A Rearing Pact
Alexander J. K. Hughes/ Number 89
My son tells me I can walk up silos and I struggle not to laugh at him. My wife and I have made only one rearing pact: never laugh at our son, never let him feel dumb. This was easy before he began talking.
His claims began small and I could humor him easily. He said my bald-hair would grow back, and I found some grass and twigs, buried and grimy in the driveway gravel, to glue on my scalp. When I walked through the front door, he smiled wide, pulled on the dry-weeds to test them, and unspooled my work. He still apologizes at dinners when we have them.
“I can walk up silos?” I say before I size up the silo in the wavering cornfield across our yard. “Of course I can.”
“And you will walk it now.”
“I will?” I say and I stare at him for a long time. His eyes are petite and he does not blink. The black dimples blowing out from the corneas lock onto me. I say, “Of course I will.”
I stand, and stretch. I look at my son and tell him, “We must be limber.” My bones crack, audio proof of my age and vulnerability. My son does not seem to notice.
I lead my son deep into the corn, lightly shielding him from the leaf-blades among the stalks. They glide over his face when I hold them. The silo looks impossible from this angle; large metal chunks lean out from the structure.
He tells me they are stairs.
“Here it goes,” I say and make a big show of putting my first foot on the silo. I move my other foot up and step. I move my other foot up and step. And again and again until I stand at the top of the metal curve. I say, “I did it.”
“Of course you did,” my son says.
“Of course you did,” my wife says, laying on the far side of the dome.
“How did you get up here?”
“Just like you.”
I lean over the edge and look for my son between the cornstalks. His blond hair impossible to find; his quiet, limited voice impossible to hear.
“Our son is a miracle,” I say. “He says, ‘You can walk up a silo,’ and you can. We’ve raised a beautiful, miracle son.”
“Maybe so, but how do we get down?”
I place one foot on the vertical silo wall for a moment, for a minute, for an hour, for a day. My foot never moves down. I watch my wife’s face turn from serious to laughter. She looks beautiful in this moment; I cannot let her have that moment alone.
Alex K. Hughes is a PhD student at Oklahoma State University. His work has been published in Journey, and he previously served as associate editor of Big Muddy and The Cape Rock.Image by Alvin Mahmudov