Fiction 2013 / flash fiction / Volume 43

Tigers on the Savanna — Sharon Houk

“The baby’s on the roof,” Charlotte said. I looked up to see my wife of nine years frozen like a statue with a long slender finger pointing out of the open balcony door.

I took long measured CEO strides toward the door and in my best Just-In-Time management voice said, “What’s going on here, honey?” We didn’t make a habit of allowing the baby on the roof.

The baby was an idea that sprang from a bottle of Two Hands Shiraz and Charlotte’s inability to remember if it was one or two days that she had forgotten to take the pill. Our Sunday afternoons had hitherto been spent reading The New York Times and playing with kitchen gadgets. After the baby was born, it was pretty much the same with minor interruptions. The change came recently and ferociously with the advent of crawling.

Nothing was safe. The Chihuly glass pieces had to be removed for safe keeping. The pendant flowers of our clivia mirabilis luckily didn’t taste good so the baby had only eaten two. The pediatrician had said, “Is she blue or lethargic? No? Then she’s okay.”

Now, with a view of the roof, I froze dead in my tracks next to Charlotte as if I too, a fellow traveler, had run across Medusa in exactly the same spot in the living room. But the scene before us was worse than Medusa. Our baby was crawling blissfully along a strip of roof about as wide as a cat’s paw. If we attracted her attention, she would surely turn and fall to her three-story townhouse death.

“call george call george call george call george!” I screamed in a tiny voice like a cat chattering at a window.

George was my older brother – practical. He had three dogs.

“He asks if the baby ate lunch,” Charlotte stage whispered.

“What the hell does that have to do with it?” I tiny cat screamed.

“He thinks she’ll come in if she’s hungry,” whispered Charlotte encouragingly.

“Hang up,” I said.

I stared out the balcony door.

“My mother is calling the fire department,” offered Charlotte.

“Why did you call your mother? You always call your mother.”

“You always call George.”

The baby sat and blinked in the sunshine. Charlotte had dressed her in a little red polka-dotted dress that had matching socks — one of which we could barely make out on the courtyard flagstone. Her tiny toes tested the air. She pulled off her other sock, tasted it, and threw it. It stuck to the underside of her arm.

“Sometimes George helps,” said Charlotte.

“Sometimes your mother helps,” I said even though it wasn’t true.

The baby turned her upper body like an owl turns its head and nimbly directed her knees balcony-bound.

Charlotte and I slunk like tigers out onto the balcony and when the polka-dotted adventurer was near we gently called, “Elizabeth.” We were safely together on the savanna called the living room rug when the firemen showed up.

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