By Billy P. Gee
I liked to hear the clompity-clomp of feet and knees on the floorboards, especially on the stairs, and I liked to see the legs of people in the room. From that level the difference between boots and high-heels and slippers is as different as white from black. One thing is the smell. The heels smelled of lady feet, rose water and sweat. Boots smelled of dirt and outdoors. I never liked neither so I galloped to and fro avoiding feet.
Back then I ran through the house on all fours. This was more years ago than you are alive, so you may not believe I remember now what I do, but I do remember. And what’s more, my mother told me long ago I remember it right, and so it must be true.
I ran through the house on all fours. I was a small boy full of piss and vinegar, mom says. I was the oldest of Rose Emily and Tom Howard. There was one other, but he died, and I only have this one memory of him, which is really of me trolloping around, as I said, on all fours.
On this one occasion the mood in the room was somber, quiet. All that could be heard was my wild gallop from room to room until suddenly a hand (father’s) reached down and stopped my gallop. I found myself raised up mid-clomp. I felt that awkward sensation of interrupted rhythm, clompity-cl—. Then I was hanging like a small puppy by the neck and when my hands and feet finally stopped clomping the air, I was placed down to rest on one of the old high-back armchairs father liked to use for smoking. I sat there silent and a bit stunned.
What I heard, what I saw, what I experienced in that chair, I have long since forgotten. I remember glimpses. Vases of flowers. Bright happy flowers though I imagine everyone was crying. Milling about in suits and dresses whispering to each other. Hanky passing. Things like that. I can say what mother told me years after. The child she lost had been a boy and he was born alive for fifteen minutes while I clomped about the house on all fours celebrating, in my way, the birth of my brother. Meanwhile mother and father named the boy Earl.
As the name was being officiated with ink on paper, the boy started to gasp and eventually he stopped working utterly.
Later that night, mother lay in bed trying to sleep and finally did sleep when she was awakened suddenly by me. Obviously in a state of sleep-crawling, I had found my way onto her bed and was cavorting around on all fours on her flower-printed bedspread, sprinting this way and that, making all kinds of a fuss to stop and pick at the lint on her covers. I was collecting this lint in one hand.
Bleary-eyed mother watched me in my game and after a while put out her hand, stopped me and asked what in God’s name was I doing. Blinking away the tears, I looked up at her directly and said, “I’m picking flowers for Earl.”