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From the Top of the Stairs (standard:drama, 2361 words)
Author: SafiyahAdded: Jun 19 2003Views/Reads: 2109/1315Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
A disabled boy watches his family fall apart.

From the Top of the Stairs 


He painted lines. Just lines. Side-by-side. Parallel. Thin or fat, short
or long, but always perfectly straight. 

Many people analyzed them. Doctors, nurses, behaviorists, therapists.
Sometimes, even Caroline, when she visited from Atlanta. The lines 
would end abruptly about halfway across the page onto open space. There 
would be an indication of downward motion at the end of the 
side-by-side lines, perhaps a few wavy marks, or even a bold arrow 
pointing down. Sometimes there was a splash of color on the straight 
brown lines and the white open space. The color was always crimson. 
Bright. Startling. 

He was twenty-one now. An adult. Nobody knew if he felt like an adult.
Nobody knew if he thought like an adult. Nobody knew if he missed his 
mother. Nobody knew what things filled his mind when he laid down in 
his room on the fourth floor of Ocean View group home. Nobody but him. 

Everyday he got up, ate his oatmeal, dressed in his Dockers and his
white button down shirt, slipped on his loafers, and painted brown 
lines on white paper. His onlooker's opinions varied of course, but 
most agreed that they were interesting. They would clap a friendly hand 
on his shoulder and talk to him in their very best institution voices. 

"Marvelous Eddie.” Dr. Santiago might say.  “Painting the stairs again I
see. Can you paint a picture of Caroline for me tomorrow?" 

"Eddie? Why don't you paint something besides stairs? Just look at the
garden. The flowers are so pretty today." Nurse Lowden might say as she 
swept by with her med cart. 

Even Orson, the huge black orderly that worked the fourth floor, gently
tried to persuade Eddie to broaden his horizons. "Eddie, my man. I saw 
Miss Delores looking at you today. Maybe you should paint a nice 
picture for her. I hear she likes butterflies and dolphins" Then he 
laughed with his loud booming voice before moving on to the coffee 

Eddie never answered. He kept his head down and looked only at the paper
in front of him as his hands maneuvered the brush. Always with short, 
precise strokes, his body tense and his blue eyes fiercely 
concentrating. After painting for a long time, his movements became 
erratic, wild, and undisciplined, but his lines remained straight. 
High-pitched whimpers would sound from his chest and every five minutes 
or so, he would shake his head from side to side, rock from front to 
back, visibly calm himself, and then resume his strokes. Orson came 
immediately to gently remove the paintbrush from his cramped fingers, 
and lead Eddie, unresisting, to his room. 

People often asked Eddie why he painted what he painted. Eddie could not
answer them, but if he could, he would tell them he painted what he saw 
from the top of the stairs at his home in Washington, Georgia. 


He saw many things from the top of the stairs. There was an empty space,
virtually hidden from view, between the end of the stair landing and 
the first bedroom on the right. Eddie's room. He fit in the space 
perfectly and that was his place. 

The top of the stairs looked down onto cool, white open space, the
parlor, and the front door. It was very nice. 

Mama met the other children there each day when they came home from
school. Eddie could not go to school. He stayed in his place at the top 
of the stairs and watched her shower them with kisses, and take their 
lunchboxes as they chattered about their day. He would think about 
bedtime, when Mama bathed him. He made funny sounds in his throat when 
she sang to him. She put him in his bed, covered him up, and talked to 

”Eddie, my little angel. One day you're going to open your mouth and the

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