He grabbed for the handrail, felt his fingers flick along the curve, fail to grip, splay as his focus went to his right foot in mid-air, not on the stair tread, sinking past the first step, past the second, he feared—that sinking feeling in his stomach as the foot sank into air and the hand grabbed and failed to find its hold, past the third step, struck the fourth hard, his knee hinged to the left, hand still scrambling for the railing. What was the other foot doing? Why wasn’t it helping? And he had two hands. Couldn’t the other do something, make itself useful? But there was no railing on the left side, in spite of what Marge had wanted.
Marge was dead, and he would be too if he didn’t find someplace but thin air for his body, some solid purchase on the fourth or fifth tread at least, and that right hand on the handrail. He had a strong grip, a firm handshake, a steady gaze.
Godamnit. The hand missed again as if the rail had been greased and lifted just beyond his reach. He grabbed—coyote yelps coming from somewhere—the sinking feeling still in his gut, and his whole body now going down, down, down. Nothing solid except the landing at the turn in the stairs, that triangle of carpet.
He’d hated that carpet, hated covering the planed oak planks, one of the highlights of the house. If you have an old house, built by a craftsman, you don’t cover it up. He said.
She said. You’re old fashioned. Behind the times. Don’t know how people are living now, and she hired a kid—a boy younger than their own children to carpet the whole damn thing in shag—what the hell was shag? and in a godawful color that was neither blue nor green.
Aqua, she said. Like the ocean.
That’s what he slipped on, caught the edge of his slipper at the top and started on his current journey down. She would say, if she were alive, that he was merely floating, not falling, and all would be fine. Glass half-full.
Well, he hoped so. Aqua shag was looking good to him just now. He quit struggling, closed his eyes, and hoped the ocean would have him.
© 2012 Kathleen Coskran