At Carefree Heights

At Carefree Heights

The children love to climb the California Sycamore after swim class. We all tolerate their curiosity as a means to wear them out before the ride home or as we like to tell each other, letting kids-be-kids. I glance up between sipping my coffee and scrolling Instagram. I decide to kill some time and take out some cranberry lipstick-stained-lid selfies. At least the coffee is helping me from swaying after that third glass of prosecco, I really don’t need the parents to know about my liquid lunch. Maybe I should do a pic collage titled: Mom and The Climb! I should probably then take one of him amongst the branches. In this one, I’ll wear a frightened face and he’ll wear an unaware open gap mouth as he’s focusing on planting his sneaker.

One of the well-to-do mom’s calls up to her kids in a tone that’s both positive and demanding. Something I’m sure I was told to try during a behavioral class or at a work seminar, I’m not really sure. A technique on how to be assertive without being confrontational. I watch with envy how their accompanying nannies gesture with jackets, saying phrases in Spanish to which some of the children giggle.

            “If there’s one more step up, no milkshakes for the ride home” One mother yells up, getting the attention of her daughter.

            “That one?” The child asks, pointing across the park.

            “Yep, that one.” And like magic, the rest of the children follows her lead down the smooth branches. Each one demanding that they know the difference between the million and billion dollar shakes.

But my son remains defiant, refusing to bend to the promise of a milkshake. He knows I wouldn’t take him out for an overpriced creamy treat when I know we have ice cream sandwiches at home. So, I decide to give him more time, to show the rest of the pack how he’s made to be bolder. He maneuvers up further between branches, skimming over birds’ nests, climbing higher and higher. I use this time to post the collage, Ludwig filter and hashtags that seem appropriate. I scroll a bit to look at others with the #momsboy and then I look up, shit, I should call him down.

“Brandon T Dubson! You come down or I’ll call your father.” I say. He looks over to the other parents who are waiting for me to overreact. I see his shoulders push back as he’s feeding off the attention. He shakes his butt and peels on a grin; clearly, he’s not in the mood for ice cream.

“Right now! Or no Minecraft for a week.” I say up to him as I use my thumb to refresh the app, calculating the number of ‘likes’.
Just then, he loses his footing and tries to recover. He moves his ankles but can’t seem to catch the buds on the bark for grip. He slips and is falling,  falling fast between the branches. His arms reach out like wings trying to grasp what he can but the leaves are sharp and resist, cutting his smooth flesh. The fall starts to blow strands of hair that get stuck on his runny nose. It seems to be blocking his view and covering the fear drawn on his features. When he lands the loud crack somehow echoes in the open park. Blood starts to pool into bruises as his wounds are shallow. His lifeless body is absorbed between the tree roots, like a marionette doll without the strings. I run over to his limp body and wipe away some of the blood from his ear lobe. I look to the trunk in horror and find a smear that guides me back to my knees. My phone vibrates and I let it go to voicemail, for the first time, I let it go to voicemail.

Trista Hurley-Waxali

Trista Hurley-Waxali just finished a stint living in LA for 6 years and is looking forward to her next adventure. She has performed at Avenue 50, Stories Bookstore and internationally at O’bheal in Ireland and for Helsinki Poetry Connection. She writes weird short stories and is working on her novel, At This Juncture.

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