Carpet nail

by Rod Smith

Thulani woke from an afternoon nap and came down the stairs and screamed siren-like and sobbed using his whole body. 

By the time I reached him,  tried to comfort him, my hold had to shift from hug to tight restraint until he convulsed a little less then relaxed to reveal a carpet nail in his underfoot.

Nathanael’s breathing had been bothered and when I mentioned a musty stairwell carpet, Dr. Yancey wanted it gone and I spent the afternoon ripping, tearing and hauling the carpet off a stairwell and repeatedly examined the newly exposed hardwood for missed nails. I ran my open hands carefully over each stair but missed the one which sat flush and satisfied in Thulani’s foot.

The boy hung from my neck until we reached the living room sofa and I used my full body weight to lock his kicking legs. He froze seeing I was about to remove the nail and watched me remove it and puked into my chest. The warm flow spewed, two or three reverse gulps, from his anxious being and eased its way down my shirt, the sludge forming a sloppy mucus curtain which dangled between us, the closeness trapping the flow as I waddled to the basement and stripped him. While maneuvering his frame from arm to arm, I removed my soiled shirt and dumped our soggy clothes into the washing machine. We got upstairs and when I had drawn a bath I eased Thulani off me and into the warm and soapy water.

“Daddy,” he said, “that’s why I need a mommy.”

When the tensions had eased he was sorry for saying he needed a mommy. I told him he was right, that everyone needs a mommy, that some of us could do with three or four while some have none.

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