Babies

It's by Michael Madgar

Today is Monday, but the babies wake up every day. Except the days they don’t wake up. 

On those days they’re dead.

Literally.

The nurse takes good care of the babies. There are other nurses, but the nurse in question is Lana. She’s in her late thirties, pencil thin and covered from head to toe in freckles. She’s never been married and only had one stable boyfriend. He hit her once, so she stopped seeing him after that.

Lana worked with the babies since she was in college. She loved them, almost like they were her own. Each and every one of them had names, but not all of them had homes. Some of the babies were abandoned, some were left behind and others family members died.

The diligent nurse would help put the babies to sleep. She’d read them stories of all varieties. Some of the babies stayed up late to hear the end, while others passed out long before she had the chance to turn a single page. Lana didn’t mind who the audience was on any given night, she just kept her eyes glued to the pages and brought the words to life.

During the afternoon Lana would sometimes have to change the babies if they made a mess. She didn’t particularly care for this part of the job, but such is life she would tell herself. The wonderful nurse would then rub away the dirt browns, pea greens and mashed debris of food once swallowed in a few quick swipes. The babies would stare at her and she would simply smile back.

Lana always liked to watch the babies walk. There was a particular baby named Herman who didn’t look like he’d ever be able to, but one day he surprised her. She came in from the cold one November morning and there he was, standing on both feet. Taking little steps until eventually crashing to the ground. Lana didn’t have the chance to giggle because she was worried, but when she told one of the other nurses about it, her colleague couldn’t help but chuckle. 

Our favorite nurse would have to feed the babies every day. Sometimes they couldn’t eat solid foods, so Lana would have to find some sort of substitute. Foods of the mashed variety. These ranged from: potatoes, carrots, broccoli, squash, corn, pumpkin, peas and even beets. Lana didn’t particularly like beets, so unless the babies really took a liking to them, she wouldn’t go out of her way to serve them.

On a side note, here’s why Lana doesn’t like beets: When she was nine-years-old she spent a summer with her grandmother in Wisconsin. Her mom sent her out there because her grandmother was a lonely woman at the age of eighty-six. She cooked dinner every night and typically the meals were very tasty. They ranged from fried catfish to slow-cooked baby back ribs. On one occasion, however, food must have run scarce because all Lana’s grandmother had was a giant round bowl of beets. The gooey purple monsters stared into Lana’s innocent soul. Her grandmother stuck an oversized spoon in the bowl and salivated at the sight of them.

In the end, Lana ended up taking one bite. That one bite caused her to swear off beets for the rest of her life. So unless one of the babies really wanted them, Lana usually kept them away. Mashed potatoes or carrots were always a better-received alternative anyway. The nurses were also responsible for doing the laundry. Making the sheets smell fresh and brand new was something Lana adored. Watching the sheets spin around in circular patterns. Water washing them about. Once they hit the dryer, Lana knew that the smell of ocean breezes and lavender were only a spin cycle away.

The babies didn’t take much notice to how fresh the sheets smelled. They just spent the day in them. The sheets could remain the same and some of the babies would remain un-phased. They wouldn’t know any better. 

Lana knew some nurses that didn’t regularly wash the sheets. In fact, one of them got fired just last month. Her name was Becky. This made Lana happy, as she hated Becky. Hate is a strong word. She disliked Becky.

Strongly.

Lana typically didn’t have a mean thing to say about anyone. Especially the babies. As stated earlier, she loved them all, even when no one else would. Sometimes she would stay far after her shift was over in order to comfort a baby. One that was staying up late crying. Lana hated to see any sort of living being in this state. 

Today is Monday and Lana has now been at work for three hours. She arrived at five in the morning, as that is when most of the babies awaken. However, this morning one of them didn’t wake up.

His name was Alexander Ferris.

Lana looked upon the baby with sad eyes. Alexander was lying in bed with his eyes closed and the faintest of smiles spread across his wrinkled face. One of the nurses called the baby’s family, but no one picked up. They forgot all about Alexander Ferris. 

Alexander Ferris, a baby trapped in the body of a man.

A man who had forgotten how to walk, but was trying to learn again. 

A man who hadn’t been able to eat solid food since 2001. 

A man whose best memories were far behind him.

Alexander Harris was merely going through the motions, and he needed Lana to keep him alive. He wasn’t very much different from the other babies at the home. They all needed her as well. She was their second mother.

Lana shed a tear for Alexander Ferris as the orderlies rolled his bed down the hallway and towards the crematorium. She pondered for a moment, rubbed her gentle fingers through her hair and closed her eyes. 

“Milk,” said one of the other babies. Lana smiled and went off to fetch a glass.