King’s Horses

KAHLI SCOTT

I couldn’t get the old rhyme out of my head.  Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall/Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.  I tried tapping my fingers on the steering wheel to a different tune, but the words refused to leave.

He was laughing about something when I pulled up.  Jenny, I saw, was trying to laugh along, but the corners of her lips were stiff.

“Dad!” he said, as I got out of the car.  “You’re on time.”

“I left early,” I told him, trying not to stare too much.

“Thanks for showing up,” Jenny said.  Not, Thanks for coming.  Thanks for showing up.

I put my fingers on the handles of his wheelchair.  The plastic still felt as new and unfamiliar as his skin had when I first held him.  Jenny watched carefully as I wheeled him to the back passenger seat of my car and helped him get in.

It was then that the rain started up again.  It had been on and off all day, but when it was on, it was hard and ample.  Jenny muttered about her shoes being expensive as she hurried into the front seat.

“You cleaned your place up, right?” she asked, after we were all buckled up and the wheelchair packed into the boot.

“A bit,” I said.  “He’s never minded a little mess.”

“Still…” she replied.

The rain wasn’t falling in sheets; it was falling in enormous, grandma-knitted quilts, and it didn’t look ready to stop this time.  I kept checking him in the rearview mirror and saw that he was tracing the course of the raindrops as they trickled down the window.

“I’m a little worried about this rain,” I said when we were twenty minutes from my place.

“Why?” asked Jenny.  “We’ve just come out of a drought.  It’s good.”

“I know that.  It’s the bridge.  I’m worried we won’t be able to cross it.”

Jenny bit her lip and remained silent as I pulled onto Cedar Creek Road.  I drove slowly, even though I knew the roads as if I’d drawn them with my own hands.  Gum trees swayed swiftly on the side, stretching their fingers toward us.  The rain beat down.

When we reached it, the small bridge was already invisible under a rush of brown water.  Jenny swore under her breath, and he tried to lean forward from the back seat.

“What’s wrong, Dad?” he asked.

“We can’t drive across that,” I said.  “This has happened before.  We’re going to have to walk the rest of the way home.”

Walk?” said Jenny.

I reversed the car and parked it at the top of a slope shortly before the bridge.  Jenny removed her expensive shoes and then grabbed the bags and the chair, indicating that he was my job.  He was still smiling as I picked him up in my arms.

“It’s like an adventure movie,” he said.  This time, I smiled back at him.

The water flow was incredibly strong.  The moment I put my foot in it, I nudged Jenny with my elbow.  She stared at me.

“You should hold on,” I told her.

She took my elbow, lightly at first, then more firmly as she took her first step into the water.  He placed one of his arms on the back of her neck and together we walked across the bridge, water up to our shins.  Halfway across, I started to laugh.

“What is it, Dad?”

“It is a bit like an adventure movie, isn’t it?”

We made it to the other side and soon he was back in the chair and Jenny’s hands back at her sides.  We started walking home and it played in my head again.  All the king’s horses and all the king’s men/Couldn’t put Humpty together again.  But not being together didn’t mean being broken. The rain paused for a brief moment and the trees froze, but the three of us kept moving.

Kahli Scott was born in the Northwest Territories, but grew up in Australia, where she completed her BFA in writing and literature. She currently lives in Brisbane.

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