“We really like our new bonk bed,” Clara said, “But the bottom step is loose.”
“This one?” I leaned forward and pointed and then looked up at the three tiny faces peering down at me from the top bunk. “It looks fine.”
“No,” Lydia said, “It wiggles!”
I grabbed the step with both hands and moved it back and forth. Sure enough, it was missing the screw that would hold it in place on the one side.
“Okay, it wiggles. But you see, it’s slid into this space here and is still perfectly stable. There is nothing wrong with it wiggling for right now.” They didn’t seem convinced. “It’s fine. I’ll fix it this weekend, but in the meantime, don’t worry about it. The only way it would ever break is if someone somehow wedged themselves here behind it and then kicked really hard in this direction. Of course, then when it broke, it would be REALLY broken, and I doubt we could ever get it back together again. But just climb up this way, and climb down that way, and it could last forever.”
I looked back up and the three of them were still there, watching quietly.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said again. “Let the entire thing pass from your minds completely.”
The next day I walked into their room to put them to bed and discovered the step was missing.
I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, “Where did your step go?”
No one spoke.
I opened my eyes.
“It broke,” Clara said.
“Uh huh. How?”
I looked at Lydia and found that she was suddenly very interested in staring at the calendar on the other side of the room, she glanced my direction, saw me watching her, and quickly glanced away again. “Is tomorrow really Wednesday… Wow. I wonder what we are going to do tomorrow.” She said, in a transparent attempt to change the subject.
I sat down on a toy box and rubbed my forehead, “I shudder to think, little girl.”