He beelines for the place where the hose was dripping and swishes his hand through the muddy water before slowly, contemplatively bringing his fingers to his mouth. Shooed from his dirt-eating, he scampers across the yard and before I can blink he’s reaching for a dog turd, his tiny brow furrowed in concentration.

We dress him in toddler-sized swim trunks and he joyously climbs the tiny built-in slide in the plastic play pool before his feet shoot out from under him and his body somehow goes completely horizontal in midair and he bangs his head with a sickening crash and there are screams and tears and cuddles and two seconds later, he’s climbing that fucking slide again.

No, Dylan, I say as he tries to escape with his father’s computer mouse. “WAHHHH!” he responds, and runs at top speed to the bookshelf and begins pulling books off the shelves, one after another. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.

He creeps along the patio after a trundling black ant and carefully reaches out a pudgy index finger and accidentally smooshes it. He stares, nearly cross-eyed, and his finger is almost on his tongue when I swoop in. I reposition him and he howls with fury and locks his eyes on mine and reaches down and with vengeful, deliberate motions he quickly stuffs a passing tumbleweed of dog hair IN HIS MOUTH.

I’m bent over the dishwasher collecting forks and spoons when SMACK! something slaps me directly across the ass. I turn, and he’s standing there with a mile-wide grin, laughing so hard he’s swaying back and forth. In his hands is a large plastic spatula.

There is a long silence and even though I know better I revel in it a bit and when I finally go to look for him, I find him shoulder-deep in the toilet bowl. He’s so startled when I burst through the door he falls backwards onto his butt, then sits there smiling at me and starts chomping on his toilet-water-soaked fingers.

He falls off the front steps. The back porch. The raised portion of our backyard garden bed. A chair. Another chair. The wooden steps at the cabin in Oregon. The curb of the driveway. The sofa.

I catch him. I don’t. I let him fall. I run to save him at top speed. I absorb the impact of his skull heading earthward with the top of my foot. I watch him, wincing. I watch him, clapping.

He grunts his way onto the couch, then gets himself turned around, spreads his arms and sort of half-jumps, half-falls off, but not before saying, “De inny! An bee!” I goggle open mouthed as I realize he’s imitating his Buzz Lightyear-loving brother: to infinity, and beyond.

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