Flash Fiction: What Isn't
Bella’s baby is wearing a striped terry cloth sleeper stained with something green. Green beans? Or maybe it’s spinach? Hard to tell. Bella’s baby lays belly down in his stroller and has powerful legs that he kicks out behind him, a frog swimming in water. Bella calls her baby’s legs his “hindquarters” as a joke. She thinks that this is funny, in the same way that people laugh after they tell a baby that it is delicious. You’re so delicious. I just want to gobble you up. Indeed, Bella’s baby’s legs are fat sausages, his complexion creamy like vanilla pudding, soft like a dumpling. Her puddin’ dumplin’with powerful hindquarters, that’s who this one is.
Bella likes this park best because the benches are spread out from each other and because there’s a nice sized playground and solid trees and a clean drinking fountain. Children come here, not teenagers who slink and slither and offer her booze, but real children: little girls in purple tights, boys with baseball caps and sweaty faces. Bella likes this bench best, too, because it is far from any of the trash receptacles, which usually stink like dog shit. The drinking fountain is behind Bella’s bench, and after glancing at her baby, Bella wanders over for a drink. The stream of water reminds Bella of ice and a Winter that is only four months away.
Bella is taking another drink when her baby begins to cry. She rushes back to her bench without wiping her mouth; some water dribbles down her chin and onto her blouse. She peers in the stroller to find her baby kicking his hindquarters and trying to lift his head. Her baby’s screams compete with the jug band shouts from the monkey bars and makes Bella’s head start to pound. She’s tired. She rarely sleeps well these days.
Bella watches the woman with the long fingers and unpolished nails reach into the stroller and pick up the baby, cradling his head in the ball of her hand. Bella wants to say to this woman, you’re dismissed, and tuck a couple of bucks into the woman’s pocket, but she can’t because she doesn’t have a couple of bucks. But this woman whispers to Bella’s baby, “Mama’s got you,” and Bella suddenly remembers that although this baby is hers, he isn’t. Just as this bench that she eases into and sleeps on is hers, but isn’t. Just as the fountain where she drinks and cools her face and washes her hands is hers, but isn’t.
This world is hers, but isn’t.
Bella can’t watch this woman hug this baby. Bella folds up the newspapers that she used as blankets the night before. She sits down and hugs her knees, instead of her baby, to her chest. She listens to children laugh in this home that is hers, but isn’t.
posted by Out Of Jersey | 3:39 PM