by Laurie Seidler
Ten tiny buds poked out from the soft half-moons of that baby’s palms; stubs they were, hardly good for anything. His momma was a believer. She brought him for my daddy to pray over, daddy being known up and down our parts as a miracle-worker. Fact is, we hadn’t had any miracles around our place in quite a while, long enough that the electric bill was overdue and we were having beans for dinner most nights. Daddy’s reputation was suffering. When he saw that fingerless baby his eyes kind of lit up.
“The Lord moves in mysterious ways,” he said and put his arm across the mother’s shoulders.
They lay that baby on the sofa in our front room and daddy sweated over him, rocking and whining and speaking in tongues. The momma stood by keening. They did that for long enough that I had a drink of water and read half a People magazine before they were through. When it was over, daddy brought the mother into the kitchen for a glass of sherry.
“It’s in the Lord’s hands now,” he said, wiping his forehead and filling her cup.
I snuck a peak at the baby while they were resting. He was wrapped in a white cotton blanket stamped “Good Samaritan Hospital.” He had big brown eyes and stiff black hair. Despite the goings-on he had a peaceful, inquisitive look, like he was curious about what was coming up next but not overly concerned. I touched one of his pink flukes in its center and imagined five invisible baby fingers closing over my own.
My momma left when I was his age, maybe a bit older. Daddy always said she wasn’t cut out for parenting, that it took a whole lot of grit and patience, neither of which were her long suit. So daddy raised me and that wasn’t bad.
I worried about this baby though. How would he get by? Write with his toes and turn pages with his tongue? Who would kiss a boy with stumpy starfish hands? Who would marry him?
Most of the people who come to daddy I didn’t think twice about. They’re old or stupid. Wives with cheating husbands. Folks who want to win the lottery. Most of them can live without a miracle, just like the rest of us. But this baby, he needed one bad.
So while the others were in the kitchen I took his unformed hands in my own and I drew the sap up from inside me and let it run the way I do. My hands got warm and tingly but that baby was good. He never made a sound.
Copyright © 2004 by Laurie Seidler