Sammy’s nose wrinkles as he slaps at the kiddie pool’s surface. The toy boats bob in the waves created by his pudgy fists. “Boats!”
Naomi’s patience is waning. “Yes, Sammy, those are boats,” she tells her son for the third time.
“Boats, Mommy!” he squeals.
“I see the boats.”
Naomi sighs. “Come on, kiddo. Let’s play inside till Daddy gets home.”
Naomi steps onto the porch and pulls the front door closed behind her. Chris is home and handling bath time, and finally—finally—she has a moment alone, this rare pocket of sacred solitude in which no one is making demands of her.
The moment is over before it even begins. Evidence of their afternoon games still litters the yard: foam swords, stubs of sidewalk chalk, the kiddie pool and boats. Soon, it will be too cold to play outside, and Naomi will be sentenced to hours indoors with a three-year-old warden. She’s lucky to be able to stay home with Sammy—she hears it all the time. From her parents, Facebook friends, and other moms in the neighborhood.
She’s so lucky.
Naomi doesn’t feel lucky. She feels tired. Trapped. Her days dictated by Sammy’s temperament. On good days, the routine is conducted mindlessly. Breakfast, play, lunch, clean during naptime, more play, dinner, bath time after Chris gets home. On bad days, those with crying jags and unreasonable demands, she can’t help thinking of the things she wanted before becoming Mommy. She feels guilty for daydreaming about Sammy going to school soon, for telling Chris she isn’t sure about a second child.
She gets ten minutes a day for herself. And now, she’ll spend them picking up this mess.
Naomi tucks the swords under an arm and scoops the chalk into a bucket. She bends to collect the toy boats but the inch of water remaining in the pool shifts, dragging them away from her.
What the hell?
The boats came from a secondhand shop downtown. Sammy pitched an epic meltdown when she told him they were only looking, and the older woman who ran the shop had looked at a haggard Naomi not with pity but understanding. She’d offered them the set for next to nothing.
“I think you’ll enjoy them as much as he will,” she’d said with a wink. “Maybe even more.”
There is nothing special about the trio of wooden toys: a pair of rowboats, one vaguely blue and the other a vibrant yellow, the third with faded sails and a rust-red hull.
The last dregs of sunlight wink off the water’s surface. As Naomi watches, a wave forms within the pool. It sloshes over the plastic lip and drops the boats onto the pavement. The spill of water narrows and stretches, forming a stream that catches a leaf, then a twig, and carries the detritus down the driveway with the boats.
Naomi blinks, scrubs at her eyes. She must be even more tired than she thought. Bath time should be nearly over, her solitary ten minutes nearly expired. She’ll be needed soon, for a story before bed. Chris tries to do the voices, but he’s awful at it. That’s where she should be. Not here watching a parade of wooden boats drift toward the street. She should go inside to her family. But there’s a flutter of anticipation in Naomi’s chest, the opposite of sense of duty, and she surprises herself by padding down the driveway after them.
The water carves a path along the edge of the road, a funneling rivulet in which the boats bob along, a silent, impossible procession parading down the street. The water slithers along, moving in rhythmic waves, leaving a damp streak on the pavement. Naomi keeps looking behind her, checking for that trail of dampness, the physical evidence that she hasn’t lost her damn mind.
The boats curve left at the end of the road, where an unfinished lane in the neighborhood ends at a line of mature oak trees. She follows, her footsteps light, her head buzzy and dreamlike. The boats slip between two trees and disappear into growing shadows. Naomi frowns and steps quickly, moving into the shadows as well. On the other side of the trees, the scenery shifts abruptly, as though she has entered another world. All around her are thousands of twinkling lights, suspended in the air like fireflies.
At her feet, the water swirls and eddies, creating a small, glittering pool. The boats float gently in the puddle. Mesmerized, Naomi crouches and reaches for the sailboat, but it once more drifts teasingly away from her hand.
Naomi sees her then, the girl kneeling on the other side of the pool. She’s young, spritely, with an abundance of freckles. Freckles Naomi inherited from her father.
The girl grins, displaying the gap from the canine Naomi lost in second grade. She trails fingertips through the pool, and the boats glide along in the path she lays out.
Naomi smiles back. She dips her own fingers into the water and draws the boats her way.
It’s dark by the time she returns to the house, leaving the toys behind but taking home something else, something long forgotten.
Chris clomps down the stairs grinning broadly. “Consider story time done,” he announces.
Naomi leans into his kiss. “Yeah? Wow, miracles do happen.”
“Figured you could use the extra time. How was your walk?”
Naomi glances out the window at the darkness beyond. She grins. “It was magical.”
The next morning, her head is still buzzing, even after a cup of coffee. Sammy peers out the front window while Naomi pours another mug.
“Mommy!” he exclaims. “Boats!”
She looks and sees the boats on the porch, shimmering in the sunlight. Waiting.
“Play boats?” Sammy asks tentatively.
Naomi smiles. “Play boats,” she confirms. There is no thought of routines. No worries about tears or tantrums. Today, she just wants to sit with her son and watch the parade of boats.
About the author:
Chrissie Rohrman is a training supervisor who lives with her husband and herd of fur babies in Indianapolis, Indiana. An addict of writing competitions, her short stories have been published in various online and print magazines. She is currently editing the first book of a fantasy trilogy. Follow on Twitter @ChrissieRawrman or ‘like’ Chrissie Rohrman Writes Things on Facebook.