Estimated reading time — 9 minutes
She’s only a little dead. I can feel the warm. The bits inside, for sure, are hot.
There was a lot more blood than I expected; more than when I done either the mouse or the chipmunk.
Maybe it’s because of the babies. I learned in school that a lady has more blood when she’s pregnant. “It’s because the baby needs more food,” Mrs Chappel told us. I don’t know what that had to do with anything; I just wanted to hear about the blood. But when she talked she rubbed her hand around and around on her belly, and the sound drove me bananas until I couldn’t hear her words anymore. She was always touching her belly and smiling; I don’t understand why she was so happy to be getting fat.
I’ve got my favourite sharp stick here and I squidge it around inside. There’s some lumpy stuff, and a thing that looks like a kidney bean. I tried poking at it but it got stuck on my stick and I had to shake it off. It went splat when it hit the dirt and had little stringy bits like a spider’s web all over it.
I kicked some dust on it. It’s not what I want.
I get up close again, and don’t get any grass on my knees. My Mom just bought me these jeans and she’ll be mad at me if I wreck ’em.
The knife I took out of Daddy’s drawer is right here with me. It’s all rusty and I couldn’t get it open at first but I worked real hard and it opened right up. It just took some wiggling.
“My clever boy,” Mom says inside my head, and it makes me smile. I love my Mom.
It’s starting to get a little dark out. Goosey bumps are all over my arms, even though I have my coat all did up.
What happened was I stayed in the cloakroom after the last bell. I was trying to think. It was warm and dark in there, and even though it smelled like wet boots it made me feel safe.
Mrs Chappel came to the doorway and pulled me out of the pile of other kids’ clothes. There’s babies inside her, two of them. I wanted to know if they could see me from in there.
“Do your babies have eyelids?”
“Well, that’s a good question. Yes, I think they do.” She was rubbing at her belly again and her hand went scratch scratch scratch against her shirt.
“It’s too loud! I don’t like when you do that.”
Her hand stopped. “Okay, Cody, time to get you home. Put on your coat.”
I let her help me, even though I’m big enough to do it myself. And then I had a lightbulb.
“Mrs Chappel, my mom can’t come get me today. Can you take me home?”
“Hmm. Why don’t we call her? We’ll go to the office and I’ll let you use the phone.”
“No! She can’t come. She had a appointment. And my dad can’t come either. He works.”
Mrs Chappel’s eyebrows went all up.
“It’s close to here.” It’s not, really, but I tell good lies.
She got down on her knees and zipped up my coat. Her eyes were big and brown, with little bits of green.
“I can’t take you home to an empty house, Cody.”
“I could… I could go to my neighbour’s. She’s old, so we can’t call her. She doesn’t hear. But she watches me, sometimes.”
Mrs Chappel tried to stand back up, but it wasn’t easy for her. I put my arm out and let her push on it, but I knew she wasn’t really putting weight on me. Grownups never think you can do stuff.
I do lots of things that grownups don’t know about.
Mrs Chappel was looking at the clock. I looked too: the big hand was already falling way down past the three. Mrs Chappel looked at it for a bunch of time and then she looked at me.
“I guess so, then. Let me get my things.”
I took my backpack off my hook, then I sat in Kandyce’s desk, right up front, and I watched her put some books and papers into her big bag. She tooked her long coat out of the teacher’s closet and put her arms in it. She couldn’t do up the buttons though because her stomach was too big.
She told me to go out the classroom door then she locked it up behind her. That part was silly; no one wants to go in school when they don’t have to.
It was all quiet. All the other kids were gone. That’s okay, they’re mean and I don’t like them.
When we were walking she asked me a whole bunch of times if I know where I live and she didn’t seem to believe me when I said yes. She shouldn’t ask me things if she doesn’t believe me.
“What’s the name of your street?” she said.
“I don’t know, but it’s right through there.” I was pointing at the park where the big kids go. I never been back there because everyone knows that’s where the Pantyhose Man hangs out with pantyhoses on his face and waits for little kids. The big kids say that’s lies but I know they’re trying to trick me.
But Mrs Chappel was with me, and I know bad men will leave you alone if you’re with a grownup.
She didn’t seem to want to go in there either. Maybe she’s seen him before.
“Are you sure? You shouldn’t be going back there.” She was looking through the trees and she seemed a little scared.
I wasn’t scared. Much.
“I’m sure, it’s down that path a little.” I saw the path going off the schoolyard right then, or else I wouldn’t have knowed there was one.
“We can go around the park, on the street.” She held my hand with her hand and her hand pulled me away from the trees.
I pulled back, though. I wanted to see her babies, just me, not anyone else.
“That way is too-too long. I have to be home soon or else I’ll get in trouble.”
She breathed out a loud breath and said okay. Her hand started to leave my hand so I held on tighter. I liked touching her skin. It was warm and soft and my fingers were cold. I put my other hand way down deep in my pocket but I had to push Daddy’s knife out of the way because my pockets aren’t big.
We walked for a little bit and we didn’t say anything. I was happy when she put her other hand in her pocket because then she couldn’t touch the babies and make the shirt noise.
“Can I please play with your babies?”
“Oh, no, not yet. They’re still growing in my belly.”
We went a little more down the path.
The park wasn’t so scary but I watched in the bushes for bad men anyway. Bad men are always waiting in bushes and I wanted Mrs Chappel and me to be all by ourselves.
I had a idea all the sudden and I tooked my hand away from Mrs Chappel. I jumped over the little rock wall that was beside the path and I ran up the hill there. I went high enough that she couldn’t get me unless she came too.
“Cody, come down from there! It’s not safe.”
“I know a shortcut,” I yelled at her.
“That’s not the point. I need to make sure you don’t hurt yourself. Come on down, buddy.”
She held up her hand and waved at me like I didn’t know what she was saying. I watched her mouth say the words but I didn’t listen to them. I went higher up the hill.
“Cody. Come down here.”
I could see over top of her head, I was up so high. I looked all around but I didn’t see anyone else there. I went a little higher.
“Cody! I’ll have to give you a demerit. You have til the count of three. One… two…”
I waited, ’cause demerits don’t matter when you’re not in school.
“Fine. Fine, I’m coming up there.” She said some other stuff all low but I didn’t hear what.
She stepped over the wall with her tall legs and started to come up the grass. Her shoes were high and they were slippery, not like my runners. She stepped a couple steps then slided back down then stepped up a couple more. Her face was all red and her eyebrows were angry.
“Stay there, then. I’m coming.” Her big fat belly went back and forth when her feet moved. I knew it was the babies wanting to come out and play with me.
I went a little higher. There was trees at the top of the hill where I could play hide and seek with the babies. It was dark in there but I’m big and I would keep them safe.
Mrs Chappel was halfway up the hill and she kept reaching out her hand for me. She almost got my foot once, but I kept away where she couldn’t touch me.
She was breathing big breaths and she kept sliding with her grownup shoes. I let her think she could catch me to make her come up to the trees.
She put her hand up to grab my foot and kind of stood up but then her big belly tipped her over and she fell down the hill. Just like Jill from Jack.
She did a somersault then BAM hit her head on the wall. I waited for her to get up but she stayed right there all twisty. She looked funny!
I came back down the hill. It was easy because of my shoes. I said “Mrs Chappel wake up!” but she didn’t listen. I pushed at her arm and I yelled real loud in her ear.
She didn’t want to wake up for me.
I put my hand on her big fat belly. It was so hard, not like a real belly at all. I could feel bumps in there, those were the babies.
I pulled on her hand as hard as I could and she came down off the wall. There was blood there, a whole bunch.
If I leaned way way back and pulled hard I could make her slide on the grass. I didn’t want anyone to come see us because then I wouldn’t get to play with the babies and that’s not fair because I asked so nicely.
I pulled and pulled and we went into some bushes. It was dark in there and it smelled bad but I put Mrs Chappel in a clean spot.
“Hold on little babies, almost time,” I said.
This was when I wiggled the knife. When I tooked it from Daddy’s drawer I was going to show some kids. But those kids were mean to me today so I kept it a secret instead.
I wiggled it open and I touched the babies in the belly again. They were right inside and the belly felt like a balloon.
I could pop the balloon with my knife, then the babies would come out.
I put just the tippy tip of the knife into Mrs Chappel’s balloon belly, and that’s when she woke up.
“Cody? What’s… what are you doing?” She sounded scared but I don’t know why because I was smiling and not scary at all.
“I’m going to let the babies out.”
That’s when she started moving her arms around but she couldn’t move her whole body. I think something was wrong with her back because it was all crooked.
I put the knife in a little more but I was careful because I know balloons make a big noise when they pop and noises bother me sometimes.
Mrs Chappel started screaming but that was okay because I like her voice.
“Help! Help!” she yelled.
“I am helping, silly,” I said. “I’m helping get the babies out to play.”
She looked at me and her eyes were real big. Then she swung her arms a bunch but she couldn’t reach me because I was sitting on her legs.
There was blood coming up. I guess it was like a water balloon. I had to push real hard to get the knife in there but it was easier with the blood because then it was slippery.
I leaned way way back and slided the knife and her balloon belly started to come open.
Her eyes looked funny, like she was seeing a ghost, and she started talking to Jesus.
There was puddles of blood inside there, like in the mud after it rains. The stuff inside looked kinda like the stuff in the chipmunk but everything was bigger.
I made the split bigger and it ripped open then Mrs Chappel stopped talking.
So here I am now, with my stick, trying to find the babies. I wonder if they’re boys or girls. I like boys better but they’re meaner so maybe it would be nice if there was one of each.
I’m poking at the balloon but it doesn’t want to pop. I think I can see something in there.
My stick is real sharp; I spent a whole day on the back steps at home rubbing it on the cement. I always have it with me because you never know what you’ll need to dig.
I hold it up real high over my head and bring it down—whoosh—and it goes in the balloon and all this water comes out. I twist it around and make the hole big.
I see them! There’s two babies all curled up together and I think they’re sleeping. They look funny; their skin is kinda see-through but maybe that’s because they haven’t got suntans yet.
I reach in and lift them out all careful. They’re tied to Mrs Chappel by this rope thing, so they don’t get lost.
“I won’t lose them, I promise,” I say, but Mrs Chappel isn’t talking to me.
I put the babies in the grass and cut at the ropes. It takes a while because the ropes are tough and hard but that’s the only way the babies can come home with me.
I can tell from the way they lay there that they’re too tired to play hide and seek today, but that’s okay because Mom taught me patience.
I get the ropes cut and I pick up each baby and put it in my backpack. “We’ll come back after we play,” I tell Mrs Chappel. “I’ll take good care of your babies.”
I don’t know if they are boys or girls because they’re sleeping and I can’t ask them. I put my backpack on with them inside and start walking home. I walk real careful so I don’t wake them up.
I can’t wait to play. We’re going to have so much fun.
Credit: Stefanie Snider
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