The coffee had just changed from the drip to the steady stream in the pot. He contemplated just sticking his face in position to shoot it straight down his throat, but he didn’t think he could fit his head and even if he could, he’d singe (at least) the back of his hair.

Bugs Bunny noises followed by giggles made it into the kitchen. He was proud somehow that the munchkins liked old cartoons. He liked the style of them. ‘Course, he made sure to have serious conversations about racist ones, but when they were good, they were really good.

The pot was near high enough to pour a cup, but his sister’d kill him if he took the strongest cup and left her with some flavored water. He was about to say fuck it (internally, since the kids were up) when the rapping on the side door finally hooked into his consciousness. No one was supposed to be coming this early.

His sister trolled in and growled at him if he was gonna get that or not. Yeah, yeah. He heard her pour the first cup as he opened door. His oldest baby girl, standing on the concrete square by the side door, burst into tears as soon as she saw her daddy. He picked her up and ran back to kitchen, setting her next to sink before his brain processed her mangled right hand, pumping blood down her arm and leaving a red trail behind them.

Her aunt was yelling what happened and then whispering in her ear to distract her, calm her down. She passed him the kitchen towel and had the girl look to the left where she was making funny faces. He can’t open her hand without her screaming, so he pressed and wrapped the towel tight around the whole hand, like some fucked up Mickey Mouse glove. Her blood is seeping through already.

He ordered his sister to get the car started and get the other kids. His daughter was clinging, one handed to him, and he protect-hugged her the best he can. It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay. Daddy’ll take care of it. I know, baby, I know.

Magically his sister had the other kids strapped into their seats, each with a bag of Cheerios. She jumped into the driver’s seat, and he just slid into shotgun, holding his baby and keeping the towel in place, hoping to distract her or comfort her or absorb all the pain.

They werew barely away from the house when traffic starts. SUVs and vans stuffing the street. By three miles from the hospital it is near stand-still. It was practically dawn on a Saturday. There shouldn’t be traffic. His sister started cussing. The kids in the back gasped and the one in his arms whimpered. He just let’s their aunt say what he is thinking. And it was a blue streak.

His sister was looking to change lanes or change directions. They inched toward an intersection, and as soon as there was enough space to slip through, the soccer mom car was racing down another street, screaming out at the speed. Another SUV turned in behind them, catching up, and as she made the next left, she saw another in the rearview mirror start down the street.

He screamed for her to stop, and she slammed the breaks. His body pulled his baby closer and twisted to keep her from slamming into the dash. The seatbelt at least did its job. He looked back to the other kids. Okay. Upset and starting to cry, but still strapped in.

They were in traffic again. A mom in a car up ahead jumped out with a bundle, blood stains on the towel wrapping her child, running toward the hospital.

“You should-”

He was already out of the car and running, losing his breath as he repeats that everything is going to be okay. It is going to be okay.

Other parents, other children with other injuries joined the running. The crowd was too big now. He changed his path away from the emergency room and spotted a doctor taking a smoke break at the picnic table on the lawn. When she sees him coming, she put out the cigarette and sanitized her hands. He could barely push out the word help, but she already has his baby. She looked at the hand and silently picked her up and headed back into the hospital, yelling for a nurse and a room and some gibberish of medical terms.

He holds his little girl’s other hand as they stitch up. His sister texted that she parked a few blocks away and everyone is okay, but he ignored the buzzing phone. A nurse poked his head in and asked how long; there are at least 50 other children, all needing stitches on their hands. This should bother him, but he only focuses on her little face. She is so brave.

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