Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Blue (10/08/09)
TITLE: Sleep, Sleep
By Jan Ackerson
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What to name the little fellow? Kendra searched through books of baby names, highlighting <i>Rowan</i> and <i>Calder</i> and <i>Ulric</i>. Paul, horrified, took his own pen and circled <i>Michael, David, Timothy</i>. No decision was made for weeks, but one day in the nursery (Paul with Allen wrenches in hand, assembling the crib, Kendra folding pastel receiving blankets) they glimpsed the matted prints at the same moment and proclaimed “Max!”
They called the baby “Wild Thing”, and Kendra searched online for a little wolf suit for his homecoming. When he twisted and kicked under her stretchy jeans, Kendra just smiled and said “Be still!” And when he was quiet in her belly, she whispered, “I’ll eat you up—I love you so...”
Weeks later, Max made an uneventful, if noisy, entrance. Paul tearfully kissed his squalling son and placed him at Kendra’s breast. She looked at the tiny creature and thought <i>what have I done?</i>
Kendra positions Max on a pillow and lifts her shirt. There is a moment of frantic rooting, and then Max settles in with a throaty sigh. Moist sounds, the opening and closing of tiny fists—Kendra looks out at nothing and whispers <i>Moo</i>. She watches the clock; ten minutes, twenty, and she detaches the baby from her breast. Holding him to her shoulder, she pats his back absently and is surprised to hear his quiet burp a minute later. She had forgotten that Max was there.
He is asleep; Kendra places him in his bassinet and hopes he will have a long nap. The dishes have piled up and there are mounds of little blue onesies and impossibly small socks to wash. She feels a frisson of irritation and another emotion she dares not identify: why must <i>every</i> outfit be blue? Snatching up one tiny sleeper (miniature dinosaur appliqués on each foot), she tosses it into the wastebasket, then covers it with an empty cereal box. The dishes will wait. She wanders to the living room and lies on the couch, eyes wide open.
Outside, it is raining, and it seems to Kendra that it would be a very fine thing to stand motionless in the rain, for hours perhaps. She is too sluggish; her intentions never reach her feet.
Surely it has only been minutes, but Max is stirring in his bassinet. He is not crying; his startling cobalt eyes are looking around with a slight jerkiness. Kendra stands up slowly and looks down at the bassinet, her arms stiff at her sides. <i>Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep.</i>
The baby is perfectly fine, no need to pick him up. Kendra walks to her bedroom and buries herself in meaningless noises from the television. When, after a while, Max begins to whimper, she thumbs a button on the remote. But whimpers turn to sobs, and Kendra slouches back to the living room and lifts Max from the bassinet.
Nighttime, and Paul puts Max in his crib, then settles beside Kendra, one hand resting on her hip. She pushes his hand away and turns her back to him, willing herself to sleep; another hour and the baby will be crying again.
But when she wakes, it is to a silent house and the suggestion of brightening indigo dawn in the still-dark room. She revels in the silence for a moment—and then her heart thumps alarmingly and she is running to the nursery, to Max, where surely there is something very wrong.
Paul stumbles in sleepily, just seconds later, to see his wife with Max in her arms. Kendra’s face is nestled at that warm junction of neck and shoulder, where Max smells sweetest. She dips him away from her kiss for the briefest moment, and her eyes meet Paul’s. <i>Look what we’ve done</i>, say Kendra’s astonished eyes, and she nuzzles the baby’s neck again. When finally Kendra releases her embrace and slips Max into the hollow of her elbow, his first smile is her benediction.
<i>Note: The book referenced is <u>Where the Wild Things Are</u>, by Maurice Sendak. Harper & Row, 1963.</i>
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