Eric Bosse

The Day I Came Home

The air pres­sure shift­ed as I stepped through the door. Behind, brown leaves shot through a wind­blown world, while ahead the liv­ing room felt warm and moist and smelled of bread. “I’m hope!” I said. “I mean, I’m home!” And they came for me. My son crawled from under the cof­fee table, mov­ing fin­gers like lit­tle pin­cers. “I’m a crap,” he said. “I mean, I’m a crab!” And my daugh­ter ran in from the back room with three books tucked under one arm as she waved an open book in the oth­er hand. “I’ve found the per­fect sto­ry for me,” she said, and she leaped into my arms. I held her as long as I could, but she’s a gan­g­ly nine-year-old, all elbows. As she twist­ed through my grasp, soft pinch­es tick­led my ankles. I smiled at my wife, who stood at the kitchen table, look­ing down at a pile of cat­a­logs. She had some­how wrapped a scarf around her head, over the top and under the chin, to strap a cou­ple of soft ice packs to her sore jaw. “What’s in the­se things?” she asked. I thought she meant the ice packs or the cat­a­logs, but after a cou­ple false starts to the con­ver­sa­tion we sort­ed out she in fact meant the chil­dren: what has got­ten into the chil­dren? “I have no idea what’s got­ten into them,” I said. But I knew. At night, for weeks, I had hov­ered over the chil­dren as they slept. When they exhaled, I leaned away, and when they inhaled I waft­ed steam from hot bowls of veg­etable soup toward their open mouths. Just the steam, mind you, and that soup had none of the usu­al veg­eta­bles. Perhaps it would be more accu­rate to call it parsnip soup. Parsnips with newt eyes and frog toes, bat wool and lizard legs, and a dash of adder’s fork. But, as I sat at the table and my son’s pin­cer fin­gers flut­tered up my ribs, I did not reveal what had got­ten into the­se things, the­se wild beasts, the­se crazy kids. I said only that I enjoyed their joy. My wife said she did, too, but she wor­ried hap­py child­hoods would set them up for dis­ap­point­ment lat­er in life. “I hur­ry about that, too,” I said. “I mean, I wor­ry about that, too.” Which was true. “But may­be,” I added, “may­be things will sud­den­ly change, and the world will become some­how whole and fair and good, as if by trag­ic. I mean, by mag­ic.” She—my wife—looked as though I had slapped her, which I hadn’t. Nor would I, not in a mil­lion years. Our daugh­ter sat beside me and grinned into the book in her hands. “Does it have a strong, com­plex female pro­tag­o­nist who takes mat­ters into her own hands and solves dif­fi­cult prob­lems through cun­ning and resource­ful­ness?” I asked. She nod­ded. “Does she have female friends and learn from a female men­tor and face a pow­er­ful female antag­o­nist with under­stand­able, even log­i­cal moti­va­tions?” Our daugh­ter nod­ded again. “And is the author of this book a wom­an?” I asked. I did not catch her answer, though, because my son’s tiny pin­cers latched onto my ear­lobes. I picked him up and held him in the air over the table. I whirled him around. He squealed until I put him down. “I’m carv­ing,” he said. “I mean I’m starv­ing.” I took out the bread knife and cut into the loaf on the coun­ter. It felt warm. Out the win­dow, in the back yard, the dog rolled in leaves on the lawn. I won­dered why she stayed with us, when she could so eas­i­ly run off and join a pack of wolves or what­ev­er. “There’s no pitcher,” our daugh­ter said. “I mean pic­ture.” She was point­ing at the inner flap of the dust jack­et on her book, where an author’s pho­to might appear. “What do you think the ini­tials G.D. stand for?” she asked. “I’m not pure,” I said. “Sure. I’m not sure. Your guess is as good as mine.” She demand­ed to know if the author was a man or a wom­an. I yearned to know, too. We squint­ed at the com­put­er on the desk in the far cor­ner, but nei­ther of us moved toward it. Not to go on and on, but some­how we knew it was that machine, not an open win­dow or door, that could suck the warm, moist, bready, parsnip­py air from our tomb. I mean room. I mean womb.

Eric Bosse is the author of Magnificent Mistakesa sto­ry col­lec­tion pub­lished by Ravenna Press. His work has also appeared in The Sun, Zoetrope, WigleafThe CollagistFRiGGFiddleblack, and World Literature Today. He teach­es in Expository Writing and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Oklahoma.