CROSSING THE LINE • by Avis Hickman-Gibb

The sun hung low on the horizon, and the golden rays ruffled the white-blond hair of the little boy. He sat on the floor of the balcony outside the hotel room playing contentedly with his stacking cups — build them in a tower, knock them down, put them inside one another, crash! — empty them on the floor and rebuild the tower… the game was apparently endless. His father, close by, was on duty.

Suddenly, one cup rolled across the floor and slipped between the safety bars to tumble and bounce into the courtyard below. It made a surprisingly loud connection with the ground — more than enough to deflect the toddler’s attention. Curious, he pressed his face against the bars of the balcony, peering down as best he could to locate the missing cup. It was a long way down to the ground.

“Jack, no!” his father said.

Jack looked thoughtfully back at authority. Then his little hand snuck towards one cup, then another, and he began stacking them inside one another again. He glanced at the bars of the balcony again — speculatively.

“Jack, no! Don’t!” his father warned again.

Jack looked innocently at his father and continued his stacking–but a little faster now; he had a purpose in mind.

“Jack — don’t throw the cups over the rails. No!” His father imposed the explicit rule; he had guessed that purpose.

Jack finished his work, and had a neat set of stacked cups; the biggest on the outside, moving down in size to the tiniest in the centre. There was one missing — of course. He pressed his face against the rails of the balcony looking down for his lost cup, then he looked speculatively at the cups in his hand, and then at his father. This three-way glance was repeated several more times. Courtyard — cups — daddy. His dilemma was clear — should he risk it? Was it worth it? How much fun would it be? He hovered longingly, with obvious intent writ large upon his mischievous face.

Then the impulse overcame him! What the hell! Devilment had its way — and over the rails went the cups!

The cups bounced and popped up and down, satisfactorily clattering around the courtyard. Gleefully, Jack chattered his pleasure and executed a triumphant victory stomp — while peering down to see where they all had landed. His father found it difficult to chastise him, he was laughing so hard.

We never did find the smallest cup — it rolled out of sight, lost — the price of crossing the line.

The first time of many.

Avis Hickman-Gibb is a new writer.   She lives in a small market town in deepest Suffolk, England with one husband, a son and two cats.   She is the only female in the house.   This makes her feel very special.

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