Thursday, September 06, 2007

Friday Snippets 9

Last week we left Faye, Julia and Wilma waiting by the gate to Beulah where they had found five-year-old Briana's rag doll twin hanging. The ladies, unequipped to search in the dark for a small child in the brushy wooded area on either side of the gate, await arrival of the search party.

Meanwhile, this week, we return to the Now strand of the story, about ten years later, to the evening when Cassandra had found fifteen-year-old Briana's infant, Brandy, hanging on Beulah gate and delivered her to Faye while she went off in search of Briana.

Making Rag Doll Babies and Million Dollar Maybes

5

Faye smiles at herself, surprised by the sense of contentment she feels as she rocks the chair with gentle pushes of her toes against the kitchen’s tile floor. Brandy is quiet now, hunger and thirst sated for the moment, but she remains alert gazing up at the circle of faces.

"Quite a retinue you have here, eh Princess?" Faye laughs but her laughter bobbles as she glances up at the faces, surprising a look of naked longing, quickly, self-consciously clothed in a wry smile, on her twin’s face. And--will wonders never cease--that ever-ready sardonic brow of Wilma’s had not risen fast enough to erase the blatant compassion her eyes had been casting on Julia. This was so disconcerting, Faye was almost reassured to see that Inny’s perpetual beatific glow remained unchanged. "Well," she explained, "We have been waiting on her hand and foot ever since she arrived." They couldn’t argue with that.

They had ensconced Faye and Brandy in a rocking-chair which Inny had drug in from the library. Then Inny had stationed himself at Faye’s elbow while Wilma and Julia commenced to scurry about the kitchen, squabbling over whether powdered milk or canned would better suit such a wee tummy. Faye settled it by suggesting that warm, diluted apple-juice would most likely set better than either on the stomach of a nursing infant. There followed a heated debate over how to heat the juice--stovetop or microwave. Faye offered the compromise of nuking (Julia’s word) a half-cup of water in a coffee-mug and then adding the juice. When the attempt to spoon-feed the juice put more down Brandy’s neck and into her ears than down her throat and into her belly, Faye remembered the eye-droppers they used to feed sick kittens and Wilma and Julia rushed to find and sterilize them. Now their efforts were rewarded by the contented cooing of their little charge.

"It almost sounds as though she’s asking, "Who are you?" Faye said. She was immediately sorry she had voiced the question, for she couldn’t answer it. Who was she after all to take on the responsibility of a child-mama and her child? Music-tutoring was her forte, not mama tutoring.

"Indeed." Wilma said, the full force of her sarcasm back in voice and face. For a moment Faye thought Wilma was answering her silent doubts, but then she realized the comment was directed at her too-sentimental interpreting of baby-babble.

"Who are we to say she’s not asking just that?" Faye leveled a defiant glare at Wilma with a torrent of words to posit the extraneousness of words. But whatever she was about to say was cut off by Brandy’s steadily escalating whimpers. "QED." Julia raised her voice over Brandy’s cries. "Who needs English to understand that?"

Faye lifted Brandy to her shoulder. "My word, child! I’ve held half-grown cats that weighed more than you." As Brandy’s whimpers became wails Faye accelerated the rocker, crooning nonsense syllables into her ears.

When that didn’t work, she whispered, hoping Brandy would hush out of curiosity. "Oh kitten, we’re in a fix. That we are. But never fear, Faith is here."

"Faith is the substance of things hoped for." Inny murmured, tracing a cowlick on Brandy’s head. "The evidence of things not seen."

"Well, I don’t know about the substance of things hoped for." Faye said. "But the evidence of things not seen has just reached my nose. This child needs changing!"

Wilma and Julia steadied the rocker and Inny steadied her arm as Faye rose to her feet. With Faye leading the way they trekked down the hall toward Faye’s dressing room--the only place she knew she could be sure of putting her hands right on everything she would need.

"If we haven’t heard from Cassandra within the hour Julia, you’re going to have to run to the store." Faye grabbed a fresh towel from the open-faced shelves. Wilma cleared a space on the counter by pushing everything to one end with her forearm.

"Inny." Faye met his sweet gaze. "Be a dear and fetch me a couple of your nice big white hankies."

Julia had taken, the large, thick towel from Faye and lay it on the counter, still folded in half for cushioning. Faye lowered the squalling baby onto it and, keeping one hand on her chest, reached with the other for a box of tissues, a jar of hypo-allergenic cold-cream, and a tray containing odds and ends, from which she fished out two small safety pins.

"Ah, Inny dear. Thank-you." Faye took the proffered hankies and exchanged smiles with Wilma who had followed her brother to see if he was going to complete his errand or wander off. He still picked and chose his moments to comprehend plain everyday English.

Brandy’s screams in that small, tiled and mirrored room, pummeled them body and soul. As Faye fumbled with the snaps on the sleeper, Julia deftly folded the hankies into a diaper, un-lidded the cold-cream and dipped two tissues into it, then held them in her fist to warm them a bit.

"You act like someone with experience at this." Faye teased Julia, and as she finally got the tiny feet released from the sleeper’s legs, she met Julia’s eyes in the mirror and wasn’t sure what to make of the slow blush that darkened her twin’s weathered cheeks.

"I often doubled as nurses-aide over there." she said. "I’ve wiped my share of dirty butts." ‘Over there’ meant Nam where she had served in a MASH unit as physical therapist.

Just then, the sound of slamming car doors, sliced through Brandy’s wails. Wilma went to investigate and was back to report just as Faye got the disposable diaper unfastened. "Ms. Cosgrove has returned with one willing and one unwilling passenger--Estelle and the girl respectively. The girl is hand-cuffed and resisting every step of the way." Wilma didn’t bother to hide the satisfaction in her tone.

"Oh dear." Faye said. And then, "Oh, dear!" again as she caught sight of Brandy’s raw, inflamed bottom. She was so overwhelmed with pity and anger, tears flooded her eyes, and dropped onto her trembling hands. "I’d like to speak a few words to that Mae Bea Morgan." She gritted her teeth. "There is no excuse for this. None. There are two adult women in that household and each of them raised a babe of her own."

"Behold, everyone that useth proverbs shall use this proverb," Inny intoned. "As is the mother so is her daughter."

"Babies raising babies." Julia said.

"It’s not so simple as that." Faye winced as she wiped Brandy with the tissues and the wails became screams. "They were never raising babies in that house. They were playing with dolls." Faye took another tissue from Julia’s hand, "Oh, this won’t do, won’t do at all."

"Here. Let me." Julia nudged Faye aside and with one firm swoop of her hand cleaned the baby’s bottom. "Quick is better than over careful in a case like this." She grabbed the shaker of corn-starch, which was Faye’s preferred bath-power, and shook a liberal portion over the entire surface of the raw rash. "This isn’t ideal. She’ll need a bath later and an application of salve but the important thing is to get it dry and covered. It won’t stop hurting as long as it’s exposed to the air." By the time she finished speaking she had the make-shift diaper pinned on. She slipped the sleeper’s legs back on and snapped it up as quick as Faye could play an arpeggio at the piano. "There. See?" Brandy’s cries settled into sobs. Julia picked her up and nestled her against her neck.

"Well," Faye smiled at her twin. "And here I thought I knew everything there was to know about you."

"We all have our little secrets." Julia smiled back. "Why don’t you go on and deal with your newest stray. It sounds like that’s going to take your undivided attention. We’ll be right behind you."

5 tell me a story:

Joely Sue Burkhart 9/07/2007 6:00 AM  

We all have our little secrets. Ah, indeed. Lovely piece.

Holly 9/07/2007 3:18 PM  

Babies raising babies. Saw some of that in my ER days. This has grace to it, and the slow, easy pace makes me think of summer and lemonade and vacations when I was a kid. It has a nice shape to it.

Ann 9/07/2007 5:38 PM  

Poor baby, indeed. Have a great weekend.

cherylp 9/07/2007 8:02 PM  

Poor kid! Nice dynamic between the twin sisters. Feels like your characters are growing the further into the story you go.

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