A man hears a loud ka-thunk on his porch. He arms himself with a butcher
knife, tiptoes down the hall, and opens his front door. Hee yah! screams
at the hard vacant air. The night is a dark jar of hungry mosquitoes. He slaps
himself on the neck, then notices a large Moses basket on the welcome mat. It
is filled with an anonymous baby sporting a thick gold curl on top of its head.
Hello, baby, says, the man, what is your name? But the baby
is a mean son of a bitch and gives the man the old silent treatment. Because
he is a well-mannered
Christian who never leaves home without kissing the headshot of Jesus perched
on the mantel, the man finds it in his heart to give the cruel and quiet baby
a chance. OK, baby. I’m going to take you into my house. For the next
eighteen years, I will raise you. Feed you, bring you up as my own. I will
work hard for
you, baby. Until my hair turns to chalk. Until the palms of my hands grow tiny
steeples of tough skin. The child blinks at the man and shits its little baby
Seventeen years go by. On the day before its eighteenth birthday the baby packs
a suitcase and sets it by the door. The man, feeble in his old age, watches from
his wheelchair and lets out a deep, dusty sigh: I suppose you are leaving
now. The baby crawls over to the wheelchair. Promise you will write? pleads
old man, a wet pearl rolling from his eye. The baby continues its eighteen-year-long
silent treatment. The old man frowns and nods knowingly. The next morning, the
baby is gone, off to gather its own glittering triumphs and exceptional grief.
The old man surveys his newly emptied home: the tattered sofa, covered in bed
sheets. Faded Jesus in his crumbling frame. The canary, sunny side up in its
The man spends the final years of his life wheeling from room to room. Hello?
Anybody in here? He pulls his chair up to the wall and eats his meals
alongside the filthy scuttle of mice. When he dreams, he dreams of discovering
a new door and behind it, a grateful daughter huddled over a school book, or an obedient
wife, bent over, shaving her legs in the sink. He dreams of the baby, far away
in a tank, blowing up insurgents. Medals of valor pinned to its diaper, a “dad” tattoo
on its chubby & god-like arm.
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