autotelic, autistic, assonance-hole©.


‘he aint’ ready yet.’ the statement was bald, just a tone or two shy of defiant. in it, overtly challenging. ‘of course he is, look at him, he’s done fell down twice for not having the right shoes on his feet.’

we both looked over to the boy, staggering into a tree and going down hard on his tookus once again, ‘see? he fell. he ain’t ready, i tell ya. and if’n i put him on those new shoes, he may fall and break a leg.’ there was a quiet pause and then, ‘or maybe even his neck. how would i live with myself then?’

‘course i would be the one cursed with both sight and honesty. oh yeah, and not a lick a sense toward stuffing either in the closet. so i look up at ‘im and say kind of quiet like, ‘sure ’nuff that could happen.’ then he lets his breath out and relaxes, like some big rock fallin from the sky landed next to ‘im ‘stead of on ‘im.

so i take the next breath and say it on the way it ought, ‘course if’n he gets them good shoes on, he might jes run faster’n you can and then you’d be all alone, ain’t that right?’

he says nothing. so i ask differ’t, ‘or he might even jes walk so tall and perfect that he don’t need ya hand anymore.’

but that quiet is getting all thick and dark ’round him now. i know i ain’t s’pose ta say it, but it need be said. boy done got more hurts than any child ought have or would have but for too tight shoes and a noose ah fear layin so thick ’round his neck that i was always a mite surprised the boy could as much as crawl anyways.

the shoes, they set on the bench by the door. all shiny new leather and fresh lashes and big ol’ tongue pulled up high and tight like a mouth just wantin’ ta swallow.

the boy done made six passes of sun and those old shoes were bout an insult, really. i reckon his daddy stopped hearing the whispers long time ago, but the rest of us, our ears work jes fine.

‘that poor boy, would you look how his toes hang over the end of those shoes?’

‘reckon those shoes done fall flat off his feet by now, if’n his daddy didn’t lace ’em so tight the criss-cross weren’t all but part of his skin.’

‘got those shiny new shoes jes sittin’ by the door. reckon i can’t really tell if’n theys meant for that boy or some other child we ain’t met yet.’

and ‘course there’s always the menfolk tryin ta shush the women, mostly like if’n they don’t pay no mind, mebbe them shoes jes get up and walk theysef on that boy’s feets.

but reckon we all know there ain’t no shushing a woman what’s mad for stubbed toes and scratched knees and bruises that didn’t have their makin’s in learning how to run, how to have fun and be free to live.

‘he ain’t ready yet.’ the quiet statement, repeated, almost like floppy soles and tattered uppers could be magically fixed or ignored.

‘that ain’t true and you know it,’ i finally say, ‘that boy been ready to run and damn near fly since he was three. it’s you what ain’t ready.’

that heavy air, it jes thicken up and rise like it’s gonna black me out, but we both know it ain’t and he knows that i know he sees through it. so i don’t stop now, either.

‘jes ain’t right to tether a boy to the ground for nothin but fear he might outrun ya.’

still, there’s a line even a woman don’t cross… and for now, it lays on the ground between that boy and the shoes. that daddy, he jes set his jaw and gets that look. you know the one, like those shoes could fall right off’n that boy’s foot and he’d just up and pretend like they still there.

and i reckon everyone’d just go on ‘long with it, too… even the boy, ’cause shoot, everybody know a boy live for makin his daddy smile.

i took me a big ol’ sigh and set my hand on his shoulder. he like ta jumped, but caught himsef right enough. ‘look here, i brought more bandaids and peroxide. i’ll jes leave ’em here by ya like done last time.’

he don’ say nothin’, jes watch that boy stumble and hop. i lean in kind of close like, so the words don’ reach the boy, ‘reckon i’ll keep bringin’m til he don’ need ’em no more… or i tap out. but mebbe you think a time on how he’d love ta show ya his run, and even if he got a bit ‘head of ya, there’s plenty here what love’m ta make sure he don’ get in no real trouble.’

i walk off quick like a’fore he can think up a reason ta lay low on that boy’s love or ours. reckon tha’s one thing what might even make a woman’s dander rise.