One Susan was sure her baby boy would walk any day now. Just as she was sure he would crawl, talk, and take solid foods. Tomorrow, she thought, tomorrow he will cuddle into my breasts and want my milk. She knew her milk had long since dried up. Friends had begged her to get help for what they considered an “inconsolable case” of postpartum depression, but she knew it wasn’t her. Anyone would feel like this if their baby screamed when they held him, could barely tolerate them holding his bottle, and never made a noise, unless it was a scream. At three months, baby Steven learned to hold his own bottle. Susan consulted all of the best baby books, and knew this was an advancement. At four months he had fine motor skills that rivaled a two year old. At five months, she watched him count his blocks and tested the theory by taking one away. At the end of his count, he went back to the beginning and through the ritual again, concluding with a scream until she brought forth the missing block. Two “Honey,” Mrs. Smith yelled to her teenage son, “Could you please bring Steven to the park today while I’m at work. You know how much he loves to play in the giant sand box.” “Sure mom.” Replied Bryan. Steven sat quietly on the floor with all of his red square blocks surrounding him. The other blocks were neatly piled in their container, with the biggest on the bottom to the smallest on the top; all arranged by color, in the roy-g-biv fashion. His mother was obviously in a hurry to get to work on time, as Steven so often noticed. She seemed rushed, but stopped to take in the scene in front of her. “You really are something kid, so smart. I just wish you would say ‘mama’.” With a sight of obvious frustration, she leaned down to kiss her young son on the head, then rushed out the door. When Bryan walked in from the next room, he noticed his little brother frozen with a look of disdain on his face. Must be upset that mom is leaving him alone with me, Bryan hypothesized. He doesn’t really seem to notice when mom is around though. Bryan started to pick up the blocks in preparation to head to the park. Steven began his high pitched scream, and Bryan realized he should have known not to touch the blocks; this always happened. “Sorry, Buddy, it’s just you know how dad hates to come in and trip on your blocks. I was just trying to not get either of us in trouble, but you are only two, so you don’t understand that yet. I am going to take you to the park. Would you like that?” Bryan waited for a reply he knew would never come. Steven had never spoken a word, not even the normal babble that adults swooned over, but mom insisted he would talk when he was ready. She said that he was just thinking. Steven picked the two blocks out of the bucket and set them back exactly as they had been before. He then proceeded to pick up and dump all of the blocks, laying them out in large circles around himself in size and color order. He knew his brother was mad by the way his face twisted. Steven attempted at a smile, he knew they all liked smiles. Bryan looked back at Steven, who just dumped all of the blocks out onto the floor. Steven was making a face that looked a mad dog bearing his teeth. Bryan shuttered, realizing that when his brother had put all the blocks back in his exact order, they could go. Bryan sat on the couch and turned on MTV, while he waited for Steven to put the blocks away. Bryan didn’t mind taking his two year old brother to the park like most teenage boys would. Steven was the easiest kid in the world to deal with once at the park. He was not like the other two-year-olds he noticed there. They would babble incoherently about who knew what, steal toys from other little kids, say words like “mine” and “no” all the time. Worst of all, they would attempt to run away at any opportunity. Steven on the other hand, sat quietly in the sand running his fingers through it or attempting to bury himself beneath it. Bryan noticed that his little brothers time at the park was the only time he almost saw a smile on his brothers face, sometimes a small snicker would could out of his mouth. If Steven was having a good day, he would even allow his big brother to help bury him with sand. About twenty minutes later, Steven was sitting on the floor with no more blocks surrounding him. Bryan knew at this point, he had two choices. He could attempt at putting shoes on Steven, who would scream, bite, and flail; or he could get the slippers. Mom hated it when Bryan allowed Steven to wear his slippers outside because they got all grassy and muddy, but Bryan had long ago decided some things just weren’t worth fighting over. He would rather have an extra chore than upset Steven more than necessary. Getting the slippers on was easy. Bryan grabbed them from the bedroom and Steven stuck his legs straight out, and Bryan slipped them on. Steven bared his teeth once more. The walk to the park was ok, as far as walks went. Bryan’s father thought Steven should be able to walk the block to the park, but Bryan knew the stroller was the way to go. It didn’t seem to matter as much on the way to the park, but on the way home it was a necessity. Steven never wanted to leave the sandbox and he definitely would not walk away from it, riding away from it seemed the only way to calm him down. Bryan always felt funny pushing a stroller; he thought it made him feel more parent-like. He was self conscious that people would think Steven was his child. Being seventeen, having a two year old was only remotely possible, but people would still have suspicions. Once they got to the park, Steven pushed the button and lifted the stroller tray away, undid his seat-belt, and walked on his toes to the sand. Bryan took his PSP out of his pocket, and once his little brother was firmly planted in the sand, he turned it on and began to play. Every minute or two, Bryan would look up to make sure Steven was ok, but never to his surprise, Steven was always simply sitting in the sand taking handfuls of tan grit and patting it on top of himself. After twenty minutes of continuously looking up from his game, Bryan noticed Steven’s legs were completely covered and there were deep trenches on either side of him. This was Bryan’s cue that he could concentrate more heavily on his game and would not have to worry about his little brother escaping. Steven reeled his head around to stare at his brother. He counted to twenty, twenty times, and knew that his big brother was stuck in the little box in his hands. He did this every time; he stopped looking at the progress. Steven was going back to the safe place, where he was hugged evenly, by the same amount of pressure on all sides. Next, he would lay himself down, and begin to cover his stomach and chest, and finally his head. If his big brother didn’t see him, he would be lost forever, unable to escape. Steven screamed out in the crazed high pitch only he could scream, still staring at his brother. Bryan quickly looked up and noticed his little brother glaring at him. Man, Bryan thought, I hope he doesn’t have to pee. He will never get out in time. Only seconds after Bryan looked, Steven whipped his head back around and slowly lowered himself into the prone position. He extended his arms to the sides and scooped handfuls of sand onto his stomach, then onto his chest; in the end, expect for a small opening for his mouth and nose and his arms, he was invisible. For the first time in the days since he had been to the park, he felt safe and secure. This feeling was not meant to last, since he was almost invisible and other two-year-olds were not as observant as he, it was only a matter of time. Steven had not counted to twenty but six times, when another child, a girl, stepped on his hand. The high pitched scream was first, followed by the slow rise of Steven’s upper body, concluding with him bending his legs then standing up to his toes. His eyes were full of rage. She had ruined everything. He put his arms out straight as a zombie, reaching for her throat; he walked at a normal pace at her. The little girl, frightened by the initial scream had already run halfway back to her mother. Bryan looked up to an all too familiar scene, threw the PSP in the stroller, and ran to capture his little brother in the nick of time. “I’m so so so sorry.” Bryan apologized to the mother of the scared little girl. “He . . . My little brother doesn’t like to be disturbed when he’s in the sand.” The mother of the little girl understood all too easily, “Oh I understand, two-year-olds can be very possessive of their things, and over react. Don’t worry about it. It’s so nice that you brought your little brother to the park.” Bryan mumbled thanks and walked back to stroller. He was thinking about what the lady had said, about all two-year-olds; he highly doubted they all were as calculating as his little brother. She must not have been watching him. Bryan knew from prior experience that when Steven was mad, he aimed for the throat. He seemed to know that would really hurt a person, not like a normal two year old who would bite or swing his arms and inevitably get a hit or two in. Steven was now clearly exhausted, and it was easy to get him in the stroller to go home. Bryan tucked his little brother under a blanket, and he fell asleep immediately. Steven decided this was the last time he was bringing Bryan to the park. When mom got home, he would go to the store and buy the supplies he needed to build his little brother his very own sandbox. Three Eleven, twelve, thirteen . . .” the children counted as the clown blew into the balloon. The small, freckled, blonde haired girl had asked how many blows it took to fill up one of the long hot dog balloons. It was an innocent question, much like age old adage, how many licks does it take to get to the center of a lollipop? To an adult, this question is obviously one that cannot be answered, but to a child anything is possible. Steven on the other hand saw the endeavor utterly pointless, and he was the youngest child in the bunch. At only four years old, he was quite possibly also the smartest. He knew that the answer depended on so many variables; there was no reason to even attempt to find it. He knew that it depended on the amount of air going into each blow. He knew that that a child had a smaller lung capacity and therefore it would take a child more blows to fill a balloon. He also knew that it would depend on how much the clown pulled on the rubber to stretch it before he began putting air in it. He also wondered if they were counting the last puff of air before the balloon popped, since that would be the final blow that would fill the balloon, or if they would use the pop itself as the definitive marker of the balloon being blown up. Since ‘blown up’ could have two meanings, the answer could differ by one and still be “correct“. The biggest concern he had however was after it was all over, and the balloon popped, and all the brightly colored florescent confetti flew above their heads, and the children loved it, and wanted the clown to do it again, and he did; the number would come out differently. Steven could see the disappointment that would be in their faces, he could not let it happen, he would have to do something. “Thirty-five, thirty-six, thirty-seven. . .POP!” The sparkly pink and orange fluorescent confetti flew everywhere and the kids giggled, screamed in giddy excitement and jumped up and down. It had been magic to them, but Steven knew that it would not be the same the second time, he had to act fast. “Do it again, do it again!” The small, freckled, blonde hair girl shouted and the clown reached into his pocket for another ‘special party balloon’ and again began his puffs. “One, two, three,” the children began to count. Steven’s brain spun quickly with ideas. His eyes searched around the room for something he could use to pop the balloon before it popped on the wrong number. “Eight, nine, ten.” Over on the cake table. “Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen.” Everyone, even the adults were watching the clown, a sort of elated look of wonder on their faces. “Nineteen, twenty, twenty-one.” A girl, a little older than Steven, began to cover her ears in preparation for the puffs to extinguish the balloon.” “Twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight.” Steven reached for the knife, that sat next to the cake, in a frenzy, turning around he lunged toward the clown. He had to do it now. All he knew was the children must not learn the imprecision of the clowns’ game. “Thirty-one, thirty-POP!” The glistening confetti again ravaged the room, however this time, no one laughed, no one was giddy, no one asked for it to happen again. Steven was triumphant. He has saved the children from the lie. A shriek of terror came from one of the children behind the clown. Steven peered around to see what had caused the child’s fear. Instead of seeing the confetti, all Steven could see was a splatter of red. The parent of the birthday child ran and grabbed Steven, practically tackling him to the ground, as all of the rest of the children stood wide eyed in horror. Steven did not understand why, but he was locked in the bedroom. While he sat there, he could hear sirens. He banged on the door as loud as he could. He loved fire trucks and thought it was cool they got one for this birthday party. He banged on the door louder. He could not understand why they would not let him out.
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