Footless boot

Footless boot

A lost boot. A boot lost by a toddler kicking his feet, wailing, wanting something. Not getting it.

A mother, pushing the stroller, exhausted by too many sleepless nights cooing a restless baby to sleep, nights of snatched moments of rest, splitting baby-care with her partner.

Pushing the stroller, mother’s flood of empathy for her baby meets her fury at him banging and banging, each foot a tempo of want, want, want! Or need. Or both! Each bang of his foot jolts the stroller, makes it harder for her to push the wheel over this rut, across that crack in the sidewalk, to pop a mini-stroller-wheelie to get on top of a thoughtless curb. She fumes.

Later, after they return to their apartment building, she sags against the mirror that covers the back wall of the elevator, blinks away the full-length fluorescent reflection that spotlighted her bloodshot eyes, her puffy skin, her dry hair.

Baby settles. For fifteen seconds, he stares at the lights that move from M, to 1, to 2, to 3. As sure as a clock, the second the elevator doors rumble open, baby squirms and points to the lights, then emits a squeal of injustice when mother pushes the stroller up over the bumpy cusp to the carpeted hallway.

In their apartment, she fumbles with her baby’s coat and mitts, strung through the sleeves to keep them close. The baby gurgles and looks at her with wide eyes, and her heart booms out full of love. She scoops him up and coos with joy. A thought registers like a glimpse of light through fall’s overcast skies, then recedes as he makes huge farting sounds and the scent of a full diaper engulfs her.

She wants to weep.

She changes baby, who has stopped squirming. She feeds him small pieces of banana that she has dipped in a bit of sugar. He falls asleep with a banana glob dangling from his bottom lip. She wipes his face with her sleeve. Carries him carefully to her room, settles him on top of the bedcovers, hikes his favourite blanket up to his chin and tucks his stuffed grizzly bear under his tiny armpit, so it will be the first thing he’ll feel when he wakes up. The fullness of his cheeks draws her to stroke them lightly, marvelling at their fat health.

His lids flutter, and she holds her breath, briefly. But no, he’s asleep. He’ll sleep for a solid hour. She knows she has laundry piled up, and dishes to wash and a paper to finish for her online course. But she succumbs to the softness of the bed, sinks down next to him, turns her face away from him, toward the window, and lets the grey-filtered light leak through the panes and spread an autumnal gloom over the room. Wet streaks on her face surprise her. She sniffs, wipes her nose with her sleeve. Her eyelids droop.

A ray of blue sky peeks through the clouds. She bolts up. Where are his boots?

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