Worm Catcher

I wake up early.  My parents are snoring in their bedroom. I peep in. Daddy curled over on his side, shirtless.  Deep belly breathing.  Mommy sleeps with one eye open. Doctors on call always do. She lies flat on her back. Her hands are clasped together as if holding a phone. She is ready to spring up, but doesn’t.  No calls came tonight.

Early morning light paints the hallway yellow-orange.  I pee with the door open because I am alone but don’t want to be.  I crawl back into my bed and close my eyes.  I wish I could still be asleep, but I am not.  My stuffed bunny and I talk about breakfast and what’s on tv.  We get up and stand at the top of the stairs.

I am scared of those stairs.  I am not sure what I am scared of.  Downstairs is tv, and food.  Upstairs the comfort of warm, breathing parents nearby. The stairs creak.  The stairs are steep.  The stairs are dark and the wood is smooth, almost slippery.  Peril. Danger. The front door to the house sits at the foot of the stairs.  Warm light pours in through the small square windows. But I cannot see the couch, the carpet, the living room from here.

What if it’s not there? What if this is a dream?  What if they hear me and wake up?  I want their company, but it’s 5am, they need their sleep, and I want this time.  To watch The Great Space Coaster, to eat cinnamon and sugar toast, to sing my own silly songs.

I clutch my bunny to me and take a breath. I sit on the top step. Today I will slide down even though I am six and can walk down the stairs like a big girl. This way I can be safe. I can be quiet. I can watch the light change. I can peer through the slats of the rail into the silence of the living room.  I can watch for the signs.  It’s what I do every morning. I am the early bird.  I am the worm catcher.



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