A Short Story
I never thought I would have daughters. I’m the youngest of four boys. My brothers always ask if I wish for a son. Someone to have a catch with or take to football games. I respond with, “Eh, a boy would’ve been nice, but I love my girls.”
You always want to protect your children. If I even look away, one always seems to get hurt or in trouble. Anna is a sweet little five year old who always tells the truth. Children are never afraid to be honest, especially when the situation they are spilling the beans about has absolutely nothing to do with them. Emma is only two. My little munchkin, Anna’s shadow.
My wife is heading out to take her mother to a doctor’s appointment. I’m going to watch the girls for a while. A little nerve-wracking, I’ll admit, since I’m outnumbered and want to avoid a possible Daddy-Sitting disaster part three. My wife, Donna is a little iffy leaving me with the girls as well. Especially since the last time I watched them I had to call an ambulance.
Anna insisted on playing with an old typewriter buried in the back of the junk closet in the basement. It’s probably older than I am. Somehow she managed to get her thumb caught under the Carriage. As she slid it to the right, her thumb became lodged.
Panic set in. For all I knew she’d sliced her tiny thumb off. I managed to free her finger before the ambulance arrived. Donna gave me hell for it.
The time before that, I took the girls with me to Home Depot. I needed to pick up some supplies to fix up the main bathroom. We never made it into the store.
Anna had a bad habit of climbing into the front seat and following me out of the driver’s side. It was the middle of winter and there were large snow mounds scattered across the parking lot.
“Look Daddy! Look at those kids on the snow!” Anna yelled. I glanced behind me and closed the door. Anna’s fingers were still there.
“I need ice!” Anna screamed over and over once her hand was free. I looked around frantically and picked up a wad of snow to toss onto her small hand. Luckily nothing was broken.
But I’m Daddy. I’ve got this. No unlucky repeats.
It’s a beautiful spring day so I throw on their matching pink Disney Princess jackets.
“Can I have ice cream?” Anna asks, hopping up and down like a baby kangaroo on a trampoline.
“We’ll have dinner when Mommy’s home. Ice cream after dinner,” I reply as I zip her coat. I then sit on the stoop with the New York Post and a cup of coffee, watching them play with Barbie dolls on the front lawn.
Anything her big sister does, Emma follows along. Anna lies in the grass, so does she. Anna runs; Emma does her best to keep up. More often than not, when Emma runs or even walks too fast for her tiny feet, she falls. I’ve seriously considered putting elbow and kneepads on her when she plays outside; or maybe bubble wrap.
“Daddy, can I ride my bike?” Anna asks, tossing her Barbie haphazardly onto the grass.
“Sure, sweetie. Wear your helmet.”
“But I don’t know where it is.” She climbs the porch steps, holding onto the wobbly banister. Mental note, add, cement the outdoors railing to my long list of to-do’s.
“Think I saw it underneath the blue chair. Go have a look while I bring your bike down.”
I turn to grab Anna’s pink sparkly bike from behind the porch swing as Emma trots over, yelling, “Me too, me too!”
“I’ll get your tricycle, Emma. Give Daddy a second.”
She grins and begins climbing the steps on hands and knees, like she’s having a go at Mount Everest.
I lift Anna onto her bike and make sure the helmet isn’t too loose. Suddenly from behind us comes a metallic scraping. Emma is jerking at the handlebar of her tricycle with both hands. It’s hung up on the legs of the cast iron chairs and table we keep on the porch.
“Eeeeee,” she squeals, tugging harder.
“Honey, wait for Daddy,” I yell up.
“I do it Daddy! I do it.” She tries to walk around to the other side of the trike. There’s no clear path since it’s lodged between a metal chair and the heavy table. She lifts one chubby leg as if to climb over.
Instead Emma’s feet fly over her head and she falls over the tricycle.
“Sh*t!” stumbles out of my mouth.
“Sh*t! Sh*t! Sh*t!” I yell and rush over to my baby, who’s red faced, crying so hard that she can barely get enough air to release each wail.
“Mommy doesn’t like that word,” Anna scolds from atop her bicycle, frowning like a miniature Miss Manners.
I pick up Emma and examine her bloody mouth. Has she bitten her lip or tongue? No. I check her pearly teeth. I don’t have to look very far. One upper front canine has been knocked out. Donna is going to kill me, I think. I pace around until I spot the gleaming baby tooth lying beside the tricycle’s front tire. I stuff it quickly into my pants pocket before either girl can see.
I carry Emma into the house and yell after Anna to follow. She comes to stand at my side in the bathroom, her white helmet still on. Now she looks like an operating room nurse, as I clean Emma up at the sink.
Emma’s still sobbing. I try to distract her with The Little Mermaid DVD. My hands shake as I fumble for the PLAY button. She goes from hysterical crying to merely deep, wound-up breaths so I set her on the couch with an icepack on her mouth. Anna is silent. She glares at me as she sits beside Emma.
“Anna, I’m going to be in a lot of trouble because Emma got hurt. So how about you don’t tell Mommy I said a bad word, too?”
She continues to glare.
“I’ll – I could give you ice cream before dinner?”
She smiles slightly, while raising one eyebrow. “With sprinkles?”