The Back Door
Today, he was stuck inside, stripped down to his diaper, the air conditioning pumping. His mom told him that it was too hot to go out, that he would have to wait until the sun went down. He tried to explain that he didn’t mind. He liked to feel his heartbeat in his cheeks as he ran across the grass. He liked wiping his sweaty face against his mom’s shorts, making her jump. He especially liked how the sand stayed stuck between his fingers no matter how he shook them. He could feel it there for the rest of the day, crunching against his skin and tickling his knuckles. Sometimes, after his brother threw a handful at him, it would stick on his eyelashes or in his ears and it wouldn’t come out until bathtime, and only if his mom scrubbed really hard. It made him laugh to see the piles of sand at the bottom of the tub. Once, he had filled his jacket sleeve with sand and grass, but his mom had found it before he made it to bathtime.
He pressed his palm to the glass in the back door, smashed his nose against the warmth. The sun covered the grass with light so bright he could feel the heat of it across his shoulders. It made his feet itch to be outside, made his whole body itch with the need to taste the grass and sticks between his teeth. The bees and ants were calling his name, begging him to join them. Begging him to march along the edges of the yard, peek through the slats in the fence and check on the neighbors. He wanted to watch the dogs in the yard behind his. They would nip at each other, roll together with growls and barks, and then tear across the yard one right after the other, racing to see who could get to the dish of water first. He loved watching them dance across the patio as they waited for their food or for a treat, tapping their claws against the door with impatience.
But, by far, his favorite thing to do was dig. He would sit right by the fence and tear into the dark mud, using his fingers as shovels. He liked how the mud would lodge under his nails for days, how he could look down at his hands and remember how it felt to be outside. His brother would try to convince him to kick the ball around, but he just wanted to dig. He wanted to stick the mud on the fence and make little piles on the beams that he would then send flying with one swipe of his hand. He would sit with his back to his mom, and when she wasn’t looking he would pop his fingers in his mouth, chewing the mud and grass like a snack. Sometimes he would spit it out, but only if he accidentally grabbed a big chunk of rock or a stick. He would bury golf balls or his brother’s trucks, pushing them deep into the earth and piling bits of dead grass on top. His brother would yell if he saw him, so he had to work quickly. He would hide them there for days, buried treasure.
His brother was at school today and he missed him. Even though it meant that he got to play with all the cars, even the special ones that had all their wheels that his brother usually took for himself. His brother was the best at coming up with new games to play like putting their towels on their heads and chasing each other around the playroom, or climbing on top of the couch and building bridges with cushions. Sometimes they would just scream and throw things for no reason, running from room to room, slamming doors behind them. Their mom would come upstairs and lock all the doors, but his brother knew where she kept the keys and would unlock them again. He hoped that it was almost time to go pick him up, and maybe when they got back home, it would be cool enough to go outside.