Saturday, May 7, 2011

Baby Teeth: A Blood Calling Novelette - An Excerpt

This is the night I’ll finally kill my baby.
I have to. I’ve been alive a long time. A lot longer than I should have been. The baby has something to do with that, I think. My mind has been sharp for decades more than anyone else’s I know. And my body more firm, more flexible. More reliable.
A surprising number of people make it past the century mark. But it’s a smaller number that make it to my age, and still live in their own homes. Alone.
Well. Alone except for the baby.
I’m listening now. The baby is consistent. The sun sets, night falls, and I hear movement in the baby’s room. But it takes a while for the baby to pull itself out of the crib. So I listen for the thump.
The thump, which always is followed by the THUMPTHUMP THUMPTHUMP THUMPTHUMP of the baby coming down the hallway.
The baby will come. The baby will feed. Just like always.
And just like always, I will cry, and rock the baby, and coo to it. Because it is, after all, my baby.
My dead baby.
Things were different when my baby was born. Today, dads stand by their wives, encourage them to breathe, and give them ice chips. At least, that’s what I read.
In my day, we sat in a waiting room. Maybe we smoked, or played cards, or paced, or talked to the other dads. Some of us were nervous, a few were old pros, and there always was a crier.
Why is that, you ask? Roots. I had none.
It became a cliché when movies were introduced, the baby left on the doorstep of the orphanage. But that was my story. In my 90s, I tried to retrieve the papers that might have told me anything of my youth, only to discover that the building that housed them burned down decades ago.
Today, of course, everything is in fireproof safes, copied in triplicate, and often in electronic form so if you want ten or twenty or a hundred copies, you can have them in minutes.
But that’s not how things were at my first turning of the century.
So I lived in an orphanage, and got a job selling papers on the corner, and managed to get through high school even though that wasn’t something people expected back then. And I worked my way through college, too, which was rare.
Got my first job, as an accountant.
There were a lot of pretty girls at the firm. I dated a few, married one. We were happy, until the night she was murdered.
At least, that’s what I spent months trying to prove. But it’s nearly impossible to convince anyone your wife was murdered when you’re behind bars yourself.
I digress. I was talking about the waiting room. And my roots.
Both of my wife’s parents were alive, and they seemed to approve of me. Though our courtship was whirlwind, and our pregnancy quick, no one ever questioned whether we had raced to the altar to cover up an indiscretion, which was as common then as it is now.
The thing is, they weren’t my family, if you get what I mean. Divorce is nothing new – you find rules about it in the Old Testament – and when families break up for whatever reason, the in-laws don’t cry and moan and wail for their lost kid. They move on.
But your blood is your blood. Don’t I know it?
There was no such thing as an intercom system when my wife was wheeled off in the dead of night to bring our baby into the world.
So I sat, and I cried, and I waited. And waited. And waited.
Like I said, it was a different time.
I listened to the hallway as tears slid down my face. I tried to keep from sniffling, just so I could hear the doctor or the nurse or the receptionist or whoever it was going to be as they padded down the hall to tell me that my baby was born.
I never got to hear that. Instead, I heard screaming.
I don’t consider myself a man of action. Growing up, I gave copious thought to how I was going to live my life. The schooling I would get, the job I would take. And while the meeting, marrying, and impregnating of the woman I loved might seem quick to you, in the world where people meet and marry in a week in Vegas, well… that’s all I have to say about that.
But when the screams pierced my eardrums, I stood and ran down the hallway.
I’m still not certain what happened over those next three minutes. Even when I went over the story with my lawyer, again and again and again, he constantly caught me moving events back and forth a few seconds. So I hope the universe will forgive me if my brain tells this story wrong.
The first thing I saw was a nurse, standing outside the doorway, hands clasped over her mouth. She was screaming, though the sound was muffled by her fists. I ran to her, and pushed her to the side so I could see in the doorway.
I’d like to say that I did it gently and kindly. But her cracked elbow said otherwise in court.
Inside the room was my wife, lying on the bed, unconscious, surrounded by pools of deep red. The doctor stood over her for a moment, his back to me. And then he leaned over and sunk his teeth into her neck.
My lawyer and the opposing lawyer both asked me later: Did I see my baby anywhere?
This is another area where events become confused for me. At first, I could have sworn I never saw the baby. Then I remembered I had seen it on the floor, lying in a crimson puddle. Then I remembered that was on its back, off to the side, away from the table. Like someone or something had carelessly tossed it there, as if it was so much trash.
Is any of that true? Of all the people who were there, I am the only one alive to tell the story, and I say it was. Perhaps if my baby could speak, it would tell a different story.
Or perhaps I should say if it could speak well.
I felt my body tense up, as though I had developed lockjaw in every limb. And yet, I pushed one muscle against another and sprang forward. I grabbed the doctor, yanked him off my wife, and flung him to the floor.
If the doctor’s coat had even a patch of white remaining on it, I couldn’t see it. The coat was rose-colored and slick, as was his face. His eyes were human, but with an animal gaze.
He recovered instantly from his fall to the floor, springing up like the men you see in martial arts movies. I may be the only man alive who can’t watch two men Kung Fu fight without wanting to throw up.
I heard a soft gurgle behind me, which I realized later was my wife, trying to talk through the gaping wound in her throat. If she was saying something to me, whether it was “Love you,” or, “Kill him,” I never will know.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a wooden chair, and my still-tense muscles creaked as I grabbed and lifted it.
According to my lawyer, the chair weighed nearly 30 pounds. The weight made no impression on me.
The doctor sprung at me, faster than my eyes could register, but slower than my instincts could deal with. I slammed the chair into him with so much force, he flew across the room into the wall, and the chair shattered like a balsa-wood plane crushed under the heel of an angry ten-year-old.
The wall cracked. The “doctor” kept moving.
Though the chair was in pieces, my hands still gripped the back of it, the splintered ends pointing at the thing that had torn out my wife’s throat.
What happened next isn’t a fluid memory. It’s like a series of pictures. Maybe it all happened so fast, that snapshots were all my brain ever was able to process.
I saw the thing move. I saw my arms move. I saw the “doctor” impaled on the sharp, broken wood. I saw the thing fall. I heard a scream. It was my own.
The doctor fell to the ground. Thrashing, but not screaming. His features shifted, slightly. Became less animal. More human.
My limbs unlocked. I fell to the ground. It was only later that I realized the thing I had killed wasn’t lying flat.
It was on top of my baby, oozing life liquids.
I closed my eyes.
When I woke up, there were policemen all over the hospital. Different stories flying through the air.
Today, of course, they read you that Miranda thing, and then you ask for your lawyer. But as I’ve said, things were different then.
There’s an old saying, that there are three sides to every story: Yours, mine, and the truth.
Things don’t work that way when there is a cadre of eyewitnesses. Based on what they got from the nurse with the broken elbow and the handful of dads-to-be that got to the door behind me, this is what they pieced together:
It seems my wife was having a very normal, uncomplicated labor, which was more than the nurse could say for the rest of the hospital. Of the nine women giving birth that night, six of them were having complications, including a too-early delivery to a breech birth. On top of all those complications, the second doctor on duty and one of the nurses hadn’t shown up for work.
It was later revealed in court that the two of them were having an affair, and had overslept in a cheap hotel when the alarm clock had failed to rouse them. It ruined both of their marriages to other people, but allowed the illicit couple to finally marry each other, something they had always dreamed of.
When they told this story on the witness stand, it was all I could do not to wish them both cancerous tumors.
The nurse returned to the delivery room, where she saw that my wife had, in her words, “hemorrhaged.” Something had gone wrong with the delivery. That was why she screamed.
The rest of the “official” story, the one they tried to make stick in court, went like this:
The baby had been stillborn. My wife had hemorrhaged. The doctor tried to save her. The nurse screamed. I shoved the nurse to the side, raced into the room, and the sight of my dead baby and dying wife drove me right to the brink of madness. So I killed the doctor in a rage.
As for my wife’s torn throat, well, with blood everywhere, it was impossible to tell whose was whose. They figured I did it with some portion of the broken chair.
The hole in her neck was so ragged, I could see how they would miss the teeth marks. Especially if they didn’t want to believe they were there.

You can continue the story by picking up a copy of Baby Teeth: A Blood Calling Novelette:

Kindle version

nook version

At Smashwords

And if you have an iPad, Smart Phone, PC or Mac, you can read the story by downloading on of the following apps:

Kindle Apps

No comments:

Post a Comment