the wax paper

Walking in the World

This happened when Nick was young, only five. I remember because I wrote it down that night after he was in bed. We were on the shore of the bay half a mile from home and I was being utterly conventional, just a dad trying to show his son a thing or two about walking in the world.

But I kept forgetting to breathe. My eyes slid off things as if they were ordinary. I must have thought there would be plenty of time, some other time, to see waves, sandpiper, boys as they really are, but twenty years later I wonder, what other time?

Then he said, you be the kid, I’ll be the dad. Let’s walk backwards, walk like ducks, tell the lake to stay out of our shoes, jump in the air and clap our feet together three times, stick a sign in the sand by the milkweed that says we’re the first ones to find this place, it’s ours, you can’t have it, but you can visit any time you want. 

He looked up to see if I was listening. Pulled me down until we were nose to nose. Said in a whispered rush that the world is a big old dog walking down a beach and on days like this it rolls over so we can rub its fat belly.

“Walking in the World” is from Jerry Dennis’ chapbook, A Daybreak Handbook: Prose/Poems. He is the author of a dozen books of nonfiction, including A Walk in the Animal Kingdom and The Living Great Lakes.