When it rains, she stiffens. Even
before she opens her eyes, lying in bed, just coming out of sleep,
Billie smells the air, hears the tippy-tapping on her window, and knows
that soon she won't be able to move. Deadness is settling into her jaw,
neck, shoulders, chest, belly, thighs, arms, fingers, knees, shins,
toes. It's as if someone is covering her in soft warm caramel, slowly
hardening until she can't even twitch. She can only blink. Blink and
first time it happened, Billie
was two, streams of water battering the roof. Her mother came into the
room and, when Billie didn't begin her morning chattering, tried to
wake her, shook her, even though the child's eyes were wide open.
Billie blinked as if to say, I'm still here, don't worry, but her
mother started screaming, her father came running, and he fetched the
doctor, and they stood there in their terror as he examined her. The
doctor searched and poked and investigated but he couldn't find
Finally, her mother pushed him
aside and started stroking and squeezing Billie, her arms, her legs,
whole body, slowly at first, then harder and faster. The doctor and
Billie's father watched, frozen. And then Billie wriggled. She wriggled
her toes, then her fingers, and then waved her fat legs in the air. My
baby, my baby! cried her
mother, grabbing Billie to her.
laughed, delighted at the big smiles on her parents' faces.
things happen to children when they are growing that we can't explain,
said the doctor to Billie's father. They nodded and he left.
© Tania Hershman 2012