What It's Like
This weird little gem was recently shortlisted for a flash fiction contest through Fractured Lit. I wrote it one night when I was home alone with my boys. Enough said. Sadly, I did not win (it was a four digit monetary prize, so double waaaah.) Still, it was one of handful that made it to the finals, and that is certainly an ego boost. Although with these grocery prices, the money would probably have been better. Also, my ego doesn't need much help...
You know what it’s like, sleeping on a couch with cushions that separate in the middle. It’s lumpy, bumpy, nowhere near a good night’s sleep but there you must lie because your real bed is full - not of children, at least not children of your own, but of strangers’ children and of animals - not cats and dogs, nothing so normal - but of creatures with not enough legs and too many eyes. And vice versa. You are not afraid; you’ve seen stranger things at the grocery store, very old horses buying hotdogs, very small goats eating stolen chips in the checkout lane while furtively reading tabloid headlines. Still, you are not comfortable.
You try to get loose on the couch but there’s a commotion in your bedroom that you cannot pillow-block and so you finally get up, shouting all the way to the fourth floor: You must all really learn to get along! There, in the moonshot bed under a newly broken window, is a baby, human-ish, murderous. wailing. The strange animals and stranger children cower at the edge. Something like a miniature giraffe bends its graceful neck towards the graceless creature. It hisses, red eyes gleaming.
It’s a baby, one of the strange children reports. I know that, you say. I’m a human. One who actually lives in this house, you add. I’ve never seen you before, the strange child says with a passing shrug.
The rabbit-eyed baby suddenly sits up, points at you. The body-sea parts. Mama, it says.
Ancient ritual beckons you to pick it up, cradle it downstairs. You do, but somewhere between floors three and two it bites you once on the shoulder. You throw it down; it bounces like a rubber ball. You hurry downstairs, glowing remorsefully. It’s gone.
You spend the night on the couch, hovering. When morning crowns, you’re awakened by a crash from the kitchen. The baby is making breakfast for the entire group from whatever is within reach. An animal with a double paw hands it a whisk. Thank you, Gordon, the baby says, with a slight Irish accent. You are not Irish. This is not your baby.
You climb four flights, hungry for your bed. Unapologetically alone, you sink into the mattress, ignoring its feral smell. Someone, some thing is minding the baby, even if it’s not yours. Fires of gratitude overtake you. You sleep.
This is absolutely what it's like ^^^