It’s late in the afternoon and I am finally ready to complete a short, 400-word article due ASAP. It’s so hot and I am sweating; my shirt is sticking to my back, my hair to my neck. The air in the office is stagnant. Outside, the rumblings of thunder announce the cold front that is finally moving in. The telephone rings again and again. Ben keeps tattling on his brothers for inoffensive misdeeds. Ella is sleeping, but her brothers keep shrieking, yelling, running around as boys are prone to do. I keep running downstairs to hush them. They look at me with big, innocent eyes.
Ella wakes up. She is understandably irritable. She sits on my lap while I type, awkwardly, with one hand.
Little work is getting done.
Daniel starts dumping toys. From upstairs, I can hear the blocks tumble out of their bin. Then I hear him dragging something else around. He laughs as he dumps what I soon discover to be the bin of legos. I hear Ben squeal and start crying. He runs up the stairs, announcing that Daniel has maliciously hit him in the face with a lego. It could very well be the worst thing that has ever happened to him.
I finish my thought on the screen and run downstairs to assess the damage. Daniel has strewn his toys across the floor. He is casting them over his shoulder, paying no attention to where they land. As I approach him, I step on a lego. I am constantly stepping on legos. It hurts like a bitch.
I yell. I didn’t even know I was a yeller until I had kids. I yell because I am tired of spending too much of my own precious time cleaning up after Daniel. In a house of 6, one child makes 80% of the mess. Daniel, the human tornado, is the most unrepentant toy dumper I have ever met in my life.
I am tired and sweaty and I hate legos. Really, really hate legos. I point at the mess and demand that Daniel pick it all up right this instant. Daniel’s face crinkles and he shakes his head and then he runs up to his room, sobbing.
I let him go.
Furious, I’m tempted to scoop everything up, throw it in a garbage bag, and put it in the trash bin. I kneel on the floor and start sorting blocks and legos and puzzle pieces and mumble about kids in other parts of the world who have nothing. Caleb and Ben look at me, curiously. They know to keep their mouths shut.
I calm down and quietly ascend the stairs, unsure what I am going to do with Daniel. When I spot him, he is standing, his head against the wall, crying softly. He looks so small. Instinctively, I pick him up and he immediately crumples and cries into my hair. His chubby arms hang on to me tight. We go back downstairs and sit on the couch. He buries his face in my arm. Caleb and Ben wordlessly descend into the basement. I hear Ella upstairs, banging away at the keyboard, leaving gibberish beneath the sad start of my article.
Within one minute, the time it takes him to wreak havoc on the downstairs, Daniel has fallen asleep. He has a soft snore and his hand grips my shirt.
We sit there, still, for a half-an-hour, amidst the wreckage he has left behind, the quiet after the storm.