He raised his arms out just far enough from the boy that they wouldn’t touch him. The boy could not have been older than three or four, paperweight teetering at the edge of the bench.
Jump Aldi, his father kept saying, arms holding their positions. But the kid wouldn’t budge. Took his time. Felt his new parameters: the height, the distance, sudden bursts of threatening wind, the distance to his father.
Then, a slight transition. Boy analysing father, weighing his words. Jump Aldi, jump. Feeling his heart gather a steady rhythm.
Firm on the edge of the bench, he could have stepped off and landed right into safe hands. No effort. But the hands that had held him on his way to the park now felt as if they were miles away. Anchors gone suddenly missing, and left him unsure whether he could fly. New scenario. Heart racing, feet still planted firm as poles.
You can do it, Aldi. Come on.
Carefully shuffling a foot forward, testing the waters, but ends up loosing balance last-minute. Instinct kicks in and he tries to retreat but it’s too late. His body bent forward, his arms flailing, trying to pull himself back. Thought replaced by gripping fear. He pushes at the last instant with both feet.
You did it buddy! Way to go, cheered his father as he wobbled from one foot to another, rocking Aldi and patting him on the back. But the kid doesn’t hear him, can honestly hear no sounds for a second. He clutched his father’s neck as soon as his father caught him and held on like someone holding on for dear life. It couldn’t have been more than a foot, but for a slight second there he felt himself flying limp, and the realization made his whole body violently shake.
Soon, the fear subsides, but he’s found a new feeling. He rises higher over his father’s head using his shoulders as supports, and looks out over the park as if it were his own small kingdom. His lips break into a soft smile.