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. “Where is she?” I ask, and Shelby nods at the nursery, holding a finger to her lips.
“I just put her down,” she says. “If you’re lucky, she’ll sleep for an hour or two. See how easy this is?”
Shelby heads for the door, keys in hand, but I grab her arm in a panic. “Wait,” I say. “What do I do with her when she wakes up?” I’m not even sure if ten-month old babies are sentient.
“There’s a list of snacks and stuff on the table. Doctor’s phone numbers, that sort of thing. But you won’t need it. For Pete’s sake, she’s your niece, Zoey. You know her. Just…entertain her, okay?”
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 I’m allergic to babies, but Madysin? Really?
She isn’t crying, exactly, just talking a bit in that incomprehensible baby language. I peek in the door; she’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, surely—her mother has her listening to the Wiggles, for Pete’s sake. I start to sing—some folk music from my parents’ era:
All my life's a circle;
Sunrise and sundown;
Moon rolls through the nighttime;
'Til the daybreak comes around…
Madysin appears unimpressed by Harry Chapin, though. Shelby’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. There’s a bookshelf here with dozens of choices, but they all seem so…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 Scout’s charming personality. Madysin sits down and starts to mutter.
Perhaps she’s hungry. I ask her just that, and she stands up again, reaching her arms out to me. Maybe she’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 clock—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 Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. I take her around the house and tell her the names of all the objects, in Spanish. El baño. El libro. Los pantalones.
After exhausting my limited Spanish vocabulary, I put Madysin in her high chair and take some wrapping paper from Shelby’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 didn’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.
“C’mon, kiddo,” I say. I reach into the crib to pat her tummy, and she grabs my hand, tight. That’s where I am when Shelby comes home—sitting beside the crib, my hand captured on Madysin’s rounded belly.
“Thank goodness you’re back,” I say. “This kid takes a lot of entertaining. Remind me never to have one.”
But in my own bed that night, I feel the echo of Madysin’s hand holding mine. It was warm, and very soft.
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