Keeping with the NPR Three Minute Fiction theme of someone must tell a joke and someone must cry I let that guide this week’s fiction too. No time for splainin’ just read it!
As soon as I open the door, I can hear the baby wailing. Sounds like they’re in the kitchen.
I see Kathy play Tetris with the contents of the freezer as they keep falling out of place. I can’t see her head. She emerges and holds an ice cube to our son’s swollen gums. Still he cries.
“Nothing works,” my wife says looking up at me exasperated.
I put my case on the floor and take a seat next to the baby’s. I sit and stare at him but he continues to cry. He is completely uninterested in me. He has been since we brought him home. That was months ago.
“Try something,” Kathy says as she rubs Orajel onto his gums.
I offer him my finger to see if the son of myself automatically knows to pull my finger. He looks at it like the foreign object that it is and it takes his mind off the impending taste of Orajel for a second, but not for long. The taste of the Orajel hits his tastebuds and wham, back to crying.
I reach over to his hand and rub my finger across the top of his hand. He continues to cry, but I’m determined that if I stick with this, he’ll stop, like a baby. Like I’m the baby whisper and have been all this time. It may take five minutes, but eventually he’ll realize what a soothing feeling this is and in amazement, he’ll stop.
Five minutes pass. Ten minutes pass. About the twelfth minute he throws both his hands coiled up in tight little old man baby fists up as if to say, “Enough, it’s not working.”
At this point Kathy is on the phone with my mother-in-law. She’s almost on the verge of tears too. She sees the baby refuse my hand rubbing and yells at me. She doesn’t know what I was doing, she says, but it’s obviously not working. I hear her explain away my actions to her mother.
I take my pinky finger and swipe it across his bottom gums and put it to my tongue. Orajel is disgusting. No wonder he’s crying.
I move to the other side of the table to directly face him now. I start making popping noises with my mouth and then hiding below the table. The kitchen’s an orchestra of family sounds: crying baby, concerned mother, goofing off father. But he doesn’t notice my popping and hiding. Red-faced he starts shaking his head, as if to say, “Stop it, that’s not working either.”
“Try the cold spoon again,” Kathy says to me from the phone.
I see the silver baby spoon resting on the table. It’s frosty from its stay in the freezer and a little pool of condensation has collected in the curve. It’s a wrestling match trying to wedge the spoon into a safe, yet effective placement. His tongue fights the cold metallic object and his jaw is moving up and down like a yo-yo in a game of keep away. I accidentally hit the roof of his mouth with it and his pitch hits banshee levels.
As I’m moving the spoon to the front of his mouth, I feel his tongue try to wrap around my finger. He maneuvers it to the side of his mouth and starts gumming it. Suddenly, there’s one less part of the family orchestra playing. Kathy stops and stares at me, I hear her mother still talking on the other end.
She looks from the baby to me and back to the baby. I look at the baby. He’s gurgling and let’s out a little squeal that says, “That’s what I wanted, dummy.” Kathy starts laughing.