Talk to the child. Whisper. Tell the child a story. Tuck the child into bed, fluffing the pillows just so. Go down to the kitchen. Reach for a glass from the cabinet. Fill the glass with water. Give the glass to the child. Let the child drink.
Tell the child a story about the mountains. Tell the child a story about the sea. Tell the child a scary story, but not too scary. Sing the child a lullaby. Walk the child to the bathroom.
Holding hands, tuck the child back into bed. Comfort the child to hush the crying. Wait for the child to fall asleep in the dark. Bring the empty glass down to the kitchen. Rinse it in the sink. Fill the glass with water, again. Drink. If you’re thirsty, have another.
If the glass falls from your hands, watch it falling. Listen to it shatter. Hold your breath, hoping the child won’t wake. On your hands and knees, gather every shard so that no one’s feet will get cut like your hands. Throw the shards into the trash and take the trash to the curb.
Look for your blood everywhere inside the house, where it drips. Wipe your blood off the doorknobs and tiles so no one sees. Wash your hands, wrap them in gauze, so your blood will not stain the carpets, rugs, or curtains, sofas or drapes. The child should not see blood, especially yours. The child should not see you bleeding. Pretend not to bleed.
When the child wakes in the night, weeping from a bad dream, tell the child a story about wise people who live forever in a land of golden birds nesting in pear trees. Whisper lions and clouds.
Whisper flowers. Whisper songs. Whisper rain. Whisper a forest. Whisper rainbows leading to unicorns drinking from a crystal lake reflecting a crimson castle hiding friendly dragons. Tell the child what it feels like to swim in the lake and to stroke the dragons’ faces as they sleep.
Be careful to hide your hands, though the child keeps reaching for your fingers in the dark.
Aimee Parkison is the author of Girl Zoo, Refrigerated Music for a Gleaming Woman, Woman with Dark Horses, The Innocent Party, and The Petals of Your Eyes. Parkison has won the FC2 Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize, a Christopher Isherwood Fellowship, and the North American Review Kurt Vonnegut Fiction Prize. More information about Parkison and her writing can be found at www.aimeeparkison.com.