Flipper loosely gripped the book in both hands. He moved his thumb and fingers back and forth causing the book to flip up and down. It was his trademark activity – where he got his nickname. It was a habit, probably a compulsion. He paced as he flipped, which meant he was deep in thought.
He was in his cousin Emma’s upstairs bedroom with their best friend Josh. The three fifth graders had been playing video games but Emma’s mom told them to find something to do that didn’t involve a screen. This meant, of course, they were now bored.
Josh jumped up from the floor. “I know! Let’s slide down the stairs.”
Two minutes later they were in the hallway looking down the steep staircase, almost drooling. Emma sat in a clear tote waiting to be launched.
Flipper was worried Emma might get hurt. “How is she going to stop?”
“She’ll stop at the bottom.” Josh stated like the answer was obvious.
“But what if she crashes?”
Flipper’s question caused them to pause, each pondering the revealed risk that had previously escaped them.
They lined the walls with pillows and padded the bottom of the stairway with cushions and blankets. Flipper insisted on going first to make sure it was safe. He wore Emma’s bike helmet, had on a pair of goggles instead of his normal black-rimmed eyeglasses, and was tightly secured in the tote he was sharing with three blankets.
Emma peered from the bottom of the stairway holding her IPad just below eye level, recording this historic feat.
“Are you ready?” Josh asked.
Flipper leaned forward. He stuck his left arm, his dominant, in the air giving Josh a thumb’s up, then laid his arms on the sides of the tote.
“One, two, three.” At three Josh pushed Flipper over the edge.
The next day Flipper would agree that sliding down the stairs in a tote was a bad idea, but for the first eight steps he was having as much fun as he did when he played video games. Unfortunately, the staircase consisted of thirteen steps.
On the ninth step the front of the tote caught and sent Flipper and the tote tumbling. It turned out the bike helmet was a good idea. Another good idea would have been arm pads. Flipper instinctively reached out to break his fall. It would be only seconds before he realized that was a terrible idea.
Flipper lay at the bottom of the stairs trying not to cry. The pain in his left arm and the large lump near his wrist made that extremely difficult.
Five hours later Flipper woke up in the hospital bed, his arm in a cast. The first face he saw was his mom.
She smiled and gently brushed his hair back from his forehead. “The surgery went well. You have to wear a cast for a few weeks but your arm is going to heal just fine.”
Flipper’s dad, his Aunt Lavon, Emma, and Josh were also in his hospital room.
“Did you get it recorded?” Flipper muttered.
Emma nodded her head but didn’t speak.
“It was great!” Josh exclaimed. “It might have won money on America’s Funniest Videos.”
“What do you mean ‘may have’?” Flipper asked.
Aunt Lavon put her arm around her daughter. “Emma erased the video. It was disturbing to watch.” A tear fell from her eye. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know what you were doing. I would have stopped you…”
Flipper’s dad cleared his throat. “Lavon, remember two years ago when Emma fell and broke her arm while I was watching them at the park?”
Lavon nodded her head.
Dennis smiled. “Well, I guess now we’re even.”