Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Renewal: A Baby's Cry

I want to take time out right now from the Fairy story to reveal a Stewart Sternberg assignment. Part 4 of The Fairy will be posted either Thursday or Friday. Enjoy!


She killed her baby without realizing it. By the time she looked down, saw the pillow crushed over her infant's face, and lifted it off with a horrified shriek, little Becky was dead.

"No." She gasped.
"No, no, no."

She picked the baby up in her arms. She gave her mouth to mouth. The baby didn't so much as twitch or whimper. Little Becky was dead. Tears cascaded down Holly's face.

"No." Holly repeated. She placed her daughter's body back in the crib.

"Oh Jesus." She looked around the nursery as if seeing it for the first time. The walls capered with Looney Tunes characters. Here Bugs Bunny leaning against a mail box, chomping ona carrot. There Tasmanian Devil whirling, nothing visible but a foot here and a hand there, and his devilish eyes.

Holly didn't even remember walking in the nursery in the first place. Last she knew she had been sitting on the couch, watching Days of Our Lives, and crying for no God damn reason. So how the hell did she get up here without being aware of it?

Holly shuddered. Her right eye twitched. Her mouth opened, closed, opened, like a fish finding itself stranded on shore, struggling to breathe. A low moan escaped that fishy mouth. Her heart throbbed monotonously in her chest.

She turned away from her dead baby and left the nursery, eyes vacant, tears streamed her haggard face.

A few minutes later she sat on the living room couch, her husband's 12 gauge shotgun between her legs, muzzle pointed straight up at the ceiling. She wept.

Holly wept for her baby, the one she brought into this world, the same she had taken out. She wept for her husband, Rick. Oh what a good man he was. She wept for herself.

Normally St. Patrick's Day was a fun holiday. And with her being part Irish, she celebrated it full heartedly. This was the first time she ever hated the national holiday.

Holly lowered the barrel, and tilted the gun so the barrels' maw aimed at her head. She sighed, and opened her mouth.

When her teeth clacked against the steel barrel, she began to sob even harder. The taste of gun oil and cold metal filled her mouth. Her tongue quivered. Her eyes floated to the photograph on the wall just to the right of their newly bought plasma TV. Becky, fresh, and still flushed from birth. Her eyes were closed, mouth slightly agape. Her little red lips glistened. Oh God, she had been so beautiful.

Holly slipped off her slipper and brought her foot up to the shotguns' trigger guard, paused, and then slid her big toe through the trigger guard. Her eyes fixed on Becky there on the wall. Tears spilled down her cheeks in mini rivers. Then-

Just before her big toe moved to pull the trigger, a baby began to cry.

Holly froze, holding her breath. Could it be? Was Becky really alive?

Holly wasted no time, she removed the shotgun barrel from her mouth. Her toe slipped away from the trigger and she set her foot down on the coosh carpet. Heart thrumming wildly, she put the gun down on the couch and stood up.

The crying lifted in volume just then. Oh Jesus, please, she thought as she stumbled out of the living room and to the stairs. There she paused to listen. A smile lengthened on her tear-wet face, because the crying came from upstairs.

She scrambled up the stairs, sobbing with joy.

"I'm coming! I'm coming sweet heart!"

Holly tripped, stumbled down a few steps, got up and raced to the top/ She turned left and stopped. Listening, she knew exactly where the crying was coming from. The nursery. Holly sprinted to the doorway, hesitated, and then ran into the small room. She trotted over to the crib.

"Mommy's here, sweetie. Mommy's-"

Becky still lay as Holly had left her. Lifeless, and still purple, mouth gaping , as if still trying to suck in air. It was from there, that sweet tiny mouth, where the crying came from. Holly backed away, shaking her head.

"No." Oh God. Nooo!"

She backed away until her butt struck the changing table. Holly screamed. She screamed, screamed, her baby was dead, dead, dead, still crying but dead, screamed-

Hon? Hol? Hey!"

She snapped awake, screaming. She sat up.

"Whoa, whoa! Hey! Holly, Holly! Easy!"

Hands groped her, then drew her into a warm, familiar body. The screaming stopped and she glanced around, suddenly lost.

"Shshsh." It was just a nightmare." Her husband, Rick's, voice, soothing, loving.

"Wha-wh-"

"It's okay. you're all righ-"

"Becky! Becky! Oh God!"

Holly burst out of bed. Yes. She was in her bedroom now. It was dark..night. But how? It was around noon when-

"A dream! She cried as she raced down the hall.

From behind her-

"Holly? Quiet you'll-"

"It was a DREAM!" She declared to the gloomy hallway. Tears bulleted down her face, but she didn't care.

She burst into the nursery, flipped on the light. Almost instantly after, a baby began to cry. She stood, watching a small bundled figure as it squirmed. Holly went to the crib, and looked down at the writhing baby. It was Becky, her, Becky, alive; alive and screaming her pretty, sweet head off! What a beautiful baby.

A firm, but very gentle hand, swung her around. Rick stood, frowning, but his eyes revealed only concern, not anger.

"She's alive! She's all right!" Holly shouted over Becky's bawling.

Rick's eyes drifted to their baby in the crib and then back to her.

"Of course she is." He said. Then asked-

"What was your dream about?"

Holly turned to look at her daughter, still crying, and smiled.

"Nothing important." She said.

"What?"

"Nothing!" She shouted, giggling.

Holly went to her baby, and lifted her out of the crib.

-----

Rick stood back, dumbfounded. He watched her cradle Becky and wondered just what that dream had been about. Because Holly hadn't so much as looked at Becky, until tonight. The doctor said she's need a close watching, and time to really see her baby, to love her baby. Now, however...now she pulled out a breast from her nightgown for their baby girl to suck on. And so everything was just fine. Everything was renewed.

Postpartum's a bitch, he thought absently...yes it is.

The End

18 comments:

etain_lavena said...

My word, how intense, well written:)

Susan Miller said...

Great job, Lucas. This was a wonderful read. One I would consider a "page turner" without the pages. You did an incredible job maintaining the stress level, and I am so glad it turned out like it did.

Now back to the fairy.

Charles Gramlich said...

Good twist on this. The post-partum thing caught me by surprise, but after you can see that it was developed perfectly within the story.

Travis said...

Very intense, from the first words.

Interesting choice - to add the last from Rick about post-partum depression. The thought was in my head as Holly woke from the nightmare. But I do agree with Charles that you developed it beautifully.

I love the way you aborted the suicide attempt - it kept the suspense and deflected the suspicion that the reader is witness to a nightmare.

Very well done.

Lucas Pederson said...

Etain, thanks you!
Susan, Thanks and more thanks. Teh fairy is coming back, don't worry.
Charles, great! I was hoping folks wouldn't really guess what was going on, not up front anyway, until the end. Once they see the postpartum thing they go, Oh duh! it was there the entire time. Thanks for having a look.
Travis, I started wrting this with a thought about a mother killing her baby, then killing herself. She becomes a ghost and finds her baby. I opted for something better, I think. Thanks!

miller580 said...

I gotta say, that suicide scene was really good. The detail hit all senses all with great suspense. Nice job.

SQT said...

That was just so damn good! I suffered postpartum depression after my daughter and there was just something in this story that nailed the despair. And the renewal part was wonderful. There is a moment when depression kind of lifts its veil, it is possible, and to me this story evokes that. Wonderful! I can't say enough.

Donnetta Lee said...

I enjoyed this. Lotsa emotion. I wrote one some time ago with a similar echo. Go over to my blog and read "The Bird." I hope you enjoy it. You'll have to scroll down as it was several previous stories down. Good job. Donnetta

DonkeyBlog said...

What an opening paragraph! Nothing like a massive hook to get you in. And Gawd, how audible and visceral was the line, “When her teeth clacked against the steel barrel, she began to sob even harder”? Fantastic stuff.

I’ll admit that I was initially let down when I thought the story was going to be a “it was just a dream” scenario, and then I was very pleasantly blown away with the revealing of the renewal. Very, very clever and sophisticated – I really do feel renewed after that. Well done, and thanks.

gugon said...

Lucas:

Wow. This was an excellent little story. The tension is maintained throughout.

I really loved the little details, like her heightened perception of the nursery: "The walls capered with Looney Tunes characters." Great line. This is something that struck me as I was reading it: "Here Bugs Bunny leaning against a mail box, chomping on a carrot as if to say, 'What's up Doc?'" Seems like it would fit with the moment - you can take it or leave it.

I had a feeling it was post partum with the line about her crying on the couch for no Goddamn reason. I did NOT suspect it was a dream until the part when the dead baby kept crying - what a great, chilling concept.

Personally, I think that last bit from the husband's perspective is unnecessary and it even diminishes the impact of the story somewhat. I especially didn't like the line, "post partum's a bitch". It sort of trivializes everything that came before. I really think you should lose that line.

Otherwise, very good, intense little story.

Lucas Pederson said...

Miller, thanks. I tried, though I had little time to really push the story as much as I had liked.
SQT, I'm glad you made it through the depression. My wife never had post partum with either of our children, although she was very moody. I guess that's normal though. Thanks for reading my little story!
Donnetta, thanks. I'll be stopping by your blog to check out that story. Sounds interesting. Nice to see you here.
Donkey, many thanks! Glad to see you here! When I wrote this story it was Tuesday, I had already worked two consecutive twelve hour shifts at the shop and I was very very tired...so I'm shocked by how much everyone seems to like it. I'm blown away!
Gugon, thanks as well. That's a great line with Bugs, like I mentioned to Donkey, I was very tired and so a lot of the story wasn't so much edited or planned as it was an out pouring. Kind of wierd, but it worked out okay I guess. I actually wanted to leave that last line out, I debated, debated, cursed, and finally just said to hell with it, and left it where it was. But in a sense I think it pulls everyhting together. I don't know.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I liked this. I wrote on Travis' blog that I think people should always strive for economy. Now let me add, people should also work on rhythm..pacing. I think this story succeeds in that area. I liked this enormously.

I loved the last line...LOVED IT. And when you play with the mother child relationship, you immediately get people twitching. Some taboos make people shift quickly from one buttock to the other. I did.

I also liked the renewal theme. Again...well done.

Lucas Pederson said...

Thanks Stewart! I enjoyed working with the subject of renewal. It has such broad wings and so many ways to show it. I'm really glad you liked this story. Yeah. I wanted to make the reader squirm a little, espeacially with the the opening scene when the mother kills her own baby.
Perhaps I should wait until I'm half awake to write stories, as I had been while in the throus of this one. The lack of sleep must make me a better writer...wierd.
Thanks Stewart for the opprotunity to write this story! It was fun.
And thnaks to everyone who gave it a chance, you all mean a lot to me. Thank you.

Christina said...

This is unnerving. The whole, "Mommy's here," thing gave me chills. Good work.

Lori Witzel said...

I'm with Gugon -- the dead baby keeping on crying was just scarin' me!

Dang.

Glad there was a happy renewal ending, or else I would have had trouble sleeping later.

Lucas Pederson said...

Christina and Lori, thanks!
Christina, my job is done.
Lori, again, my job is done. With all the sad and scary stuff in the story, I had to have it all come out good in the end. Otherwise, I, might not sleep well at night. Thanks for visiting!

Kate S said...

Wow - great job.

Lucas Pederson said...

Kate, thanks! Good to see you here!