Her Baby, Who Was Away

Rhoads Stevens

“He was my baby,” she said to the woman. “I had him since he was six weeks.”

They were in a small, spare room. The room had a comfortable chair, which the woman was in, and a metal-and-wood chair that looked like it came out of an old high school, which the other woman, a younger woman, sat in. One side of the spare room was a big window with a big sliding door. The door was open, and it was cold outside. There was a lawn, and some birds picked around in grass and thin snow. The birds were juncos and a blue jay.

“Even though he was no longer six weeks—even though he was big now and two years old—I still liked to put him in my lap. Like a baby,” she said. She said that the last time he was in her lap, he made a quick move, snapped, and bit her face. He punctured her eye, got her lip, and partially ripped off a nostril. “It came off like a wing.”

Her eye healed. The rest of it was repaired cosmetically. “And not that expensive.” Her family took her baby away. Somehow, in the process of being taken away, he had managed to grab one of her old sweatshirts, one from high school, with him, and he liked to carry that around, whimpering. “He probably thinks it smells like me.”

The birds were gone. She got up and closed the sliding door. It was cold outside. She left the room and went to another room twenty more floors down.

Rhoads Stevens was born in Baltimore, grew up in Honolulu, and lives in Seattle.