Demon Baby

3 Feb

The television came on by itself.  There was a news show, some talk about trade with Vietnam.

“It’s been doing this,” Thalia said.  She held the baby to her breast, nursing it.  “It’s been coming on and off.  On its own.  I don’t know.”  The television switched off again.  “See?”

Geri stood over them, mother and child.  His clothes had once been black and mysterious, linen trousers, cotton shirt.  But now they were faded and frayed, washed carelessly too many times, dried at a temperature the fabric was not meant to take.

“It’s the baby,” Geri said.  He stuck a crooked finger at the child.  “This baby is a demon baby.”

The baby whimpered, as though it understood it was being accused of something.  It pulled its head away from the nipple and rolled its eyes to take in the room.  The TV came back on.  “Think of this rose as your stomach,” the TV said.  It switched off.

“Geri,” Thalia said.  “That’s just the way you get, remember?”  She did not look at Geri.  She smiled at the baby.  “Baby, baby,” she said.

“This time we have evidence,” Geri said, pointing at the television.  “Evidence doesn’t lie.”

“How long have we had cable, Geri?” Thalia asked.  “We didn’t even have cable when we bought that television, that’s how old it is.”

“How long have we had that baby?” Geri said.  He spun on his heel and marched into the bedroom.

“Can’t you remember the last time, Geri?” Thalia said.  “The last time you got this way?  It was the wind, remember?  All those long distance calls?  We still can’t afford to have the phone hooked back up.”

Geri was in the bedroom now, not listening.  He was moving things around, opening and closing drawers.

The baby fell asleep and stopped nursing.  Its lips moved away from the nipple, but its jaw and cheeks were still working.  It was dreaming of nursing.

It jerked awake, kicking out its legs, opening its eyes and looking around, startled.  The television switched on, but before there was enough power for a picture to form, it turned off again.

Geri entered the room carrying a wooden rosary, oversized beads held together with twisted wire.

“You promised me, Geri,” Thalia said.  “You promised me that the next time you would not wait for a crisis.  Don’t you remember, Geri?  Geri, think now.  Can’t you remember the promise you made?”

“This is different,” Geri said.

“It’s always different,” Thalia said.  She stood up now, holding the baby.  She moved firmly away from Geri, one arm under the baby for support, the other slightly forward, for protection.  She went into the kitchen and stood next to the counter, where everything was at her fingertips.

“Geri,” she said.  She spoke clearly and loudly, the baby grew alarmed and began to fuss.  “Listen very, very, very carefully, Geri,” she said.  “Geri, are you listening?”

Geri stepped through the doorway from the livingroom to the kitchen.  The beads of the rosary clacked against the doorframe.  “Geri,” Thalia continued, pronouncing with great volume and articulation.  “We discussed this problem before, Geri.  You must remember.  We agreed it was your problem and that you would be responsible for taking steps.”

Geri stepped closer to her and to the baby.  The baby cried out, frightened by the tone of her voice.

“Geri, listen to me!” she was shouting now.  “I’m afraid, Geri.  I’m afraid of what might happen.  But, Geri, listen to me, now.  I’m not afraid for me, Geri.  And I’m not afraid for this baby.  Are you hearing me?”

Behind Geri, the television came on.  Someone was singing in a high voice, singing or screaming, it was hard to tell.  The television switched off.

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