are you gonna do?

Down in the kitchen I let Henry down on the boards and man he is fast. Thump-thump-thump-thump, like I imagine a baby rhinoceros would tear across this floor if you bothered to bring one here to rural Pennsylvania and dropped him off at our place.

I watch his tiny butt motoring across the pine where he disappears into the playroom we set up for the kids. There, alone in the sea spray coming off a pirate ship cutting across the 20-inch screen: she listens as the rapid thumps get closer.

Her eyes dart around the room/take stuff in: giant Mickey Mouse/plastic brontosaurus/Pete The Cat book/ 63 crayons; it’s a pickle, there isn’t much time: what does she save, what does she protect?

ThumpThumpThumpThumpTHUMPTHUMPTHUMP, the baby rhino rounds the corner, blows through the door jamb, his head down, eyes closed, just choogling along into the place where the plastic pears fall ripe upon the purplish carpet of thread that comes unraveled; the excellent land where cool and waxy trinkets coated in thick dog hair feel awesome pushed up against the big pain of tiny teeth getting born.

THUMPTHUMPTHUMP, she hears him roaring into her station and the dams burst down inside her little soul.

He heads straight for something she has always known: a two dollar plastic colorful necklace that you couldn’t bite through with a shark’s jaw. We bought it for her when she was his age/ it has lived in all five houses with us so far.

He doesn’t look up, which, I guess if for the best.

He just baby rhinos across the floor toward the necklace, I don’t even know how he knows it’s there.

THUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMP.

Right past her standing there watching him; she’s blown away by his gumption, by his arrogant impetuous charge. His nerve rattles her to her tiny core.

THUMPTHUMPTHUMPTHUMP.

BAM.

She flips him over on his side, watching him land, his wheels still spinning, like an outlaw on a high mesa watching the dynamite tip the train.

I hear him go down. I hear the quiet/the cartoon hanging in the air/and then the tears.

This ain’t the first time a baby rhino has had his ass handed to him first thing in the morning.

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