Blearily, I head up the stairs tonight to get the boys’ nighttime started. Jan has a thrown-out back and we are both out of it.
I make sure AJ is tucked into my bed with his Kindle (he reads there before bed while his little brother and I read in the other room).
“Bob*,” I call to his little brother waiting in his bedroom as I walk past my bed in my dimly lit room, “what are we reading tonight?”
And then a bony hand grips my ankle.
Now, I have a scream that is legendary. It is impossible for me to control. It is operatic. Horror-movie worthy. It is completely automatic; I have no control over it whatsoever. If you are unfortunate to startle me or be anywhere in the same house with me when I am startled, your ears are going to ring for at least half an hour when I am through with them.
This time, I am more than startled. I am scared.
I scream in horror. I shake.
I look down and poor Bob, who has been hoping for a triumph, looks like he’s wet himself.
“Haddayr?” Jan calls from downstairs.
I can’t breathe to respond, and neither can the boy.
Jan pounds up the stairs, back-be-damned, and sees Bob — still crouched and stricken, and me: frozen in place.
The adrenaline starts to leave my system and I tremble and cry. (One of my signs of concussion: increased emotionality! I KNOW. WHO KNEW THIS WAS POSSIBLE.)
“Bob, you can’t scare Mommy like that,” says Jan, rubbing my shoulders.
“I’m sorry I’m sorry!” he says.
“It’s okay,” I say. “I’m sorry I screamed.”
Jan heads downstairs; Bob and I go into his bedroom to read. I pull back his covers and he climbs in, still looking at me cautiously.
I open the book and take a breath before I begin.
“I forgot about your concussion,” he says.
This kid has been trying to jump out and startle me for years. YEARS. Long, complex scenarios and creeping across old floors that WOULD squeak at the worst moments. Lying in wait forever only to have his giggling or ragged breath give him away.
I put down the book and smile at him. “You got me good, didn’t ya?” I ask. “You got me fair and square.”
He quirks the corner of his mouth. “I did,” he says. “I’m sorry, but.” His grin grows wider. “I DID.”
*Bob is not his real name; it’s the name he, giggling, picked for my new blog and for stuff on MPR. He thinks it’s hilarious, so I have to, as well.