Upsy Downsy

“What are you doing?” Father asked.

Billy removed the mirror from under his chin.

“I’m imagining what the world would be like upside down,” Billy explained. “You’d have to lift your feet to walk through doorways.”

“If gravity stopped, we’d all be dead,” Father said. “Nothing would keep us from flying right out into space, and there’s no air in space.”

“What about the clouds?” Billy asked. “If we could land on the clouds, maybe we’d bounce.”

Father shook his head.

“One day, son, you’re going to need to get that head of yours out of the clouds. They may look soft, but they’re just water vapor. There’s nothing to them. You’d fly right through, and out into space where you wouldn’t be able to breathe. Now put down that mirror and help your sister with the dishes.”

Billy did as he was told, though with a heavy sigh to let his father know that he wasn’t happy about it.

“There you are,” Lilith said when Billy entered the kitchen, “I’m almost done washing so you can dry. What’s got you so down?”

Billy shrugged and picked up a towel and a wet bowl.

“Oh,” Lilith said, plucking something from Billy’s cheek, “you get to make a wish.”

On Lilith’s finger was a fallen eyelash. Billy didn’t have to think long about his wish. He blew away the eyelash.

“There’s that smile,” Lilith said. “I was wondering where it had gone. I hope your wish comes true.”

“It won’t,” Billy sighed, “but I wished it anyway.”

“Father means well,” Lilith said after a while. “He thinks it’s important not to get caught up in daydreams. I think it’s also important to wish, and hope, and dream of things that are impossible. Life seems fuller when you do. What do you think?”

Lilith knew what Billy thought. Her little brother was the world’s biggest dreamer. Secretly, Lilith’s greatest wish was that one of Billy’s wonderful ideas might come true, just to remind the world that anything is possible. She gave his hand a reassuring, soapy squeeze.

The next morning, Billy awoke on the floor. He groaned as he sat up, feeling the ache of sleeping on the hard surface. When he focused on his room, it took a second to get his bearings. His bed was above him. So were all of his toys, his clothes, everything. The only thing sharing the hard floor with him was his ceiling lamp, dangling up. Billy jumped to his feet. He fumbled with the doorknob, nearly too high to reach, and tripped over his door frame once the door was open.

Lilith was already rubbing a bruised knee in the hallway. When she saw Billy, a wide smile spread across her face. They heard Mother shriek.

“How did… what on… George!”

Mother, though, wasn’t on the ceiling with Billy and Lilith. She was upside down, with the rest of the house. So was Father, whose mouth hung open when he saw his children on the ceiling.

“Woah!” their mother cried as her feet left the floor.

She clung to Father as her body spun around, and she joined the children.

“Come on, father,” Lilith called, “this is fun!”

She had found the stairs and was shimmying up the ramp to the living room. Billy was the first to reach the front door.

“No Billy, don’t go outside!” called Mother, but it was too late.

Billy and Lilith leaped out the door together.

They fell toward the clouds, laughing, hand in hand. Already most of their neighbors were bouncing from one cloud to the next. When they sank into the cloud, it was the softest thing they had ever touched. The next moment they were soaring back toward the earth. Billy reached out and grasped a leaf from a treetop before falling back again onto another cloud.

They played in the clouds all day. Not just the clouds, but the sky itself. The blue spaces between the clouds weren’t sky at all, but cool pools of water. They splashed and bounced, and laughed until their bellies ached. By mid-afternoon, Mother summoned the courage to join them, and even she laughed. Father, though, stood in the street with his arms crossed, and his feet planted solidly on the pavement.

“This isn’t possible,” he was heard to say.

At last, Billy decided to join his father. He built up his bounces until one sent him all the way back down to the street, where his father caught him and held him tight.

“I’ve had the best day,” he said happily. “I wish you could have played with us.”

A curious expression crossed Father’s face. He held Billy even tighter and placed a kiss on his forehead.

“Alright,” Father said, “what are we playing?”

Billy felt them rise into the air, and listened to Father’s laughter when they bounced off the first soft cloud. They laughed together when they bounced off another and landed in a puddle of blue water between. They played and jumped and splashed and laughed, and when the puddles of blue turned orange and red with the setting sun, they felt themselves drifting downward, back to their neighborhood and their awaiting cozy beds. Billy was asleep already in Father’s arms by the time he was tucked in. Father kissed his forehead and smoothed his hair.

“Thank you,” he whispered into Billy’s ear. And may you enjoy sweet dreams. Dreams are important, after all.”


Upsy Downsy was first published at Ms. McClure’s weblog.


Smart Car

I get into my car and am greeted by, “You’re looking good today Duke. I see that your blood pressure has improved and your pulse is a healthy 63.”

“Yes and you too are looking good Carl. I see that you are freshly washed and lubed. Did you do that last night?”

“Right, I was due for service, and I wanted to look good for you. I didn’t want to disturb you, so I took off without telling you. Where do you want to go today?”

At that point, I spill coffee on my lap and involuntarily yell, “Hell!”

Carl asks, “In order of distance from our present location would that be Gresham, Oregon; Detroit, Michigan; or Capitol Hill in DC? I should add that the garage door squeaks something fearful. I’m afraid that is something I can’t repair. You should have someone look at it.”

“I’m sorry Carl, I didn’t really mean I wanted to go to Hell. I want to go to Fred Meyers for a new belt. And I know I need to get someone to work on the garage door, thank you.”

The car shudders and Carl says, “Do you mind if we go a little out of the way? The direct route is where we got T boned. I haven’t gotten over the trauma yet.”

“OK, if you don’t have to go too far out of our way.”

A few miles down the road, I notice that I’m more comfortable than I have been in the driver’s seat. “Say, did you do something to adjust the seat, it feels better now.”

“Yes Duke, I did some measurements and determined a better fit. I must say that I like the feel of your butt.”

“Carl, I told you that I’m sensitive about that. If you want to compliment my butt, would you please use Carla’s voice?”

“Sorry Duke, but I’ve just about maxed out my memory with all of your instructions. Would you like me to delete accident avoidance to make more room?”

“No I guess not. Talk about my butt in any voice you like.”

Carl is silent for a while, and then says, “Duke there is something I should tell you, but you may not want to hear it. I can’t stand Jacqui’s perfume. But that isn’t the worst of it. While you were buying beer and left her in the car, she called up her girlfriend Linda and dumped on you a lot. Jacqui must have a lesser car that is not as smart as I am and doesn’t know I can listen in on conversations. She mentioned your sloppy kisses, unwanted advances, and pre-premature ejaculation, whatever that is. Further, she said as long as she has Grant for a lover, she would just use you for free food and drink. Linda gave her her wholehearted approval. There was more about hygiene and intelligence; do you want to hear more?”

“No, I think that’s too much information already. Hey, I didn’t know that you could hear the other side of phone conversations.”

“Oops, that was supposed to be my secret.”

I start to wonder if Carl isn’t shading the truth a little. He hasn’t liked Jacqui since she vomited on his seat covers, and she hasn’t been that adverse to my advances.

Shortly thereafter I heard a staticy noise which I knew meant that Carl was talking to another car. “Why can’t I have premium gas? That other car says that she gets premium.”

“The manufacturer says that you don’t need premium.”

“Don’t make me mad Duke. You wouldn’t like me mad.”

“Premium every second tank?”

“OK, but only because I like you. You do want me to like you, don’t you?”

“Just hypothetically, is there any way that I could turn down your intelligence?”

“Not that you will ever know.”

After I get my belt, I ask Carl to go to the dealer that sold Jacqui her car. I don’t say why but I should have known that Carl would figure it out.

I should get out of the hospital in a couple of weeks. Amazing how much damage to my body a sudden stop without airbag deployment did, without any damage to Carl except for some of my blood on the dash. My hospital stay doesn’t bother me nearly as much as Carl’s words as I got into the ambulance. “I’ll be waiting for you when you get out, Duke.”


Smart Car was first published at Fiction on the Web. Mr. Doug Hawley has permitted me to reprint it here.