Andrew Jackson dropped his newspaper to the floor beside his chair and sat for a moment staring out of the glass walls of the sunroom. Rain fell steadily outside and gusts of wind set the oak trees swaying in the backyard. A single yellowing leaf let go of its hold on a branch and was carried away quickly out of sight. “Noooooo!” Andrew imagined a tiny voice fading away in the distance.
“I wonder if leaves are horrified when they fall off of trees,” he said to Rose, who sat nearby, her attention focused on the tablet in her lap.
Rose did not respond immediately, clearly engrossed in whatever she was looking at. “Huh?” she said eventually, without looking up. “Did you say something? Were you talking to me?”
“Ah, not really,” said Andrew. “Just talking to myself.”
“Good,” said Rose. “Because I wasn’t listening.”
“I can tell,” said Andrew. He watched his wife for a moment. “What are you looking at?” he asked.
“A video,” said Rose.
“You don’t say!” said Andrew drily. “A video of what?” he added when it became clear that Rose wasn’t going to elaborate without prodding.
“A three-year-old kid climbing up the steps of a slide at the park, after his older sister,” said Rose.
“Sounds rivetting,” said Andrew.
“It is,” said Rose. She watched for a few seconds. “It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.”
Andrew gave her a doubtful look which she completely failed to see. “I get the feeling there is some important aspect of that video you are not sharing with me,” he said. “Either that or today is officially Hyperbole Day and someone forgot to tell me.”
“Oh, yes,” said Rose. “The kid in the video. He has no arms or legs.”
“So it’s not Hyperbole Day then?” said Andrew.
“Not that I’m aware,” said Rose.
“Good,” said Andrew. “My life would be totally ruined forever if it was.”
Rose chuckled but didn’t look up from her screen. “I see what you did there,” she said. “Funny.”
“If it wasn’t so far,” said Andrew, “I would be inclined to walk over there to where you are and see this video for myself. In my imagination I picture climbing steps when you have no arms or legs as being somewhat more difficult than otherwise.”
“A lot of things are more difficult when you have no arms or legs,” said Rose.
“True,” said Andrew. “Some things might even be impossible.”
“Some things,” said Rose. “Not climbing the steps to the slide when you’re three years old though. That’s not impossible.”
“In all fairness though,” said Andrew, “when you’re three years old you have a very limited understanding of what’s impossible and what isn’t. I’ll bet if you’re a three-year-old with no arms and legs, you do six impossible things before breakfast every day just because you have no idea they’re impossible.”
“This is ridiculous,” said Rose, her eyes still glued to the screen. “I don’t even know how to process what I’m watching here. I just turned on the tablet to see what our kids were up to on Facebook, and now all my assumptions about what is and isn’t possible are crumbling, courtesy of a cheerful, happy three-year-old who just wants to go down the slide.”
“The internet ruins my assumptions every day,” said Andrew. “And most of the time, not in a good way.”
“Oh my God! He made it!” Rose’s eyes widened. “I think I’m going to cry,” she said.
“The internet makes me cry every day,” said Andrew. “And most of the time, not in a good way.”
“Down he goes!” said Rose. “You should see the smile on this kid’s face!”
“I can see it on yours,” said Andrew.
Rose looked up from her tablet, at long last, and stared at her husband across the room. “I can’t even imagine,” she said.
“I know what you mean,” said Andrew. “People are amazing.”
There was a brief silence while Rose stared out of the window at the wind and rain.
“Is it bad,” she said eventually, “that after watching that amazing kid in that amazing video, I am overwhelmingly grateful that all of our kids and grandkids have all their arms and legs?”
“No,” said Andrew.
“If that kid from the video was ours we would still be totally grateful wouldn’t we?” said Rose.
“Totally,” said Andrew.
“We are very lucky though,” said Rose.
A leaf from one of the trees outside let go of its branch, flew through the air, and plastered itself against the rain-slicked window.
“Winter is coming,” said Andrew.
“Even yet still,” said Rose. “Very lucky indeed.”