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"Baby Proof" Published in Corium Magazine

"Baby Proof"

Each morning, after the herds of yuppies drop off their sniffling kids, I spend almost twenty minutes emptying Benadryl capsules into plastic baby bottles. For the next hour or so, I change piss-soaked diapers, wash baby food from filthy little mouths, until all the kids finally fall asleep, dazed deep in their cloudy antihistamine comas.

Usually, I spend the next few hours hacking into my boyfriend’s email account so I can read the latest messages from his skinny, bitch of a wife. But today I have an appointment with a woman who wants to enroll her kid in my daycare center, so instead I lie back on the sofa, waiting for her to arrive, sipping from a dented Sprite can filled with Vodka, the smell of dirty diapers chewing through the air.

A few minutes later, I hear the sound of tires crunching gravel, and I peek through the window. My heart jumps into my throat when I realize that it’s her. She looks anorexic, just like in the pictures, and she has the same Hitler hairdo. I watch her climb out of a black SUV dragging her little rotten brat of a son behind her on one of those toddler leashes. At the door, she introduces herself, and we walk to the back of the house, to my office. There’s a freckled, pig-tailed puppet lying face-down in the hallway. The last thing I need is for her to trip on it, break her stupid neck, and then sue me, so I pick it up, and once we get to my office, I drop it into a basket of toys in the corner.

“It’s so quiet,” she says, scratching her neck with a perfectly manicured fingernail. “You’d never know this was a daycare center.”

As she sits down, I want to tell her that I’ve been screwing her husband for the last three months, that while she cleans the house and takes out the trash, we’ve been spending our nights in a local bed and breakfast. I want to tell her that her entire life is a lie, but the words get stuck in my throat.

“You’ll probably feel guilty for taking my money,” she says, “after you realize how low-maintenance my son is. He’s extremely well-behaved for a child his age. My pediatrician says he’s gifted.”

As she says this, she unhooks the little Rhodes Scholar from his leash, and he bolts across the room and starts climbing across the sofa. I watch him smear a long green string of snot into the sofa cushion, and I can’t help but wonder: if this kid is so goddamn gifted, why can't he wipe his own stupid nose?

"He's an excellent speller too," she says. "He even won a local toddler spelling bee a few months back.”

Can he spell hyperactive disorder, I want to say. What about gross negligence?

“We actually have four other children,” she says. “But all of them are fully grown.

“You have five kids?”

“I know. My gynecologist calls me The Woman with the Golden Uterus.”

As she says this, I think back to that night years ago when my ex-husband rushed me to the hospital, the pain eating through my insides, a clump of clotted blood like a purple jellyfish crawling down my thigh.

“Are you sure your doctor is actually a gynecologist?” I ask.

“What do you mean?”

"Well, these days, you never know. Did you see that special on Dateline a few weeks back? Some guy opened a doctor's office, and he hadn't even gone to college. He was performing like ten plastic surgeries a month, and he wasn't even licensed. Apparently, he'd learned everything off the Internet. None of his patients had a clue, until he botched some woman's boob job and her nipples rotted off."

"My doctor is a licensed physician."

"Lots of people don't know this,” I say, “but you can buy authentic-looking diplomas from all the big medical schools on the Internet. And printer technology would amaze you. The printers people have in their homes today are as technologically-advanced as the ones large print companies had just two or three years ago."

“Trust me,” she says, a crooked smile growing on her lips. “He’s a licensed physician.”

She stares around the room uncomfortably for a minute, her diamond earrings flickering in the light. “I’m sure you get this question all the time,” she says, “but I assume the facility is baby proof? I guess that’s a stupid question. My husband says I’m so obsessed with safety.”

As she rattles on and on about anti-bacterial soap and some incident in the news concerning a baby who died after the head of a Barbie doll got lodged in his throat, I remember a conversation my ex-husband and I had, long before the miscarriage. How after almost two years of trying to get pregnant, he’d jokingly called my dead uterus “baby proof,” the way someone might call a Kevlar vest “bullet proof.”

The words drift around in my head like a black thunder cloud, and I begin to feel like that freckled puppet in the basket of toys, my insides hollowed out, my mouth gaping open—locked in a kind of silent, empty scream.

After she leaves, I lie down on the sofa, and I begin to feel the vodka crawling through my blood. A baby begins to cry in the other room, and as I close my eyes, I imagine myself sprinkling the floor with paperclips, removing the plastic covers from all the electrical outlets, spilling pain pills across the floor like Tic Tacs.

--from Corium Magazine

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