Escape Artist

At three and a half, I decided it was time I lived with my dad and set out to make it happen as soon as possible. That he lived hours away in Denver didn’t deter me in the least. That I was watched both night and day made no difference at all. If anything, these obstacles made the adventure more exciting to contemplate. Go big or go bigger, but never back off. A metronome of a mantra that “served” me well up until it didn’t. Moments I usually missed until years later if at all.

Mom dropped us off at the sitter’s house each morning and picked us up each night when she was done making lawyers look exceptional for the day as a legal secretary. This system worked like a charm until I found a chink in the scheduling armor meant to keep me safe. As it turns out, that mostly meant “keep me safe” from myself. My sister and I were two of a half dozen kids watched by an old woman who kept one eye on a small television sitting on the kitchen counter and the other on the street outside the dining room window in an effort to pick up gossip-worthy happenings in the neighborhood outside. Thick curls of cigarette smoke did little to improve her field of view, leaving massive holes along the backside of the home for a mischievous youngster with way too many brain cells for his own good and no inherent sense of caution or restraint.

I could see the sitter puffing away from my prone position on the living room floor, head down and eyes wide open. A thin ribbon of light marked the bottom edge of the curtains hiding sliding glass doors that led to the backyard and freedom. The other children, safely in dreamland, lay scattered throughout the dark space like misshapen shadows. I wriggled backwards until I was free of my blanket’s warm embrace. A quick peek at the kitchen showed my movement went gone unnoticed. I crawled through the shadows near a credenza, butt down and mostly hidden by the other kids nearby.

Keeping a wary eye on our jailor, I slipped into the darkness beyond the living room before standing up and easing down the hallway. I grabbed my backpack where it hung on a hook near the front door. Reversing course, I made it back to my blanket undiscovered and tucked it inside the pack alongside two apples, a comic book and a flashlight for the journey in case it got dark before I found my dad. The sitter remained immersed in whatever game show ABC played in the early afternoon, so I slipped behind the curtain covering the sliding glass doors, clicked opened the lock and made my escape into the alley beyond the backyard fence.

My mom later told me the escape didn’t go unnoticed for very long. Within half an hour, the sitter had counted sleeping heads and found one missing. Two seconds after that, she was speaking with the 911 operator who quickly relayed that information to the Frisco police department. One of their officers found me on the east-bound ramp of I-70 heading toward Denver, my tiny thumb stuck out in hope of a ride. I was promptly delivered to the law offices where my frantic mom worked before being returned to the baby sitter’s house wait out the long afternoon with my fellow prisoners.

It would not be my last escape attempt.