X crossed his home’s threshold alone and then alone heard the house’s front door close.

X’s a stay-at-home dad and devotes his time, wholeheartedly, to raising his two daughters. Their names are Lucy and Joy. His wife is named Y and called “Yy” affectionately. Y’s halfway around the world, pioneering, overachieving, and synergizing.

He put his car keys back in his jeans’ left pocket and took his cell phone out of a case clipped on his waistband above his right. For a second, X’s eyes lingered on her name splayed in black. He prayed against hope she’d text back while he watched, but, characteristically, she didn’t. He re-sheathed the phone in its scabbard and stared up at the bowl of fruit staring back at him. A framed and wall-mounted painting of pineapples and pears in a wood bowl to greet guests. It was Y’s idea. She made the argument that the selection of fruits shown were unconventional, and besides, pineapples are welcoming. X walked to the right of the painting and into the kitchen. He directed his eyeballs at the room’s back window, exposed by small, drawn, curtains, and via glass’ transparency, his view: a manicured lawn where his angels were knee-deep in the midst of setting up summer’s favored pastime, the slip and slide. Sunbeams reflected off of the flimsy baby blue slide and then refracted through the windowpane to glare into the lenses of X’s spectacles. And you start to think, these people are so much more my kids than my wife’s. He squinted and felt the first of many of that day’s salty beads readying for rapid deployment around his back and armpits and stomach and forehead. The sweat was despite, or maybe in spite of a reportedly “mild” temperature, mild for Florida. X couldn’t tolerate heat. In an effort to mitigate it, he took off his too-tight white Coors Light T-shirt, freeing his gut and hairy chest, and went to fetch the family’s hose.

The hose was pale green and rubber and tattered. It had some definite leaks and a few near-major punctures, but it functioned for the sake of the family. X and Y bought it from their original neighbors-to-the-left, an elderly couple, at a garage sale that the couple had hosted in wake of their moving out. That was the first day after X and then-pregnant-Y moved into their house, and the hose is just one of those things that had never seemed to need replacing.

“Daddy goes first,” insisted Lucy.

“Go first, Daddy!” mirrored, Joy.

Flattered by his children, X couldn’t refuse. He emptied his pockets of change and paperclips and a black Bic lighter, then unclipped his phone case and placed it all atop his gnarly grey socks, stuffed into now removed Timberland boots resting by the helm of the blue slip and slide, on the cut green grass of his framed-by-a-white-picket-fence backyard. He handed his thin-framed glasses to Lucy and began, still in jeans, toward the slippery slide in a stuttered walk. But the further forward X continued, the more and more his pace increased, but his heartbeat did too, and his left arm was starting to hurt; off a full tilt run X launched himself, like a man fired from a cannon at the circus, onto the blue tarp. The chest pain. His prominent belly made contact first. He slid to the end scored by his children’s cheers. This all took place over about 25 feet, give or take.

“Hello?” X heard. He couldn’t scream; he could barely whimper, it hurt too much.

“Daddy, you’ve got a phone call!” called out Joy.

Joy had interrupted Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Gimme Three Steps” playing out of her dad’s left boot by answering the call that X thought was going to be a text and that he’d been anxiously awaiting all day. X couldn’t lift himself up; he’d got his hands beneath his stomach but couldn’t push up. He saw Joy’s confused face masterminding her tiny hand clutching his phone. She thought he was playing a game; she ran over and pressed the phone to his ear.

“Who that, Daddy?” Lucy asked.

“Hello, baby,” Z crooned.

“Hello,” X swooned.

“Daddy!” called Lucy.

The left-too-tangled hose was rupturing in the background, at its deepest puncture, diverting and distracting and depriving the water intended for the slide. The pent-up pressure proved too much.

***

For all installments from 30 Birds, click here.

Previous installments:

  1. “Velvet” by the Bloody Eyes
  2. “Subtle” by Yukio Mishima
  3. “Geronimo Sunset!” by Jun. 27
  4. “My Hero” by Annie Wonoffate Million
  5. “Gender” by Jun. 27, Part 1
  6. “Gender” by Jun. 27, Part 2
  7. “Eel Dogs ‘Til Stupid” by Jun. 27
  8. “Pleasant Town” by Jun. 27
  9. “Daffy” by Herman Barker
  10. “Classic, Ecstatic, and Shocked (My First Kiss)” by John Robert Barnes
  11. I Would/Would I?/Wouldn’t You?
  12. “Fabled” by Jun. 27
  13. “Simpatico Starring Matthew McConaughey” by Harrison Ford
  14. “Tarantella” by Jun. 27
  15. “That Time a Toucan Was in Our Backyard/The Very First Thing I Can Remember” by John Robert Barnes
  16. “Gutwrenching (Sadism in Palindrome)” by the Bloody Eyes
  17. “Maraschino” by John Robert Barnes
  18. “Church and God” by John Robert Barnes
  19. “And a Phanta?smagoria” by John Robert Barnes
  20. “Velvet (Cont’d)” by the Bloody Eyes
  21. “Magnanimous Magpies” by the Bloody Eyes
  22. “Amusical” by Jun. 27
  23. “A Decorated Soldier” by John Robert Barnes
  24. “A Love Poem” by John Robert Barnes
  25. “Parable #2 (A Picture’s Worth 1,000 Words) — Red Herrings” by Jun. 27