If she’d tied his laces properly, he wouldn’t have fallen. If she hadn’t been distracted by news of last night’s count, by thoughts of what she would do if they closed the nursery again, by running late for the third time that week, she’d have focussed on the task in hand, the immediate thing that mattered—securing a tight double knot on each little shoe. And then one of them wouldn’t have come loose, just as he spotted his new friend on the other side of the road and pulled his hand from hers.
If she’d tied his laces properly, he wouldn’t have fallen. She wouldn’t have had to watch in horrified slow motion as unfathomable laws of physics turned a loosening of leather into a surge of kinetic energy that tore up his right leg and propelled the top half of his body forwards. She wouldn’t have had to hear the heartrending thud as his head hit the curb, wouldn’t have had to see the blood pouring from his nose, his little arms hanging over double yellow lines.
If she’d tied his…
But she was an educated woman and knew about the butterfly effect. She knew that if she’d tied his laces properly it would have taken an extra few seconds, which would then have changed the course of the rest of the day in ways which could never be known. When they’d arrived at the nursery, his little friend might not have been on the opposite pavement, exerting that magnetic pull. Or the very act of paying due attention to the task might have led to some imperceptible shift in her psyche, bringing his safety and her love for him to the fore —she might have held his hand more tightly.
Nevertheless, as she lay in her bed that night—and as he lay safely in his—all she could think was that if she had tied his laces properly, he wouldn’t have fallen.
He would have gone straight under that Jeep.
All Rights. Gregory Heath.
Gregory Heath is widely published as a poet, short story writer, and novelist. His most recent novel is Thoughts of Maria (Open Books, 2013). Having taken a break from writing for a while, he is now focussing exclusively on short fiction and poetry. He has a website at gregoryheath.weebly.com.