When did my baby son become a tightrope walker?
– Written for The Blog Propellant weekly photo prompt. WC 564
“Kitty,” he said in response to the feline song we heard carried on the wind.
“Yes,” I confirmed, and he giggled proudly.
The full moon was large and close and shone like a spotlight on the alley below. He patted his chubby little hands against the window and smashed his nose on the glass, excitedly trying to see the location of the kitty’s performance.
I smiled at his unruly blond locks glowing in the moonlight like a halo around his cherub face.
“Kitty!” He shouted and laughed whole-heartedly scrunching his eyes and clapping his hands.
“That’s right,” I said encouraging him.
Oh, to be a child with eyes so full of wonder, “Bedtime, Ben,” I informed him, gathered him up amid the typical protesting, and began our “night-night” routine.
With Ben tucked-in, I rested nearby and was eventually lulled to sleep by his dreaming mumbles and baby snores.
I abruptly awoke, or so I thought when I felt a breeze from the open window. The curtain was fluttering and flapping against the wall. I was certain I closed that.
I didn’t see Ben in his bed.
In a sudden panic, I ran to the window and leaned out over the fire escape. I heard shrieks of laughter echoing through the night, and I frantically searched for his little silhouette.
My mouth fell open, and my heart jumped when I spotted him high above the street, among the crisscrossing clotheslines strung between buildings. “Impossible,” I said to no one. “Ben!” I yelled his name.
“Mommy look!” He joyfully replied. He balanced precariously on one of the lines, a balloon in his hand and a cat nuzzling at his leg.
I stumbled out onto the ladder, terror rising; I rubbed my eyes not sure of what I was seeing.
He wobbled back and forth with the wind tousling his hair and whirling the balloon around in circles. I could hear the cat meow as it turned on the line. It seemed to lead the way further from the building. Ben began to follow.
When did my baby son become a tightrope walker? I thought, horrified.
“Ben, listen to mommy,” I pleaded, “go back toward the building, to the window.” Another laugh, another meow, but he didn’t comply. I climbed a step higher on the ladder and reached out in vain.
My foot slipped, and I tumbled down in slow motion onto the grate. “Beeeeen!” I shouted on my way before suddenly seeing only darkness.
I was startled awake by the loud clanging of metal on metal as the garbage truck picked up the dumpster in the alley. I sat up on the futon, immediately looking for Ben. He lay quietly in his bed arm wrapped around a large black cat who was watching me intently.
I hurried over to him, checked his breathing and ran my hand through his hair.
He stirred a bit and without opening his eyes he mumbled, “Kitty.”
I raised an eyebrow and looked the cat in its tense green eyes. “Hi,” I said. He meowed. I patted his head, and he purred approvingly.
Ben shifted under his blanket again and said through his pillow, “Bwoon,” and the arm that was around the cat pointed up.
I tilted my head sideways and looked up at the ceiling where I saw a balloon bouncing around from the draft coming through the open window.