Writing Exercise October 2 2013 Joshua Masterson

Running with Contraband
Contraband.  The child was too young to know the word, but nevertheless understood, in a visceral way, its meaning: that which she should not have.  Were she able to express her thoughts on the matter, she’d have complained that everything interesting was contraband—the television remote, spoons used to stir sugar into coffee, rocks and dirt and the corpses of flies she sometimes found in the window sill.  The silky ears of the dogs and their bristly tails.  Toothbrushes, which were sometimes left within reach on the bathroom sink and tasted of mint, were perhaps especially contraband, which was too bad, because the dogs seemed to enjoy tasting them at least as much as the little girl.  In her mind, everything fun was ripped from her hands by parents who were, from her perspective, sadistic in their willingness to deprive her of anything of value.
The little girl hated for things to be taken from her.  When she heard her name called in that deep-toned way that meant she was in trouble, she’d run, as best she could, in the other direction.  She had a stiff-kneed gait and she swung her entire upper body when she ran, her fists balled up and held tight to her chest, all of which gave her little directional control and led to her crashing into walls and furniture and floors as often as it helped her get away.
At fifteen-months-old, she had command of maybe twenty words, and she loved to climb.  She climbed onto couches.  She climbed onto beds.  She climbed up ladders and onto desks. If left at the bottom of the stairs, she climbed up them—though she hadn’t yet figured out the trick of climbing down.  
Recently, she’d learned that she was able to push away from the kitchen table its chairs, which she could then climb.  This was exciting, because it afforded her access to all new kinds of contraband—the cereal bowl that her brother left out every morning, cell phones and I-pads and wallets and keys—formerly safely out of place on the table, were now hers to grab and run and play with.
Mommy and Daddy, of course, were quick to learn of her new skill.  She had one glorious day of returning to the table again and again and finding something new that someone had left on it.  Daddy’s I-pad and cell phone in the morning.  Brother’s laptop in the afternoon.  Mommy’s purse in the evening.  One day of pushing the chairs away from the table and climbing up to find some new contraband, and then everyone in the house learned not to leave things on the table, and to listen for the screech of the heavy wood chairs scooting across the tile floor, and to come to her and take her down from the table and to push back in the chairs she’d pushed out.
For weeks, nothing was left on the table, though the little girl still climbed up to investigate whenever she could.  And one day, her efforts were rewarded.
Mommy and Daddy had left in a grand show of goodbyes, with more hugs and kisses than usual as they carried their luggage out the front door, and the old lady who stank of stale cigarettes—the one big brother called Granny—moved herself and her stinking bags in.  At first, the little girl was upset, and she cried, but then Granny and big brother played games with her, and that was alright.
And then Granny sat at the table.  She pared, with a brightly handled knife, a green apple, from which she cut little slices for the girl and her brother, which everyone loved.  And then Granny stepped outside—just for a minute—to smoke.
The little girl, who’d seen and was interested in the brightly handled knife, pushed a chair away from the table and carefully climbed up.  She had to then crawl onto the table, because she hadn’t used a chair very close to the knife.
Climbing down holding the knife by its handle—which she did because she’d seen how Granny held it—was a challenge, but she managed; as soon as her little feet hit the tiled floor, she started to run in her bouncing, out of control way, knowing that as soon as anyone found her they’d wrestle her contraband from her tiny fist.


About Jim Hilton

Just having a good time writing about our little adventures.
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