Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: at my keyboard, writing my novel.
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This book is now officially well on its way. You have made it very solid and your additions from the earlier draft give it depth and body. If I am making sound like a fine wine, it's because it is becoming very like that.
I still have a few comments and I looked a little more earnestly for typos. (You will never find them all; so report my friends who have published novels.
[Your expansion of the mother as a character is very well done and is a magnificent improvement from your earlier draft.]
[I would still not use the word babe here. I suppose it’s because I am speaking as a male, but men will have a different sense of this word than a woman will. Of course, a man will understand it in its context, but it is a momentary distraction that you don’t need at this point.]
Awkwardly, she searched through her purse for her cell phone, and looked at the front for the time. 6:17. I left work at 5. Took maybe 10 minutes to get here, make it fifteen. Spent 2 or 3 minutes wandering around, 5 minutes looking for a good book. That means it was about 5:20, maybe 5:25 when I met that girl. We talked for, mmm, 5 minutes.
[You probably want to spell out the numbers in this section.]
[I think you can say that the baby put a fist to its mouth, to eliminate any impression that the baby put a fist to Lisa’s mouth.]
[In the way that you have constructed this section, you have moved us out of Lisa’s head and are expressing a more “objective” opinion as the writer outside of Lisa as to her mental state and motivations. You might want to keep us where we were relative to Lisa by saying that “Lisa felt tired of circling the store. She wasn’t sure where else she could go. She address…” I say this because by having us view so much through Lisa’s eyes, you have established for the reader a sort of intimacy with her and you don’t want to break this now until another character enters the story to give us another outside view of Lisa. You don’t want the writer to be this person in a story like this.]
[While it is not a bad idea to give your chapters titles, it is also not necessary. I am not suggesting that you should not use titles. I am only suggesting that you need to take great care with them and treat them at their own project.]
[Good use of Honeymooners to imply everything about what television is like in the middle of the night.]
Well, almost silence. Little huffs and sobs still wracked the small, damp body. A man in the next aisle muttered, “Thank God!” loud enough for the two women to hear, and a woman was heard shushing him.
Twilight Girl presently works translating from one language to another. I imagine that type of work would require attention to detail.
About the 'infant deptartment' vs 'infant's'...It's Ladies department, Men's (Oh where does that apostrophe go?) but also 'Shoe', not shoes, toy not toys...
Are you sure it should be 'infant'?
And I could really use a consensus on whether the parts of the book LIsa is reading in the store should stay or go? They aren't going to continue throughout the story and don't 'move the story along' but they are a bit of fun. What do you (ALL of you !) think??
Ah, the romantic interest. You'll meet her 'pirate' soon. :
I'll need help with this baby all the way to the end, so I imagine you'll know how it ends. (And I would get a rush out of being able to send you an autographed copy!!!)
A new thought came to Lisa Clark as she studied the tiny infant lying in her aching arms. Her stomach twisted and trickles of sweat ran from her underarms as the thought drummed repeatedly through her head.
What if she doesn’t come back?
She remembered how tenderly the too-young mother had kissed her infant’s fingers before darting from the aisle. Had she run straight for the exit?
It had been a long week. The weather had turned unseasonably hot and muggy for spring, she’d gotten a flat tire in rush hour traffic, and Mr. Harker, her boss, had been in a nasty mood. The newest employee in the offices of a fashion accessory wholesaler, Lisa soon discovered why there had been an opening. Mr. Harker took his bad moods out on his most recent hiree. She hated the job, hated her boss and loathed the very idea of going in each morning.
What am I going to do about this baby? How long should I wait before I call someone? Awkwardly pushing her hair out of her eyes, she began circling the store, just as her thoughts circled in her head. The thought of alerting the authorities made her feel nauseous.
She thought of calling her parentsdeleted apostrophe or Julie, her best friend, for advice. Her mother, she was sure, would say to call the police, to let the proper authorities handle the problem. As an adoptive parent, her mother believed that CPS could right the wrongs and protect the innocent children. After all, CPS had brought them Lisa, and their son, Tim.
Lisa’s own experiences as a foster child had left her feeling less convinced.
She trusted her mother’s judgment on most things, but her mother hadn’t shared those lonely years with her and had never understood her need to ‘dwell’ on them. Julie had and did.
What would Julie do in this situation or in Lisa's shoes or something of that sort, just to ground it to Lisa's situation? Having met in a foster home when they were 10, they had shared the horror of having no family I'd make this "no family of their own" "to call their own" sounds a little clicheto call their own. She thought back to the two of them sharing a room at Mrs. Jenner’s, of Julie crying herself to sleep because she so missed her neglectful, drug-addicted mother. Of her own pain and jealousy at knowing that as bad as Julie had it, she at least had a mother to miss.
She called her friend’s home number; this wasn’t something to discuss with someone who was fighting rush-hour traffic! When Julie didn’t answer she hung up, unable to summarize her situation in a 20 second voice mail message or something think of how to word a message.
“This is not the evening I had planned,” she grumbled aloud to the quiet baby. “My arm is about to drop off! Five minutes. That’s what your mother said. Five minutes! And here we are, walking till my feet blister, an hour and a half later!”
The baby squirmed on her arm and Lisa changed her tone, crooning the rest of her irritation as if it were soothing words. “All I wanted was a book. Some hot pirate romance. Salt spray, crashing waves, helpless maiden.” She sighed. “So, I found a real helpless maiden, didn’t I? Know any pirates, kiddo? It’s Friday night and I don’t have a date.”
Her deep discussion with the baby earned her an odd look from a slim, well-dressed or maybe slim woman in a tailored business suit ... to be a little more descriptive than 'well-dressed' businesswoman, as she walked past.
“Great, now I’m talking to myself.” Another squirm, a mewling cry. “No, you’re right, I’m talking to you.”
It hadn’t occurred to her to ask the mother for her name, or even the baby’s name, so she couldn’t very well page her. She had a vision of herself calling the police, the young mother returning, apologetic and frightened, having some plausible excuse for her absence.
Glancing down at the cover of the pirate romance she held in her hand, she studied the half-naked young woman who was tied to the mast, long hair falling in a wild mass to her waist. An maybe impossibly instead of incredibly says moreincredibly handsome pirate, despite a rather sinister-looking eyeno hyphen patch, threatened her with his cutlass? more sassy to go with the romance novel and a little double entendre held a cutlass above her. His own hair fell thickly past his broad shoulders, a neat beard covered the lower half of his face, and sparkling sea-green eyes drinking in or something else. the 'roved over' sounds like movement, so to me it makes the cover sound almost comical ... like googly eyes that move aroundroved over the lush woman before him.
An hour ago, she’d thought it was the perfect book; an innocent young woman who stowsno hyphen away, a commanding-would take out the hyphens 'commanding, yet understanding, and ... yet-understanding and incredibly sexy pirate, plenty of passion, adventure and romance.I think I would reverse this sentence: An innocent young woman stows away, the commanding, yet compassionate, and of course sexy pirate discovers her, plenty of passion, adventure and romance. An hour ago, she'd thought this was the perfect book. More punch to the contrast of her situation and the dramatic change that took place.
In fact, delete just, detractsjust an hour ago, she’d been so caught up in the story she might have finished the first chapter right there in the store. But the piercing screams being emitted from a tiny infant a few aisles away, had made it impossible for her to concentrate. She doubted there had been many crying babies on ships.
Especially pirate ships.
When the infants screams became louder, rounded the end of the aisle, and intensified in the area of the movie magazines, just at the other end of the short row of paperbacks, Lisa peeked over the top of the pirate book. Bouncing the tiny, but very vocal baby irritably in her arms, was a girl of maybe 15 or 16, wearing a tiny black t-shirt that had “Baby Girl” written across the front of it in glitter. Her muddy brown hair hung lank and greasy.
“Oh, please, shut up!” the girl had muttered under her breath. She’d been trying to push a shopping cart with one hand and jiggle the baby with the other but now gave up and set the howling, red-faced infant down on a thin receiving blanket on the bottom of the metal cart. The tiny body arched as it came in contact with the hard surface; and the screaming got still louder.
Once the baby was out of her arms, the girl no longer appeared to hear it’s cries, and began digging through a faded diaper bag perched on the seat of the cart.
Let her find that baby a pacifier, Lisa had thought, or a bottle, but was dismayed as instead the girl rooted around and pulled out a package of chewing gum, nonchalantly unwrapped a piece and folded it into her mouth.
By now, she could feel the baby’s screams in the pit of her stomach. She’d always had a soft spot for the babies in the foster homes she’d been in. Not only were they helpless and motherless, but they were almost always happy to snuggle in her arms while she crooned and rocked them. They were never too busy for her. She had passed many lonely rainy afternoons, rocking first one baby, and then another, singing them lullabies she made up on the spot still like this, I think I said before, but if not, it is a little stab of a reminder, without being totally spelled out that Lisa didn't have a mother to learn lullabies fromand playing “This Little Piggy Went to Market”. The sound of a baby crying, any baby, had always made her feel sick.
Grabbing the I think Unagidon said something about this ... I agree: seemingly indifferent or other such. I'd also change woman to girl. You've just said she looks 15 or 16, I'd stick to calling her a girl to remind us that the mother is just a kid herself indifferent young woman by the shoulders and shaking some sense into her was Lisa’s first thought, though she doubted that doing so would help the baby. Maybe she could play up on the girl’s maternal pride, for despite her age, the baby obviously belonged to her.
Sliding a few steps closer to the pair, from Romance novels to Mysteries, she waited for the girl to look up, then offered her a friendly smile.
Leaning in close enough to be heard, she noticed deep, nearly purple, depressions below the girl’s eyes. “Is it a boy or a girl?”
The young mother jumped, seemingly startled that someone had spoken to her, then sighed deeply, before answering in a voice almost too soft to be heard, “A girl.” She raised her eyes to meet Lisa’s, in defiance of the wetness that had sprung to them. “Her father really wanted a boy.” An uneasy, bitter laugh, “Mine too, I guess.” She bent over the cart and patted the wailing infant gently on the belly, studying her as if she were a science experiment that was going horribly wrong, then looked up at Lisa who smiled sympathetically.
The girl reminded her of a long-forgotten foster sister.
“She cries like this a lot. I don’t know,” she wiped at her eyes, leaving smeared bits of mascara under each eye. “I feed her, change her, walk her. She just screams. Sometimes, I just can’t take it anymore,” her voice quavered, “then I put her down for a minute, ya know? And just chill.”
The baby was red and sweating from exertion, her little face screwed up in an expression of infant rage. Her breathing was coming in quick gasps and sobs and she sounded as if she were going hoarse. A few people slowed as they went by the aisle, peering in concern or curiosity for the source of the crying.
Lisa had never before been so desperate to make a noise stop. It was obvious to her that the girl had no further ideas on how to handle her baby’s discomfort. Not sure if she was crossing a line here, but wanting to help, she asked gently, “Could I hold her?”
The mother’s look said ‘why would anyone want to?’ but she nodded after a second’s hesitation. Lisa reached down into the shopping cart, easing her right hand under the baby’s head, cringing as she felt the hard metal of the cart against the back of her fingers through the thin, discolored blanket.
She recalled a trick a foster mother had shown her for soothing one of the colicky babies. Very gently she laid the baby, still screaming her near-hoarse cry, face-down over her left arm, with her head resting by her elbow and one thigh securely held in her left hand. With her right hand, she carefully tapped the tiny back and at the same time, she paced a few steps in each direction.
It was as if the baby had come with and on-off switch, and Lisa had just turned her off. little more succinct?The effect was the same as if the baby had come with an on-off switch, and she had turned it off.
Well, almost silence. Little huffs and sobs still wracked the small, damp body. A man in the next aisle muttered, “Thank God!” loud enough for the two women to hear, and a woman was heard shushing him. Like this. I think that man would have been my husband in fact!
The young mother stared, open-mouthed, as Lisa paced left and right across the aisle with the now quiet babeagree with Unagidon but for different reasons. Babe just doesn't work for me here, in this sentence..
“Wow! That was awesome! She always cries this time of day, no matter what I do.” The young girl stood still watching carefully for a minute, then whispered, “She really likes you.”
Lisa sighed deeply. It had been years since she’d cuddled a small baby so close. The familiar warm weight, the willing acceptance of her offer of comfort. For just a few seconds she closed her eyes, relaxed into the familiar rocking motion. She felt her own frustrations with the day, the week, melt as the tiny body relaxed and slumped over her arm.
“I can show you what to do. It’s just how I’m holding her.” She hated to give the baby back so quickly, to lose the sweet rush of bringing peace to a tiny new person, but held the child out to the mother and said, “Here, I’ll show you.”
The young woman took a small, quick step back, putting the corner of her shopping cart between them. “Look, I was wondering…I really need to go to the bathroom. I mean, if you have a minute, and wouldn’t mind? There’s nowhere to put her down in there, and if I put her down, well, I might not be able to get her to stop crying again.”
Lisa pulled the child back in close to her chest, cradling her. Quieting the baby had left her feeling rather all-powerful and benevolent. Poor girl, where is her maybe italicize the her to make sure reader knows Lisa is wondering about the teenager's mother mother? Too young to be on her own with a baby, she looked like she needed nothing so much as a hot bath, a good meal and a long nap. A few minutes wouldn’t hurt anything.
more answer from Lisa. More like, "Oh, sure, no problem, go ahead,"“Go on,” she waved a carefully manicured hand in the direction of the ladies’ room. “Take your time.”
“I just want to grab a few things on my way back. I’ll be five minutes, probably less.” She was already backing away, down the aisle, when she asked, “Are you sure you don’t mind?”
“We’ll be fine. I can read a little more of my book while we wait. She’s such a sweetie and I’ve haven’t held a baby in ages.”
“Thanks so much. Really.” She came quickly back to them, reached over, grasped a tiny hand and gave the backs of the fingers a gentle kiss. Still holding the baby’s hand, she said, “Five minutes, okay? You’ll be right here?”
“Of course. I promise.”
For the first time the girl smiled, and Lisa saw that under the poorly applied make-up, grime and exhaustion, she was pretty. The mother lovingly brushed the petite hand across her cheek, gently kissed it a second time, then let go.
“Back in a few,” she sang, and ran from the aisle.
Lisa rocked back and forth, walked the aisle from end to end a few times. A few women walked by, saw the hicno hyphencupping, nearly no hyphensleeping baby and smiled knowing, reminiscent smiles at her.
She remembered now that while holding and calming a baby was a powerful thing, it was also mind-numbingly boring. good! The infant was snoring softly, so she assumed it was sleeping, though the way she was holding the baby kept her from being able to see its face.
The pirate novel that had so captured her attention was hanging off the edge of the shelf where she’d hastily placed it. Retrieving it, she tried to open it using only the fingers of her right hand. It took a few minutes to get to the right page and she grumbled when she dropped it once. She’d never noticed that it took two hands to read a book before.
Finishing the first chapter, with much fumbling and muttering and page losing, she glanced up to see if the girl was back yet. Surely, it had been more than five minutes? She looked down at the small body tucked against her, the curve of her back, the pink of her skin, the way the tiny body still shuddered from her earlier crying. No sense rushing her back to all of that.
Besides, she had already been drawn into the drama of the book ... suggestion...the book was riveting! The young woman was hiding on her uncle’s ship, planning on running away to avoid an ‘advantageous’ marriage. The pirate was in a dock-side bar, getting rip-roaring drunk with his crew, and was invited to join a poker game.
“One more chapter,” she whispered to the sleeping baby.
The girl, named Desiree of course, slinked about the boat, trying to find the safest spot to hide delete in, someplace where she could sleep for a few hours. Every spot that seemed like it might work, had the same general problem. Rats. Not that she saw any, but there could be rats. Everyone knew ships were full of them. Finally, she went to the uncle’s cabin. Surely, if there was a safe, rat-free spot, it would be here. The captain always had the best of everything. She climbed into his huge wardrobe, all the way in the back, covered herself with a cloak and slept.
The drunk and angry captain, having bet and lost all he had made on his most recent delete sea ... he's a pirate, of course his voyage would be on the sea voyage, desperately hedged, wagered, put up ... pitted is more like a dog fight or a cock fight, he pitted his bet rooster against the challenger or something of that nature his most precious possession, his ship, on one more hand.
The Lucky Lady had a new owner.
Ha, this’ll be fun! Then Lisa crashed back to reality, her head snapped up. How long had it been? How much time had gone by? She’d always been able to lose herself completely in books and had just done it now. The store, her job, the fact that she was standing up, holding someone else’s baby, had all faded away.
Walking to the end of the aisle, she looked in both directions as far as she could see. She had said ‘take your time’ and the girl had mentioned picking up a few things, but she had left her cart here. How much could she carry? Had it been ten minutes? Fifteen? More? What was she doing? Having lunch?
Pacing slowly up and down the book and magazine aisle with the baby’s solid weight on her arm, she debated going to look for the baby’s mother, but was afraid the woman would come back looking for her child, and they’d miss each other. She had promised to stay right here.
But the girl had promised to be back in five minutes.
“Oh, this is not good, Baby. Not good at all.”
She looked over the few items in the bottom the young mother’s cart. A large package of the store’s own brand of diapers, a bottle of Coke, two little bottles of nail polish-one blue and one neon green, and an economy-sized tub of store-brand baby wipes.
Her arm was aching, cramping. Rearrange a bit: She longed to lay the baby down somewhere so she could finish out her nap, but couldn't bear to put her back down in the cart on the receiving blanket as her mother had. She longed to lower the baby into the cart, but couldn’t bear to lay lie her on the receiving blanket as her mother had. Gently, slowly, she turned the baby over and moved her onto her right arm.
Immediately the baby’s eyes opened, her legs began to pull up, then kick out. Her body twisted and squirmed and she began to cry. Lisa quickly returned her to the colic hold, only over her right arm, instead of her aching left. The baby quieted again, as she walked and rocked her.
“I’m sorry, Sweetie. I’m sorry.” Crooning words of consolation to the tiny being, she returned to pacing. “Still have a bellyache, huh? Where did your mother go? I guess we’ll wait a few more minutes, okay? One more chapter, huh?”
If she’d thought reading with just her right hand was difficult; using just her left was far worse. She dropped it twice in under a minute and a teenage boy with earrings the size of dimes actually in the holes in his ears, had picked it up both times, smiling so sweetly she knew she was seeing the child his mother still saw.
This time she’d keep her focus on where she really was and not fall so far into the story. Desiree was unaware that the ship had set sail, and the pirate captain was unaware of his stow away. Thought the pirate lost his ship in poker The captain wandered the ship, checking for a sound hull, solid mast. His crew washed the decks, stowed equipment, took inventory. Finally, a weary pirate retired to his cabin, to have a drink and get some sleep. He heard a scuffling noise in his wardrobe, grabbed his cutlass, threw open the wardrobe door and hollered, “Damn rats!” Something much too big to be a rat shifted and moved in the dark on the floor of the wardrobe.
“Ok, that’s it. I’m not reading this whole novel while we wait.” She walked back to the end of the aisle and looked around again, glanced in the aisles to her right and left, walked a few aisles in either direction.
Awkwardly, she searched through her purse for her cell phone, and looked at the front for the time. 6:17. I left work at 5. Took maybe 10 minutes to get here, make it fifteen. Spent 2 or 3 minutes wandering around, 5 minutes looking for a good book. That means it was about 5:20, maybe 5:25 when I met that girl. We talked for, mmm, 5 minutes.
That would mean that it had been 45 minutes since the girl had run off to the ladies room!
“Time’s up. We’re going to take a quick walk, Kiddo. Go look for your mama.” She rubbed the tiny back, soothingly. As she pushed the girls cart to the side she noticed the diaper bag sitting in the toddler seat. The girl might have left her wallet or money in it. It could get stolen left here unattended. She tucked the pirate book under her arm, grabbed the faded bag, and, swinging it over her left shoulder turned the corner out of the book aisle and onto the larger one that ran the width of the store.
Looking carefully in each direction, she made a quick loop of the store, peering up each aisle as she did. Her arm felt as if it were going to fall off and her shoulder ached. The baby’s diaper felt heavy and cool, as if she hadn’t been changed in a long time.
Surely, she thought, as she came to each new aisle, the girl will be in this row agonizing over which brand of shampoo to buy, or what kind of cookies to get. Maybe she just got distracted by that rack of CDs or some new video game. When she got back to “Books and Magazines”, she turned around and did the same search backward, unable to think of anything else to do.
A sick gnawing settled in the pit of her stomach. The girl was nowhere to be found. That was when the thought struck her, and began to drum repeatedly through her head.
What if she doesn’t come back?
It had been about an hour. Irritation at being so taken advantage of, battled with fear of what to do if the young woman didn’t return. She was mentally berating herself for getting into such a mess, when she felt her left arm grow very warm, and then very cool as the diaper finally past its no apostrophe ... new rule, possessive its no apostrophe, contraction it is it's gets apostrophe capacity.
Great, she thought. Was it good luck if a baby peed on you? Maybe it didn’t count if it was just because of an overfull diaper. Or maybe the luck came when a bird pooped on your car?
“Well,” she muttered to the child, “at least I’m wearing short sleeves.”
Where to change the baby? She couldn’t just lie her on the thin cotton blanket, as her mother hadrepetitive. You could just say, she couldn't very well change her in a shopping cart.. Heading for the changing area in the Ladies’ room, it struck her that she hadn’t looked there for the mother. She rushed to the bathroom, careful not to jostle her tiny charge, convinced that she’d find the girl passed out in one of the stalls, or simply taking her time applying make-up. When she pushed open the door a little too quickly, she startled a small boy washing his hands at the sink with his mother. The bathroom was empty except for them.
Feeling like a thief, she unzipped the diaper bag and rummaged around, hoping to find a diaper. There was little enough to rummage through, only one diaper in there and some travel-size packages of wipes. She removed a few packages of wipes and found a somewhat cleaner, though obviously second-hand, sleeper, on the bottom of the bag.
As soon as she shifted the baby onto the changing table, the little body arched and a small whimpering sound escaped her, then her large blue eyes focused on Lisa’s face, and she grew still.and her whole body stilled.
“Hi, there, Sweetie. Feeling any better?” The baby stared seriously at her, and put a fist to her mouth.
It had been some time since she had changed a baby. The tape on the diaper stuck to her thumbnail and peeled off a big chunk of her nail polish. The baby watched her intently the entire time, her eyes owlish.
She used 3 or 4 of the wipes, giving the baby a mini-bath. The creases of the baby’s arms and legs and neck had powder and sweat caked in them, and her tiny bottom was an angry pink. Then she slipped the remaining outfit onto the now-quiet baby.
There had been plenty of newborns brought to the foster homes, they were the ones she wasn’t allowed to pick up until she was older. This child was larger and but still not capable of holding up her own head. A month? Maybe six weeks?
“All dry, Baby-face.” She looked down at her own dark green blouse, with the damp, dark spot just above the waist. “At least one of us is. Now I see your mother’s point about using the Ladies’ Room,” she whispered. “There really is no where to put you down, is there? I should have skipped that last cup of tea before I left work.”
Holding the baby on the table with one hand, she rifled uneasily through the pockets of the diaper bag, looking for anything that would give her a clue; a wallet, checkbook, an envelope with a return address, a bill with a name on it. The door pushed open and she gave a guilty start, but it was just two older women, chatting between themselves, giving her only a perfunctory glance and small acknowledging smile. She took a steadying breath, and resumed poking around for a clue to the girls identity, or address.
The zippered part of the bag, where you might put papers, money, an I.D. or checkbook contained a package of gum with two rainbow striped sticks still in it, three crumpled gum wrappers, twenty-four dollars in fives and ones, and a sanitary pad. The main compartment had the only the dirty clothes, and empty bottle. Maybe she hadn't left the store, Lisa reasoned, she wouldn't have left the store without her money. Lisa zipped up the bag. She would go back to the magazine aisle!If she were planning on leaving the store, wouldn’t she have wanted her money? Maybe she hadn’t left. Lisa began zipping up the bag. She should go back to the Magazine aisle!
Scooping the baby up quickly, she threw the thin, stained receiving blanket over her shoulder to protect her clothing from further mishaps and gathered up the useless diaper bag, her book, and her purse and hurried out into the store.
In college she’d taken only business and computer courses and wondered now if a course or two in Early Childhood Ed wouldn’t have been a good choice. Even her time management courses weren’t doing her any good at the moment! Seems a bit early for this thought. This would be something that would come later, after a day or two with the baby
Not that those courses did me much good job-wise, she thought wryly. Her job wasn’t what she’d dreamed of when she’d been going to school. The dreams hadn’t included a boss, just an interesting job and an excellent paycheck which would lead swiftly to a home and a family. Her own family. A family that could never just change its mind and move away or get too sick or to old to continue to be her family.
She reached the book aisle to find it as deserted as it had been right along. The girl’s cart was still there, with the diapers, and nail polish and giant tub of wipes.
Not sure where else to go and tired of circling the store, she addressed the baby in her arms. “Gettin’ hungry? Let’s go eat. You’ll love the menu here.”
She ordered her meal at the lunch counter, then had to balance the tray in one hand and the baby in the other, her purse and the diaper bag slung over her shoulder and her still unpaid for book tucked under her arm, she barely managed to maneuver the four feet to the first table without dropping anything. Sliding awkwardly into the attached plastic seat, she muttered, “Boy, oh boy, do I have a few things to say to your mother when she gets back.” Pushing her B.L.T. to the side, she popped the only full bottle of formula in the diaper bag into the waiting, tiny mouth, and began speaking in that sing-song way people tend to usesometimes use with babies.
“I could be an axe murderer, or one of those whackos who sells babies on the Internet. Yes, I could.” At this, the baby stopped sucking and stared at her wide-eyed for a moment. Then, apparently deciding that she was neither, began to suckle again.
“What’s your name? Where did your mother go?” she whispered. Huge blue eyes stared trustingly up at her, but the babe offered no information.
Balancing the baby against her shoulder, she gently burped her. Rubbing her cheek against the downy head, she noticed that instead of the usual sweet aroma babies gave off, this baby smelled of old urine, spit-up baby formula and the hot, sharp smell of a baby who has cried a long time. She cradled the infant again in her left arm as she tried to eat with her right.
A crackly voice came over the store speakers, interrupting her thoughts, announcing that the store was closing in ten minutes and asking that everyone bring their purchases to the front of the store, then switched back to The Beatles singing ‘Hey, Jude’.
10 minutes!? Her heart dropped. She pushed the remains of her sandwich away. The tiny bundle in her arms squirmed and she looked down to meet the clear blue stare. A tiny fist waved in the air and as she reached for it the baby grabbed her index finger and held on.
“I don’t know what to do, Baby,” she whispered.
Care and Feeding
Panic set in as she began to trail round the store one more time. She held her cell phone in her trembling hand. Push 9-1-1! Just do it and get it over with!
She imagined what would happen if she did. The police would come, take her statement, ask lots of questions. At this hour on a Friday evening they would take the baby, to the hospital, where she would stay until a social worker from CPS could get out there on Monday. Then, the child would be placed in a foster home. She looked down at the baby again, and sleepy blue eyes looked trustingly back up. She remembered how lovingly the young mother had kissed her baby’s fingers, how she’d gently patted the screaming infant’s belly.
The girl had seemed incompetent, maybe neglectful, but not abusive. Maybe she was burned-out from lack of sleep and a colicky baby, and not having anyone to support her, maybe she didn’t know any better, but throwing this baby into the system wouldn’t teach the mother the skills she needed to learn to take care of her.
What if I just wait till Monday? Keeps the baby from spending a weekend in the hospital; gives that poor girl a chance to change her mind, wise up. CPS would put her through hell! She was so young- too young- and didn’t look like she had enough money for a decent meal. And she did ask me to watch her.The child squirmed in her arms, and she looked down at the tiny mouth forming a large, perfect oval, the miniature nose crumpling with the effort of the yawn. The liquid eyes blinked once, twice, and the baby drifted off, unaware that her own life’s course was hanging in the balance.
When I find her, I’ll threaten to call CPS unless she takes some parenting classes! Besides, she’ll probably be back tomorrow, freaking out. Monday at the latest, or I really will call.
Decision made, but heart pounding, she grabbed an abandoned shopping cart, and struggling to push it with one hand while snuggling the baby with the other, made her way to the infant’s department. Putting a can of formula in the cart, she remembered how much the puppies at one of her foster homes had eaten, and put two more in beside it, then picked out two baby bottles with bright, silly designs on them, a dozen small disposable diapers, and, remembering the girls’ girl's cart, a super-size container of baby wipes.
The voice came over the loudspeaker again. “We hope you’ve enjoyed shopping with us this evening. Please bring your purchases to the front of the store at this time.”
Going quickly through a bin marked ‘clearance’, she found a soft, thick, pink baby delete size, it's fine to say baby quiltsize quilt, on sale for $6.00 because it was nearly summer and no one was buying heavy, warm things. It was the cheery border of bright yellow ducks that convinced her, the bright clean colors, no stains or fading. This baby should have something new! Leaving the department, she noticed a clearance rack with some cute one-piece outfits hanging on it and swiftly grabbed one without even stopping.
Anxious, frightened, thinking about where else she might look for the baby’s mother, she was taken off-guard when the cashier at the check-out exclaimed, “Ooooh, what a pretty baby. How old is she?”
She looked down at the infant, dressed now in the faded pink sleeper, her dark brown fringe of hair falling on her forehead, peacefully sleeping, and smiled. And stalled.
Even a babysitter would know the age of the baby she was caring for.
“One month,” she blurted, hoping she was at least close.
“Wow, she’s small for a month, huh? How much does she weigh? My nephew is six weeks old and he’s much bigger.”
“Well, babies are all so different, aren’t they,” she answered, distractedly. Having carried the baby all over the store for hours, she was glad the infant wasn’t any heavier. Her arm would ache for days as it was. Wanting to divert the cashiers line of questioning she put in, “They grow so fast! What’s your nephew’s name?”
The clerk rambled on and on, too busy talking about her nephew to be asking any more questions. Surely, Lisa thought, paying the astounding sum of $72 for a few baby things, the baby’s mother would be back tomorrow, contrite, concerned and grateful. She’d bring the baby back to the store first thing in the morning, and wait for the mother to return! Passing instead of creeping, maybe?Creeping guiltily through the alarm system at the door, she half-expected it to alert the clerks that she was kidnapping a child.
Crossing the nearly deserted parking lot, she faced her first real problem. She had only $13 left in her checking account, hadn’t made it to the bank to cash her paycheck, and hadn’t planned on picking up a baby while she shopped today. When a co-worker had her son last year, the hospital had told her that her baby wouldn’t be released unless there was a car seat, properly installed, for him to ride home in. Lisa, herself, always wore a seat belt.
Standing beside her cherry red Miata with some other woman’s baby snuggled against her chest, shaking with nerves at what she’d just delete nownow done, she tried to decide what to do next. Feeling exposed, she opened the back door and climbed in for a minute.
“Oh, Baby, I’ve really done it now,” she whispered, rocking the sleeping baby gently in her arms. “And how do I do this without a car seat?” A few of the store workers filtered out, walking to their cars and leaving the lot. Now her car was an island in a sea of empty spaces, more out in the open.
Unable to think of a truly acceptable solution, she shifted the baby onto the back seat while she went around to the trunk of car and pulled out the blanket her father insisted she keep in there for emergencies. Looking guiltily over her shoulder delete thethe every few seconds, she used it and the quilt she had just bought, and made a little nest on the floor of the back seat. Not a car seat, by a long shot, but at least the overusing babe I thinkbabe couldn’t fall. As soon as she laid her down, the baby began to fuss. Lisa looked over her shoulder again, afraid someone would see her putting a baby on the floor of her car and call the police.
Even driving slower than she ever had, she was a nervous wreck. This was the most irresponsible thing she’d ever done! The tiniest accident could kill that baby! Crawling along all the back roads, she was terrified that something would run out in the road or that a drunk driver would come straight at her.
As soon as the car had begun to roll, the baby had stopped fussing and, when they pulled around her building to her apartment in the back, she was snoring softly again. Lisa tried not to wake the her but the inevitable jostling of the baby, bags, and keys was enough. Her bladder felt like it was going to burst, and the baby had begun crying again.
The crying sounded like someone had switched on a police siren right next to her ear and her only thought was to make it stop. Since only a bottle and a diaper were apt to have much effect, she spread the well-used receiving blanket out on the living room carpet and gingerly placed the baby on it. The baby’s screams increased as soon as she was put down. Lisa ran to the kitchen with the new baby bottle and a can of formula.
As soon as she turned on the water to rinse out the bottle, she knew she’d made a mistake. Not stopping to turn off the water, she ran for the bathroom, and leaving the door open, tried to reassure the baby that her bottle was coming, only slightly delayed. Feeling much better, she quickly filled the bottle and scooped the baby up, popping the nipple in her mouth at the same time.
Silence reigns again, she thought, as the babe began to suckle. But instead of feeding hungrily, the already said, seems overused. Alright once in awhile, but choose where to use it so it has effectbabe spit the bottle out and began to wail again.
Within 15 minutes, she was wondering if maybe she should call the police. Nothing she was doing was working and the baby was looking frantic.
“Hmm, not hungry, huh?”
Lisa put the babe back on her blanket and changed her diaper. She tried warming the formula, scrubbing the new bottle and nipple again and checked to be sure formula was getting through the holes in the nipple.
She burped her, walked her, sang to her. But the poor baby just kept crying and chewing on her hand as if she were starving. Every time she gave her the bottle, she would suck on it for only a second before spitting it out and howling.
Walking by the diaper bag, she noticed the old bottle poking out of a side pocket. With one hand she rinsed the grubby bottle, which she had intended to thoroughly scrub before using again, then poured the formula in. For one second the babe seemed to be deciding whether to take it or not, and then latched on feverishly.
She inspected the bottle she had just bought carefully. Other than being much cleaner and not smelling of sour milk, she couldn’t see how the baby would know. Then she did the same with the nipple, it was stiffer than the old one, and smelled new. She wondered if it was the lack of the sour milk smell or the stiffness that had bothered the baby.
With nothing else to do while trying to support both the baby and the bottle, she settled herself on the couch to relax and watch TV.
Once she had fed and burped the baby, and changed her yet again, she was faced with a new problem.
“Where am I going to put you to sleep. Huh, Sweetie? I don’t have a crib.” With her free arm she went through her bedroom closet, finding some blankets she kept there for when Julie spent the night, and used them to make a mattress on the floor in one corner of her bedroom, then covered it with a sheet and placed the nearly sleeping baby carefully in the middle. Just for an extra measure of safety, she rolled up two blankets and put them along the open sides. Now the baby couldn’t even roll onto the floor.
Feeling that she had earned a snack and a movie for all her efforts and she headed back to the living room.
Entering the living room, she couldn’t believe that this was her usually orderly apartment. Bags from the store were strewn around the room. The disposable diapers had spilled out of their bag when she had frantically ripped it open with her teeth. The wet diaper was still rolled up on the edge of the receiving blanket where she had left it when she had been trying to soothe the child.
The kitchen looked as bad, spilled formula, used bottle, trash, everything just where she had dropped it. It was impossible to clean up and hold the baby at the same time!
As far as she knew her mail was still sitting outside in her mailbox, and she hadn’t fed Oscar, her goldfish, yet. She straightened up the living room and kitchen, got the mail, fed Oscar, and poured herself a glass of wine to drink while she checked her e-mail and looked for a good movie to watch on cable.
The only movies she could find were either made before she was born or were war movies with all male casts. Instead she watched a Drew Carey repeat and Crossing Over with John Edward. It didn’t really matter, her mind was going a million miles a minute, the TV was just for company.
She thought back to high school, where she had dreamed of being twenty-four, of having escaped school, being old enough to do whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted. Manicures and hair appointments every week. Having a glass of wine with dinner would be fabulously sophisticated. She’d envisioned a condo, right by the beach, a huge aquarium built into the wall of her living room, a mantle covered with lit candles over a brick fireplace, a fancy car and loads of dates with fantastic, urbane men.
And then - meeting the one. The one. Her soul mate, her perfect other half.
She recalled envisioning him in detail. Dark hair, a bit too long. Green eyes. A mustache and beard. (Or the willingness to grow one!) Broad shoulders, narrow hips. Biceps! Great arms were her favorite body part, all those rippling muscles! If those arms led to a rock solid chest, so much the better.
He absolutely had to be able to find the humor in life’s situations, and have a bit of attitude, a sense of self, an ability to swim against the current. No wuss-no hypheny guys need apply. He’d have to be gentle and loving and romantic. And he’d have to want kids, lots of them.
Combine that with her love of the sea, and it was no wonder she’d become obsessed with pirates.
Huh! So much for all that! I’ve reached the magical age of 24. Why does it feel flat and monotonous?
Having a glass of wine had sounded much more fascinating when it was forbidden. Being able to stay out all night had sounded like a great time, until she realized that she had to deal with drunk guys, dangerous situations, and the next days’ exhaustion. Manicures and hair treatments were expensive. She’d yet to meet a fabulous man, was lucky to get a date with someone she’d think of as a guy.
The closest her most of her dates came to her dream-pirate was when they’d pull up in their fathers’ borrowed, beat-up old ‘Cutlass’. Conversation revolved around talk of their soon to take-off careers, cars, sports, or of them trying to convince her to let them…Let them come up to her apartment, let them take off her clothes, leave it take off her clothes ... touch her sounds creepy, makes her sound 12 and her dates sound like pedophiles. (or should this be ‘touch her’?) let them spend the night. And of her saying, “no”. She was desperate to find out where men with dreams for a future, and jobs to support those dreams, hung out.
She’d managed her own sporty Miata, Oscar, who lived in a roomy fishbowl, a decent, though small, apartment only a few blocks from those once dreamt-of condos and the ocean, learned to do a professional job on her own nails and could trim her own honey blond hair. There was money in her savings account, enough for emergencies plus some extra she was putting away for a cruise with Julie.
If I had a man, a real man to share it all with, I’d be content with what I have.
It was midnight and she was exhausted. She brushed her teeth, slipped into an old t-shirt that she often slept in and climbed into bed, then lay awake for about a half hour, worrying over the events of the day.
She drifted off with vague, troubling images of what she would do if the child’s mother didn’t come back.
The noise, whatever it was, was too loud. Lisa clung to sleep, rolling onto her side and pulling the pillow over her head. Why didn’t it stop? She sat up with a start, remembering the baby, recognizing the sound as the child’s cry. Within seconds, the baby’s cry had gone from loud to ear piercing to breaking the sound barrier. Scooping her up, she hurried to the kitchen.
I should have thought to wash and fill the bottle before I went to bed!
She tried to jam the dishcloth one-handed into the bottle while it was standing in the sink. Giving up, she knew it was a lot cleaner than the one she’d used earlier. Hurriedly, she filled the new bottle and slapped on the old nipple. With the baby howling and trying to do it all one-handed, it seemed to take forever.
For one tiny baby girl, she sure could make a lot of noise! Popping the bottle into the baby’s mouth, she spared a glance at the softly glowing digital clock on her stove. 2:12 a.m. She’d slept for less than 2 hours.
With a jaw-cracking yawn, she took the baby into the living room, curled up in a corner of the couch and fought to support the bottle with one hand while aiming the remote with the other. One episode of the Honeymooners later, she was tucking a clean, dry, fed and sleepy baby back into her makeshift bed. But when she returned from the bathroom, instead of finding a peacefully sleeping baby she saw a red-faced, squirming, getting-ready-to-howl-delete last hyphendemon in its place.
The amount of squirming, kicking, and screaming pointed to this being another bout of colic and Lisa began walking the baby the length of the living room, belly down, arms and legs dangling like a languorous cat’s.
As long as she kept walking, the baby hung relaxed over her arm. If she stopped, to put a kettle of water on for tea or to gaze out at the moon, the baby pulled her knees up and began to scream again. By 3:30 a.m., she was weary beyond words and wondering how many nights it had taken to push the baby’s mother to the point of abandoning her child.
At 3:47 a.m.- she knew the time exactly because she was pacing directly in front of the VCR and the glow of the LED readout seemed abnormally bright in the dark apartment- the baby drifted off to sleep. Her little body went slowly limp, her head lolled against Lisa’s forearm.
It occurred to her, as she lowered the baby ever so gently onto her little bed, that her diaper probably needed to be changed. However, she deemed the risk of waking the baby to outweigh any possible advantages. Exhausted, she climbed back into her own bed.
She reached out from under her blankets and smacked her alarm clock. When this had no effect on the noise, she grabbed it and pulled it close to her face. She opened one eye and looked at the numbers. 6:13 a.m., it read. As she hurried to pick up the screaming baby, she remembered something from Family Living Class in high school. Babies, they had been told, ate every four hours. This baby had apparently taken the same class.
The teacher had left out the part about the screaming in between bottles.
She felt her heart sink as she entered her kitchen. Two used, smelly bottles of formula sat in the sink; nothing clean, screams as loud as an air horn sounding in her left ear. She hurried back to the bedroom, grabbed one of the quilts she’d made the baby’s bed from the night before and dragged it into the kitchen. Laying the wailing demon on the blanket, she found the screams could get much louder, and she hurriedly scrubbed and filled the new bottle and old nipple.
As soon as the nipple touched her lips, the baby stopped crying and began to suck greedily. She laid down beside the baby on the quilt, smoothing the soft, fine hair back from the baby’s forehead and marveling at how the child could go from demon to angel with just a bit of milk.
“Okay, baby, now what should I call you, huh? We’ve got at least another 4 hours before I can take you back to the store to look for your mother. ‘Baby’ is awful.” She looked at the sweet, round face, blue eyes staring so seriously at her. “It’s hard to be inspired on so little sleep, kiddo. You’re a little angel this morning, aren’t you?” She put the baby to her shoulder to burp her and immediately felt the wetness from the baby’s diaper cover her left breast.
“Ugh!” She jammed a piece of the quilt between herself and the baby and patted her back, gingerly trying to hang onto the dry spots.
Once the baby was fed, she filled the kitchen sink and gave her a bath, gently rubbing her scalp and being careful to gently wash every crease. Then she carefully dried the infant and dressed her in the new pink and green sleeper decorated with lace and a bow that she’d bought yesterday. When she’d finished, she couldn’t help but admire the change.
The child’s fine hair formed tiny golden brown ringlets about her head, a perfect frame for her rosy pink cheeks and alert blue eyes. Already the chapped and irritated spots in the creases and folds of her skin were less red. The new sleeper looked even more adorable on and the baby, when snuggled close, smelled faintly of soap and newborn skin.
While the baby lay on the quilt waving her arms and legs about, Lisa ran to take her own shower; she could feel the stiffness of spit-up formula in the ends of her blond hair. She’d grab a car seat from the second-hand store up the street, and take the baby back to the store to find her mother.
Taking the baby without a carseat had been necessary last night. Today, she cuddled the child in her arms and walked the 3 blocks to the thrift store. It was a pleasant, sunny morning, though her arm still ached from holding the baby for so long yesterday. It felt good to stretch out her legs, to greet other people who walked by, to get a close look at the tulips in the yard on the corner.
The walk home was not as pleasant. Struggling home carrying the baby and a car seat, with a small bag of used baby clothes hanging from her arm, she wanted to cry. Both arms throbbed in pain, each had a heavy load. She was amazed at how heavy and bulky the seat was, at how quickly the warm May sunshine could make her sweat, how expensive it was to properly care for one tiny baby.
And now I’m truly a criminal! Writing bad checks, isn’t that fraud? The thirteen dollars in her checking account wasn’t going to cover the $43 dollars she’d just spent at the second hand store.
It was 1:30 p.m. before she managed to install the safety seat correctly in the backseat of her car.
By the time she pulled into the store parking lot, she was a wreck. It was 2:00! Surely, the baby’s mother had been at the store the minute it opened, waiting to retrieve her daughter. It wouldn’t surprise her one bit to see police cars and the FBI waiting for her. The baby began fussing for a bottle before she could even get her out of the car seat.
“Hey, Kiddo, I’m ready for you this time.” Easing the child into her arms she popped the bottle in her mouth, then headed for the Book and Magazine section. She figured since she’d seen the baby and her mother there first it would make sense to meet there again.
Within ten minutes, Lisa was experiencing deja-vu. True to her mother’s words, the baby began to experience the same colic symptoms as the day before and at 2 am. Only hanging over her arm, drooling and watching the multi-colored floor tiles pass by her line of sight offered any consolation. Soon she was slowly wandering through the store, keeping an eye out for the baby’s mother, just as she had the day before.
After 45 minutes, she was beginning to feel foolish. Why did I think that girl would return? And now what? she thought rubbing a hand wearily over her face.
The baby’s body was beginning to droop in a way that she already recognized as signaling oncoming sleep. She turned the limp, relaxed body over and looked into the heavy-lidded blue eyes. The tiny lids blinked slowly once, twice, and just as they were about to close for what she was sure would be a nice nap, an elderly woman leaned over to peek at the tiny babe. Lisa sighed, sure that the babe would howl, but instead, she just widened her crystal blue eyes and stared very seriously at the woman before her.
“Oh!” the woman exclaimed, “what a darling little angel,” and patted Lisa on the arm in a motherly fashion.
“Yes, she is, isn’t she,” she replied softly. A darling little angel. She had thought the baby looked like an angel just that morning. An abandoned angel. “Angel-face,” she whispered. The baby’s eyes slipped closed and she began to snore softly. “Angel, Angie. That’s what I’ll call you, Angie.” (I'm moving this part about naming the baby, just don't know where yet)
She decided to cruise the areas the girl was most likely to live in. Everything about that girl had screamed ‘poverty’, the stained, faded clothing, the lack of baby seat or stroller. The mother had worn no jewelry. Lisa decided to narrow her search to the areas served by the bus line.
Maybe we’ll get lucky. The girl must have some family! She’s too young to be living on her own. Her family could be frantic with worry about the baby. Maybe they’ll want to help her.
After grabbing some lunch at the local drive-through, Lisa began cruising through some of the less affluent neighborhoods, keeping watch for the child’s mother. Passing a small store with a large group of teens hanging out in front, she pulled over, and pretended to be searching through her purse for something, as she got a good look at each girl in the group.
They stopped twice more, once at a small neighborhood playground where a group of teenagers sat smoking cigarettes on a play structure and another time at a busy donut shop, where another group of teens stood sharing a box of donuts. In between, she crawled up and down the side streets, looking, unsuccessfully, for one teen girl.