Not Now, Maybe Next Time by Claudette Bakhtiar

“It’s the day!” My son says. “Wake up, it’s the day!”

He plays with his trains while I take a shower.

Already before breakfast, I’ve lied to him twice. “The TV is broken” and “That doesn’t work either.” I don’t feel guilty. It’s for his own good.

I keep stickers as bribes. One for potty, another to help us get out of the house.

The street is warm and full of people. My son runs ahead, happy. He is eating better. For the past month, I’ve lied to my husband and kept the boy out of school.

We approach the bouncing castle. He stares at it, then decides to start elsewhere, a full pool of magnetic fish. He stands there for a long time, quietly. The plastic catch grows in a pile between his feet.
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Then there is mini golf. Then, a table where we sit to decorate cupcakes. He licks the stick of frosting, then puts it back. We move to a table of paints. I paint a brown owl on his face.

At the toy table, he wets his pants. I change him right there while he stands and looks alert, impatient. His tiny white butt reminds me he is still a baby. I buy him a plastic fire engine.

We are on line at the bouncing castle. There is a crush of people, it makes him nervous. He pushes the boy behind him for standing too close.

“Apologize” I say.

And he does, but later he pushes the boy again, this time very gently.

A woman in a blue smock takes our ticket.

“You’re next” she says to him. He hides deep in my waist.

“Don’t you want to go?”

He says nothing and sits on the hot pavement. I take his hand and try to coax him up. He won’t budge. I pick him up in my arms. He screams. I drop him and he sits again. He is still screaming but no one will hear if I don’t meet their eye. I pick him up again. I hold him tight, and after awhile, I feel him relax.

 
 
Claudette Bakhtiar’s work has previously appeared in The Rumpus, Gigantic, The L Magazine, Time Out New York and Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood, and she has a piece forthcoming in the American Book Review. She holds a MFA in Fiction from Columbia University’s School of the Arts and received a NYFA Fellowship in Fiction in 2004.