Baby ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
(Published in the literary journal, Streetcake, Issue 43.)
Louise was gone for three days. When she returned home, she was carrying a bundle in the crook of her arm.
“Where have you been all this time?” Theodore asked. “I was about to call the police.”
“Oh, you silly man!” Louise said. “Where do you think I’ve been? I’ve been giving birth to your son.”
She lifted the corner of the blanket to show him the baby’s face.
“This one has blue eyes,” Theodore said.
“He has your eyes.”
“My eyes are brown.”
“I’m going to name him Nathaniel,” she said. “After Hawthorne.”
“Name him whatever you want.”
“If I give him the name of a great writer, he might turn out to be a great writer himself.”
“You like that name?”
“It’s as good as any other, I suppose.”
She laid the baby down gently on the couch and took off her coat and laughed.
“Believe me,” she said. “It’s not easy carrying a newborn baby home on the uptown bus. I had to stand up the whole way, holding the baby in one hand and trying to keep from falling with the other. You’d think a gentleman might have given me his seat, but nobody even noticed me.”
“I could have come down and met you.”
“Oh, that’s all right,” she said. “I managed perfectly fine. And, anyway, I wanted to surprise you. What do you think of our new son?”
“He’s, uh…I can’t seem to find the words. I’m speechless.”
“I know! It’s a shock, isn’t it? Seeing him for the first time?”
“Especially since I didn’t know he was expected.”
“But that makes it that much more fun, doesn’t it?”
“If you say so.”
“Now, don’t you be an old grump puss! I’m going to need lots of help from you with this baby. Feeding him, changing his diapers, bathing him, and all the rest of it.”
“I don’t think that baby is going to be any trouble at all,” he said.
“No, of course not! He’s such a good baby! I can tell already, as young as he is.”
Theodore played piano in a jazz combo in a bar, so he had to leave to go to work. “Don’t wait up for me,” he said.
“Have a good time,” she said, “and don’t worry about me. The baby and I will be here when you get back.”
With Theodore gone, Louise was glad to have some time alone with the baby. She carried him into every room in the apartment, talking to him all the while, even though she knew he didn’t understand a word she said. She fed him, bathed him, and put him to bed in the crib at the foot of her own bed.
She slept until one o’clock, at which time she got up and fed him again. After she put him back in his crib and got back into bed, she had trouble going back to sleep. She kept thinking about how Theodore didn’t seem very happy about the baby. Well, men, she thought. You can’t ever tell what they’re thinking or how they really feel. They keep it all bottled up inside.
At two o’clock she still hadn’t gone back to sleep. She got up and checked on the baby and when she saw he was sleeping peacefully she knew the problem wasn’t with the baby but with her. She was lonely and sad. She picked up the sleeping baby and put him in the bed beside her. After that she was able to go to sleep.
Theodore came home about three-thirty. He undressed quietly and got into bed and after a couple of minutes Louise began to cry.
“What’s the matter?” he asked.
“I’m not going to have any more children,” she said.
“I don’t think you love them.”
“Could we postpone this conversation to another time? I’m very tired.”
“Take Nathaniel and put him with the others. They need to get acquainted.”
“I just got into bed. Can’t you do it?”
“You’re the father.”
He sighed and got out of bed again without turning on the light. He picked Nathaniel up by the neck and carried him out of the room and down the hallway to another room. In this room was a bed with six lifelike plastic dolls lying side by side, all exactly like Nathaniel. He added Nathaniel to the collection and went back to bed.
“Better now?” he asked Louise.
“And this is going to be the last one?”
“Yes, I think so. Seven is my lucky number.”
Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp