Sometimes listening is better than reading. If you think so, enjoy this audio version.
Joy balanced Nate on her left hip, his legs resting at odd angles around her swollen belly as she rushed to her phone, answering it. The dial tone sounded in her ear. She placed Nate, sopping wet on the couch, his tears mixing with the water seeping into the stained cushion, then redialed her husband Connor.
“Sorry, Nate plugged the tub and turned it on without me knowing. I was mopping up the hall.”
“Yeah, I’m gonna grab the fan out of the closet in a minute. What’s up?”
A tapping sound echoed over the phone line, and Joy waited for her husband to answer.
“How’s your day been?”
“Pretty normal. Nate knocked his cereal onto the floor again, ripped up a book I planned on reading, and flooded the house.”
“Yeah.” Joy listened as Connor drew air through his teeth. “Martin invited me to go to the game tonight.”
“I’d like to go. I’ll make it up to you.”
“You will, huh? How?”
“What would you like?”
“A clean house and a flat belly,” she said as she walked down the hall to the linen closet.
“How about a foot rub? The belly thing will sort itself out soon. One more month.”
“A month. Don’t remind me.”
“So, what do you think?”
“I think you should decide.”
“Well, I’d really like to go.”
“I got that.” She wrapped the towel she’d gotten from the closet around Nate, whose whimpers increased. “When will you be home?”
“Probably by nine. I love you.”
“Love you, too. Have fun.”
Slumping next to Nate, Joy pulled him onto her disappearing lap. “If Daddy’s going to a football game, we can ignore cooking a real dinner. How about macaroni and cheese?”
Wisps of dried blond hair glided into the air and gently fell back to Nate’s head as he turned around and smiled at her. “Cheese,” he said with a smile.
Sliding out from under her son, Joy waddled back to the flooded hall. She laid another towel on the wet carpet and knelt down, applying pressure to it as hard as she could. The idea of stepping on the towels seemed great until her sciatic nerve acted up. Kneeling was better. As the towel absorbed the last bit of puddling from the floor, Joy prepared to stand up. One foot worked its way underneath her, and she used it along with the wall to try and stand.
Sudden tremors took over her body as piercing pain tangled the muscles from her back to her feet. Rolling to her side and then to her back, Joy lay on the damp floor, until the pain subsided. How on earth would she get up now? She scooted her body to the bathroom threshold as the nerve screamed at her again. A twist to the left, and Joy no longer wondered how whales beached themselves. Seconds later, knees bent underneath her supporting her belly as she rested, before placing her hands on the molding of the doorway.
With both hands in place, she lifted herself from the floor, but before she recovered, a startling sound from the kitchen knocked her back down to her knees. Her time now limited by the unknown actions of her misera…terribl…active toddler, she pushed herself through the jolting pain. Each foot moved an inch at a time as she leaned against the wall, shuffling toward the kitchen. The pain slowly receded.
A deep breath led Joy around the corner, her eyes settled on the open fridge and her son’s wet backside. “Nathan, what are you doing?” He turned and stared at her, a wide smile across his face. A glob of deep yellow and clear goop landing on the floor. “No, no, no, no, no, no, not the eggs. Nate, not the eggs!”
Her beach ball-sized belly beat the rest of her to the latest destruction. Egg splattered the shelf, oozed into the drawer, and down to the floor, a dozen cracked eggshells floating lazily down a yellow-splotched river. “Oh, Nate.”
Knowing she should take a picture to laugh at later, she stood frozen, then decided a mental picture was enough. She brushed the hair off her forehead and forgot to smile as Nate reached his arms up to greet her. “This is not good, little man.” He protested as she strapped him into the high chair and washed the egg off him with wipes. The prospect of going near the bathtub…shivers ran down her spine.
“Football game, he had to go to the football game,” she muttered the words under her breath as she studied the mess, determining the best way to deal with it. “Ugh. Nate, buddy, next time go for the bread, or a banana, okay?”
Her thoughts returned to her latest dilemma. If she removed the shelf, she could reach everything else a little easier. Condiments found their way to other shelves, and she mopped up most of the egg from the shelf before removing it and placing it in the sink. Next, the drawer and the floor received a new shine as Joy scrubbed at the egg. Pushing the hair off her forehead again, she carefully gripped the fridge, ready to stand. It moved. Of course, it moved. Why wouldn’t it move? She shuffled her body over to the counter and heaved herself up from the floor, then waited for the rise and fall of her breathing to slow before stepping to the sink to clean the shelf.
Moments later, the shelf sparkled. Joy carried it, sliding one foot an inch across the tile, then the other. Her body jolted into the shelf, which crashed to the floor. Pebbled safety glass covered the kitchen. Groaning, she turned to the broom closet only to hear a loud explosion. Soda, from an unretrieved can, glued the glass to the floor and the food in the freezer to the shelves.
Her phone beeped. A text message.
I forgot my soda in the freezer this morning.
The broom fell to the floor. She pulled Nate out of the high chair. “Let’s go get dinner and play on the toys at McDonald’s.” Smiling at her son, she contemplated the situation out loud. “I think nine-thirty will be an excellent bedtime tonight.”
Before leaving, she texted Connor: You like explosions, right?