Everyones in a hurry. Especially the men, who run for the trains and sacrifice their briefcases to the doors to keep them from closing. Men in the seats, reading their newspapers or their paperbacks. Ling is weary of these men. She wants to stick her pregnant belly into their noses. She looks at herself in the window. Shes wearing a herringbone maternity suit with a large red bow at her neck. She looks angry and fat, but festive.
* * *
Six weeks after giving birth, Ling goes back to work downtown. She pumps her breasts in the ladies room, sitting on the toilet. Co-workers come in to pee or brush their teeth and the pump squeaks and from the stall, Ling says sorry Im sorry.
* * *
Before dawn, she buckles the baby into the Escort and sticks a bottle in its mouth. She leaves the car seat at the babysitters for her husband, who collects the baby when he gets off work and drives the baby home in his Toyota. The baby listens to Bruce Springsteen in the Toyota and Moonlight Sonata in the Escort.
* * *
Ling hands the babysitter a half cup of frozen blue milk in a baggy. The babysitter shrugs. Ill mix it with her formula, she says. You have a run in your stocking.
* * *
Ling never sleeps and becomes ineffectual in her job. Shed quit, but they are sort of broke. Suddenly, she doesnt know what any of it means. What does it mean? She asks her co-workers. What are the codes? What are the procedures? She types a row of question marks, eats prodigiously from a bag on her desk. Sometimes she closes her eyes and dreams that the baby has been put back into her stomach. Only now, the baby is a monkey.
* * *
On weekends, she takes the baby for long strolls. Once theyd gone as far as three miles and the baby got hungry and Ling had forgotten to pack a bottle. She ran all the way back, bumping over cracks in the sidewalk while the baby screamed.
* * *
The husband arranges for a babysitter so they can go to a Christmas party. The party is a Vegas night and they gamble at tables and make small talk with the husbands co-workers and their spouses. At the craps table, Ling says to the older woman next to her, I have a three-month-old. I cant believe Im even here and the woman offers her a sip of her screwdriver.
* * *
Each working day at dusk, Ling runs into the house and kicks off her sneakers. She reaches up into her skirt and rolls down the band of her panty hose and takes the baby from her husbands lap. She lies on her back, holding the baby overhead and flies the baby back and forth in her upstretched arms. She sings:
flying all over the world
looking for toys and candy
and the baby smiles and the husband laughs. And the babys cheeks droop like water balloons. And the baby drops drool on Lings forehead.
Baby, Baby was written as a series of linked micros, with a mosaic structure. Its one of my favorite ways to tell a story, in short, quick bursts of imagery and episode. The micros could be arranged any way at all and I did shift them around some until it told the story I wanted it to. I think simply rearranging these micros would leave the reader with a different feeling. Originally, the last segment was Ling in the bathroom stall and the last words of the story were sorry Im sorry and that, I think, creates a much sadder arc. I like the freedom of telling a story in a non-traditional way. And this type of writing is as true to how my mind actually works as anything.