I am halfway between the stairs and the island when I stop again. No dog jumped out the day of the groceries and no dog has stirred since I entered from the back. I haven’t heard any movement, in fact, I wasn’t sure if anyone was home. I can’t see the steps well so I reach my right hand out for the rail. The other reason the 1, 2, 3 heel game is effective is because you can’t drag your feet in unfamiliar territory. You never know what you’re going to pick up or stub your toe on and dragging feet makes more noise than heel toeing it. I hold my hands out and head for the stairs, aware of the knife. Aware of the knives. Heedful, I slow down to a bit of a crawl until my right front toe hits the first step. Any faster and I might make a noise. My left foot catches up and I wait again. Hearing the buzz, I hear something hidden underneath it: a grumble. No, not a grumble, a snore.
Stupid. You’re so stupid.
Right foot, 1, 2, 3 and right hand carefully find the rail. Left foot, 1, 2, 3, left fingertips carefully find the wall. This is my house. This is an industrial, provincial town. This is a working class row home designed for exhausted bodies and there was no originality in design or construction. They made them all the same. I was walking up the steps of my own house very slowly lined with knives and a flashlight and no fear of a cat or a dog running beneath me to trip me and no fear of recourse and no fear that anyone will match the dirt prints lining their halls with my second-hand combat boots. No, no fear in these ankles or elbows or suddenly dead still fingers and dead-pressed lips not saying even a prayer or a hum or a good superstitious word. Groomed. I’ve been groomed for this.  1, 2, 3, toes hit. We are going to tiptoe this steep one. We are going to be even slower than I thought possible when I am already slow like dead clocks.

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