Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: ENTERTAIN (04/27/17)
- TITLE: Allergic to Babies
By Jan Ackerson
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Reluctantly, I agree. Shelby owes me, big time.
When I get to her house, everything is suspiciously quiet. â€œWhere is she?â€ I ask, and Shelby nods at the nursery, holding a finger to her lips.
â€œI just put her down,â€ she says. â€œIf youâ€™re lucky, sheâ€™ll sleep for an hour or two. See how easy this is?â€
Shelby heads for the door, keys in hand, but I grab her arm in a panic. â€œWait,â€ I say. â€œWhat do I do with her when she wakes up?â€ Iâ€™m not even sure if ten-month old babies are sentient.
â€œThereâ€™s a list of snacks and stuff on the table. Doctorâ€™s phone numbers, that sort of thing. But you wonâ€™t need it. For Peteâ€™s sake, sheâ€™s your niece, Zoey. You know her. Justâ€¦entertain her, okay?â€
And with that, she sails out of the house. Roughly ninety seconds later, Madysin wakes up.
Let me just say, as a side note, that no one consulted me when they named this baby. Probably because they knew Iâ€™m allergic to babies, but Madysin? Really?
She isnâ€™t crying, exactly, just talking a bit in that incomprehensible baby language. I peek in the door; sheâ€™s on her back, holding a toy, but she scrambles to her feet when I come in, clinging to the crib rail and looking solemnly at me. Entertain her. Okay. The kid needs to learn some good music, surelyâ€”her mother has her listening to the Wiggles, for Peteâ€™s sake. I start to singâ€”some folk music from my parentsâ€™ era:
All my life's a circle;
Sunrise and sundown;
Moon rolls through the nighttime;
'Til the daybreak comes aroundâ€¦
Madysin appears unimpressed by Harry Chapin, though. Shelbyâ€™s going to ruin this child with that ridiculous music she plays. But meanwhile, I need to find something else that a ten-month-old finds entertaining.
Books, surely. Thereâ€™s a bookshelf here with dozens of choices, but they all seem soâ€¦childish. Luckily, I have an odd quirk of memorizing passages from my favorite books. I try a few selections from To Kill a Mockingbird, ones most likely to portray Scoutâ€™s charming personality. Madysin sits down and starts to mutter.
Perhaps sheâ€™s hungry. I ask her just that, and she stands up again, reaching her arms out to me. Maybe sheâ€™s sentient, after all. I carry her into the kitchen and look at the list of snacks Shelby has left for me. Banana. Yogurt. Cheerios. This list strikes me as sad and boring; I find hummus and green peppers in the fridge and share them with Madysin, who looks startled, but game to give them a try.
That takes about ten minutes. I look at the clockâ€”more than three hours to go. More entertainment, then, but one minute of Baby Einstein on the television is fifty-nine seconds too long for me.
I show Madysin the dance I learned back in high school show choir, to Rockinâ€™ Around the Christmas Tree. I take her around the house and tell her the names of all the objects, in Spanish. El baÃ±o. El libro. Los pantalones.
After exhausting my limited Spanish vocabulary, I put Madysin in her high chair and take some wrapping paper from Shelbyâ€™s closet. I cut it into squares and make origami cranes while my niece watches, wide-eyed. When I put them on her tray, she mashes them together, then puts one in her mouth.
An hour and a half to go. I know Madysin didnâ€™t really nap yet, so I suggest that a nap would be a fine idea. Once in her crib, though, she sits up and starts to whimper. I find her binky and she lies down, but with a skeptical look on her face.
â€œCâ€™mon, kiddo,â€ I say. I reach into the crib to pat her tummy, and she grabs my hand, tight. Thatâ€™s where I am when Shelby comes homeâ€”sitting beside the crib, my hand captured on Madysinâ€™s rounded belly.
â€œThank goodness youâ€™re back,â€ I say. â€œThis kid takes a lot of entertaining. Remind me never to have one.â€
But in my own bed that night, I feel the echo of Madysinâ€™s hand holding mine. It was warm, and very soft.
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