By Karen Charlton
I can hear Ruben stirring – strike that – crying from his room. Either that or a small wolf cub has entered our house, and its howls and yelps are threatening to wake the three remaining family members that are still in their beds. I’m sitting in my office with a Word document open, cursing my walk up the stairs. Had I stood on the creaky step? What part of my stealth stair climb had lifted him from sleep?
I go downstairs to heat the milk, navigating our creaky weatherboard in the dark, flicking the light, avoiding the cat who has now woken too. Back upstairs now, I climb over the timber bed rail and under the covers with Ruben, as he drinks his morning bottle. He’s going through a stage now of asking for bottles often, whenever the mood takes him. We are more likely to oblige if we are close to sleep, at the beginning or end of the day, even though we know it is more out of habit than of need.
I change his nappy, he finishes the bottle and hands it to me. He is still held by a morning sleepiness, and I have every intention of walking back to my study and getting back to work. From the darkness his chubby finger leaps out to form a definite point in front of my face, pointing out his Thomas night light; the wolf cub’s ears have pricked up. This may well mean my morning work period is over. I attempt to make a quiet exit several times, each time he vocalises his displease at this arrangement by threatening to cry. It becomes comical; me, closing the door almost completely, he creaking as the door approaches full closure. We are a comedy duo, and he is the sound effect man.
After four attempts, I close the door slowly and silently and slip back to my office. By now the eco-friendly bulb has heated up and I begin work: writing.