The Littlest Nihilist

The littlest boy came running with a head full of steam. A red-haired teenage cousin caught him, picked him up, and carried him around like he was her baby. “Boo hoo!” she said, while bouncing him on her lean hips, tickling and kissing him, loving and holding him up, owning him with all her girlish might. No child ever born was as beautiful.

But he had a motor of his own and he wriggled free, and slid down the girl’s narrow hips to the ground, and made a surprise beeline for his mother’s lap. He leapt up and in.

“My baby!”

Hers and no one else’s. What a beautiful one – to come to her in all the tumult and agitation, and show the other women how much he loved his mama. He sat quietly and listened to the women talk while she dandled him gently on her thighs.

Then he was off again.

A middle-aged woman who had never had children opened her arms like a funnel to catch him but he dodged her. No one, not even he, knew what drew him where. And he would remember none of this.