“Well, I don’t know about that.” Anna said, placing the scissors down upon the table with a click. Licking her thumb, she began to shuffle through the clippings.“Look,” Muttered Jeff, tinkering minutely with a tiny wooden model. “Terry’s already nine. By the time he’s graduated college, we’ll be edging towards our seventies. Do you really….”
“It’s just that,” Anna interrupted, standing abruptly and sweeping her coupons into a paper bag. “Well, we always planned on having more kids. And wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a girl? Remember what…”
“Do you really,” reiterated her husband. “Think we’d be capable of raising another child? Terry might be all right, but by the time a baby could grow up we’d be far beyond parenting age. You’re supposed to sit back and relax in your old age, not support your second child through college!” He emphasized this last with a pointed glance from beneath craggy eyebrows.
“Right.” Anna pushed her bag aside with one slipper. Walking to the stove, she cracked the door to a wave of heat and odor. Backing away a step, she reached to pull her mitts down from the enameled blue hook on the wall.
“So what’s for dinner?” Jeff grunted, his attention focused upon the intricate construct once more.
“Chicken casserole.” Anna’s voice was scarcely audible over the metallic scrape of the pan leaving the oven rack. The door slammed shut.
“Oh honey,” He turned, his chair scraping a semicircle onto the linoleum. “We’ll have grandchildren before you know it! You’ll see…” Her eyes were diverted from contact. Fixed instead upon within the contents of the casserole dish as it sat before her, lid held ajar by one muffled hand.
“Hush!” Her gaze was intent. Slowly, cautiously, she drew the lid back further. From within the curving dark confines of the pan, a thin wail emerged.
“Anna?” Jeff stood, walking slowly towards his wife, his demeanor wary. He reached out to place a hand upon her shoulder, and her eyes, wide, flew up to meet his.
“I…I didn’t…I don’t know!” Her breath was heavy, and she seemed almost on the verge of tears. In the dish, the tiny child screamed and contorted itself red. Jeff harrumphed and raised his eyebrows.
“Well,” He said. “Thirty-five minutes at 425 degrees is hardly the correct conditions for creating a baby….” He glanced at his wife, sharply. Eyes a steely grey. “You didn’t…steal it, did you?”
“No!” She was aghast, stepping away from him. “No! I have no idea where…” Her eyes, roving, returned to the child. “Oh, poor little dear…no use arguing until you’re comfortable, at least.” Scooping the squalling creature up, she swaddled it in a dishrag and held it close. “There there…it’s alright, honey…”
“Um, Anna? Shouldn’t we be discussing what to do with it?”
“Her. It’s a her, Jeffrey.” She had turned her back on him, bouncing the infant comfortingly against her breast. She had shut her mouth, and was now staring up at Anna through glassy black eyes, her face a mass of tears and oozing mucus. Terry chose this moment to walk in upon the scene.
“Mommy, I think there’s something wrong with the TV, Mommy.” He walked across the room, pulling himself up into one of the kitchen chairs and dangling bare feet, toes wiggling. “And I’m hungry. Can I have a ‘neat butter cracker?” He stared up at his mother expectantly. She stared back.
“Honey,” She began. “Mommy and Daddy are a little busy at the moment…” The baby squirmed and kicked out in her arms, straining her back into an arch and purpling. Terry watched impassively, pale eyes nonchalant.
“What is it?”
“It…she’s a baby, darling. “
“No it’s not.” He bounced up, standing on tiptoes to view the squirming interloper. She began to struggle more vigorously with his increased proximity.
“What are you talking about? Of course she’s a baby.” Stated his father gruffly, coming up to peer over his wife’s shoulder at the new child.
“No,” Terry was adamant. “It’s not. And I should know, I’m closer to being a baby than you are. I remember what it’s like.”
“I don’t understand what you mean, Terry.”
“I mean…” He prodded the baby’s soft shoulder, a perplexed expression crossing his pouting features. “It’s because of the way it feels. It’s not acting like a baby. I mean…it’s not seeing us the way a baby would.” He shrugged and looked up. “I’m really hungry, Mommy.”
“Well you can just wait!” She huffed, turning and trouncing out of the kitchen. “Jeff, get your coat! You need to go buy some baby formula!”
“Which one?” He was on the move as well, groping along the bottom of a drawer for his car keys.
“The brand doesn’t matter, just get something for newborns.” Anna sat down upon the couch, cradling the indignant creature and stroking her soft, bald head.