Thursday, October 17, 2019

Snippet: The empty crib

The seventh and supposed-to-be-last book in the Applied Topology Series, A Child of Magic, should be released as soon as I can get results back from my cover artist and formatter. Maybe a couple of weeks? In the meantime, while I am engaged in such fascinating amusements as putting in the accent marks on all the French words my characters in Tangled Magic have been using - after which I have to do surgery on the sagging plot - I thought I'd start putting up little snippets from A Child of Magic.


I’d had nearly an hour to myself since walking in the front door, and it was beginning to feel subtly disturbing. I wanted my baby. I wanted to see the three-cornered, almost toothless smile that lit up his whole face whenever he saw me. I wanted to check the two bottom teeth that had recently appeared and give him a frozen bagel to gum while he fussed about the top teeth that would show up, so I was informed, any day now. I wanted to hear him squawk, “Baa-baah!” (Okay, so he hadn’t mastered “Mama” and “Dada” yet. So what? He made up for it in advanced motor skills.)
I hated to tie up the land line in case Lensky called, but I went back into the hall and dialed Mom’s number anyway.
“Mom! Where are you?”
“In the kitchen, silly girl. We’re having xtopodi in garlic sauce tonight.”
Ugh, octopus. Tentacles.
“With an apple-marshmallow Jello salad.”
Mom was definitely a Greek-American cook, even if my father preferred that she emphasize the Greek part.
“Do you and Brad want to come over?” Her voice switched into coaxing mode. “And bring Aleksi, of course. I haven’t seen the little devil since you brought him over Friday night. Did those top teeth come out this weekend?”
A wave of cold went through me, and for a moment I thought it really would stop my heart. “He’s… not… with you? Jenny left me a note. She said you’d taken him to your church thing today…”
“Angels Unawares?” Mom clicked her tongue. “I would never take him with me to that since he started crawling all over the place. I’m much too busy serving lunch to our homeless visitors to keep an eye on him, and anyway, some of those poor unfortunate souls might have infectious diseases. You must have misunderstood Jenny’s note.”
“Um. Yes. Probably.” When had my hands started shaking so hard? I tried to hang up, but kept missing the phone. On the third try I just dropped the receiver on the floor. I needed to get to Aleksi’s room. It had all been a mistake, of course it had been a mistake; he was just napping, and I would kill Jenny for leaving him alone like this, and…
The crib was not – quite – empty.
Sprawled face down in one corner was Blue Beary, the minute stuffed animal that was Aleksi’s current object of affection. Last week he had adjusted remarkably well to my disappearing into the bedroom with a notepad and an armful of books every morning, but that stuffed teddy bear was a different story. Any separation from Blue Beary during his conscious hours resulted in impressive screaming tantrums. Bathing him was only possible if Lensky knelt by the tub and waved Blue Beary at him while I soaped and scrubbed all his little baby creases.
There was no way anybody – Mom, Jenny, Lensky, anybody who cared about him at all – would have casually walked off with Aleksi, leaving his beloved toy in the crib.
And more: the car seat was in the corner where I’d left it in case Jenny needed it.
I should call somebody, I thought, but the thought was coming from a great distance. Lensky, Ben, Ingrid, anybody at the Center… No, I should just teleport to the Center… but how could I leave? What if it was a mistake, and Jenny would hurry in any minute with Aleksi and her apologies for the misleading note? And if I wasn’t here?
I hung onto the edge of the crib while the room spun around me. Oh, I should never have agreed to go back to work. If I knew anything, I knew that now – too late.


Images: Hopf Fibration by Niles Johnson [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], teddy bear by Pavel Ševela [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

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