Henry, Age 2, Bookshelf Wrecker

A moment in a toddler's post-dinner world

In the evening, after my mac and cheese, after my 6 p.m. popsicle and my half-cup of milk, I slide down out of my tall chair at the kitchen island, away from my dripped drink drops and my splattered neon cheese sauce and I move off into the house.

And I do it with lava in my veins; red hot, molten lava chug-a-lugging all through my body in the form of well-fed blood.

I feel so good then.

I feel explosive.

I’m 2 years old; I’ve got a bellyful of fuel; and I am a fast train coming.

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In the playroom, I stop for a second and watch my older sister, Violet, watching an episode of Diego that we’ve both seen like 60 times. She fascinates me in a way. How could she want to watch this when we could be tearing something up, or breaking something down!? I don’t get it. I don’t get her sometimes.

Over by the windows I look out onto the road and I see a couple leaves falling down from the tree across the way. It’s nature. That’s what my dad says. Leaves and trees and the sky and animals and blah, blah, blah.

Who cares?

The only nature I care about is a seashell I can stick in my mouth like a Hershey Kiss, or maybe a dead mouse one of the local cats left on our back porch for me. If I had a dead mouse right now I would wear it like a bracelet.

(Long sigh)

Looking out this window is the pits.

Nature is boring.

I crawl up the side of the carpeted mountain (the stairs) with a hard charge, looking for adventure. There has to be something for me up here somewhere. There has to be a thrill for me here, hidden down in the middle of this swamp of dullness.

At the top of the stairs, I head into my sister’s room and it slams into me like lightning, like cannonballs.

The books are up! The books are up!

"Waste no time." That’s my motto.

Someone has taken all of the books in Violet’s room and put them back on the bookshelf, carefully placing them side by side in neat, foolish rows. To be honest, the thrill that rises up inside of me is not something I can describe to you. It isn’t a feeling, really; it’s more than that. It’s a storm of happiness tearing across the prairies of my small insides. No smile could ever do it justice. My fingers twitch, and my eyes quiver.

I’d like to tell you that I approach the shelves nicely, with respect and all, but that would be a lie. The fact is I rush across the purple shag rug with wild eyes and steam puffing out of my head. I approach the gleaming spines of Bears in the Night and Clifford’s Valentine and her three copies of Green Eggs and Ham and about a hundred other books that my poor mom or dad probably put back on these shelves with a curse under their breath and satisfaction in their souls: frustrated to have to do this all over again; but deeply moved by the fruits of their current labor.

Whatever. There is a beast inside of me, and he needs to be fed.

"Waste no time," that’s my motto. I reach up and curl my fingers around a clump of thin stories, and I pull with everything I’ve got. The books flutter to the ground, like 10 ducks with a single shot. My spirit begins to sing.

Hyyyyyy-yah! I karate chop at a shelf and use my meat hook to fling a few books to the floor. It feels so good. I feel so alive.

Boom!

Bam!

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I pull and swat books down off of the shelf as if it were what the exact thing I was born to do. They make sounds as they fall, too—flapping and swishing and swooshing. Some kind of tiny weak breeze taps my nose and kisses my eyelashes whenever I let a fistful of books fall, and it tickles me. I am addicted to it, I guess. It’s like getting kissed by an angel.

Then the whole beautiful rush is over in just a few seconds. I raise my stubby arm a few times and I point it like a magic wand and I change the landscape like a tiny god and then, poof, it’s all over and I’m left out here alone—this ocean of books lapping at my toes and nipping at my heels.

My young heart pounding away at my ribs as the excitement hisses out of my sister’s bedroom like a sad balloon.

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