Slow-Cooked Sentences

Chapter 5: Dark dreams

Rachael Conlin Levy
Courtesy of Crystl.

An intermittent unfolding of a short story involving a woman, her luck and a randy cockroach. The earlier installments, in chronological order, are: The fall; The blame; Her very own hell; and What happened next.

*


Their meetings in bed were violent encounters: foot shoved against thigh, elbow jabbed into rib, and he would fall out of bed.

Help me! she’d hiss.

Whaa? he’d say.

He fumbled in the darkness, trying to pull it off his body, but the night stuck to the sheets and in his ears like tufts of thundercloud, dark, soft, ominous.

I need help, you fucking idiot.

Her anger crackled like the static electricity in the blankets he was pushing back. His hands glided over lump and limb until he found a small wet face and silky hair. He lifted the bundle up and she cried with pain and alarm: Not that one, he’s nursing! The other one! He’d start again with his hands, feeling, feeling. A tiny mouth latched hungrily onto his finger and he picked it up, triggering a new bout of crying.

Downstairs they’d walk from living room to kitchen to hallway and back to living room, a track so well tread he paced it with his eyes shut, arms jiggling the bundle of blankets. It was neither eyes nor ears, but hands that told him which son he held. There was a stubbornness, a stiffness, that came from one boy, a refusal to be cradled and rocked in his father’s arms, so the two walked instead.

When the father needed to pee, he’d walk himself and his wailing son into the bathroom, where, with eyes shut, he’d jiggle his son with one arm, and with the other, loosen his pajamas and piss. There was that one night when he opened his eyes because he was splashing all over himself and found that he wasn’t in the bathroom but was standing over a kitchen chair, urine running off the seat and spilling on his feet. But tonight was uneventful. Holding his son he tried to slip into bed quietly, but he was big and heavy and the bed bounced, the second baby cried, his wife let out a sleepy hiss and shoved a new crying son into his arms. Once again he was walking through the dark, eyes closed, arms telling him this was a smaller, lighter bundle whose cries would quiet to whimpers and finally ragged breaths. The father slept.

In the light, she woke, felt for her babies and found one.

Just one.

She kicked him, again. Hard.

Where is my baby?

Whaa?

Where’s my baby!

He sat up in bed, the memories of the night unrecorded by his eyes that now opened, blinked, irises dilating, contracting.

I don’t know.

The words floated above the bed with the dust dancing in the sunlight. He could hear her calls from the kitchen, then the living room, heard them replaced with coos and then the creak and whisper of her feet on the stairs. She climbed back into the bed that separated them, so big and crowded with young bodies.

You put him in the bassinet. He wasn’t even crying.

In the darkness beneath the blankets, her cold feet sought his warm ones, touching them softly and gently, asking to be warmed.

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