This story originally appeared in 2003 in Confluence.
By Chris Evans
The baby cries, I look at my wife, my wife sighs, the baby cries, I look at my wife, my wife stares ahead, I get up, the baby cries.
The baby wails, I open the door, the baby stops, the baby gasps, the baby cries. I walk to the crib. The baby startles—the baby always startles. My neck aches, my wife watches TV, I stand at the crib, I touch my daughter’s face. My daughter screams into my hand.
My baby wants help, I give her a bottle, she won’t take the bottle, she won’t take a pacifier, her diaper is dry, she screams at my hand. My wife tells me I do everything wrong with the baby. My wife watches TV.
So now I say something to my wife.
My wife says something to me.
I say something, my wife says something, I say something, my baby screams, my wife yells, I yell at the baby, my wife screams at me, I scream at my wife, I scream at my baby, my daughter screams.
The in-law knocks at the door.
The in-law, she stands there smiling from her part of the house, asks if she can help, looks at me as though I abuse my child and wife. She accuses me with her eyes. She stands her ground. The in-law puts her foot between the door and the doorjamb.
My wife comes from behind, says hello. My wife smiles at her mother. My wife tells her mother nothing is wrong.
The in-law draws her lips together.
I leave the door, I return to the TV, the TV blares, I return to the baby, the baby screams.
The in-law talks, my wife talks, the in-law speaks my name, my wife whispers to the in-law.
The baby cries. The baby accuses me with her eyes.
The baby startles.
In her face, I snap my fingers, I clap my hands, I scream at the baby.
The in-law grips my arm.
I push the in-law. The wife roars. The in-law pretends to be hurt and holds her shoulder. The baby screams.
My wife strikes me. I push her out of the room. I push the in-law out. I close the door.
The baby screams at me, the baby accuses me, the baby cannot stand the sight of me. The baby hates.
My wife tries to return, she pushes open the door, I slam the door on her hand, she retreats, I lock the door.
The baby screams, the baby screams, I scream, the baby screams. The TV in the next room blares, my wife pounds on the door. The baby is in here. The wife dials a number, informs on me. The in-law pounds with her fists on the wood of the door.
I want only peace. Without the baby there was silence, no wife barking into the phone, no in-law pounding her fists.
The baby is in here with me. She looks at me with hate. We hate each other, the baby, me.
The wife barks, the in-law pounds, the baby hates.
This must stop. Let’s please just stop. Please.