When we brought Roland into our home, he had a difficult time adjusting. For weeks, we tolerated the intense whimpering and writhing in his bassinet. The bags under my eyes sank heavy as if summoned by the vast, unnamed gods below. Please, allow me one good night’s rest. When I couldn’t take it anymore, she took the reins and consoled him. My wife would light scented candles and coo above him, her favorite old leather-bound book in hand. The baby mobile I constructed out of twigs, raven feathers, and jimson weed must have helped too.
“Good-morning-my-precious-little-birdie,” I singsonged to him. I set my coffee mug down on the table and leaned forward, hands on my knees. “Will you finally say your first word, baby boy?” Roland sat back with an aimless stare, still drowsy as daybreak loomed. We sat him upright in the chair I made from the black maple out back, planted so many moons ago. Time, where does it go? In Anoka, this question proved difficult to answer.
Yawning, my wife held our baby close and attempted a kiss atop his head. He squirmed out of her embrace, wrinkling his nose and squinting his cold, green marbles for eyes. His knotted mouth twitched back and forth. A silent, threatening tantrum that ended in a rigid, warped smile. She muttered some curses and jerked away to read a subsection of The Book, audible tension in her words. After a moment of regaining her composure, she turned back to us.
“Please, please, please,” whispered my beautiful wife, silver roots peeking out from under her brunette dye. She set The Book back down, crossed her fingers, and bit her lip. I, too, hoped Roland’s first words would be the right words.
I pushed up his greasy, wiry hair to sit with the rest, thus revealing the swirled birthmark on his forehead. It pulsated and glowed a faint green. With pruning shears, I cut away at the gnarled baby roots which kept his jaw shut, his voice imprisoned. A high-pitched squeal emitted from deep inside his throat. It was ear-piercing, not dissimilar to a mandrake violently uprooted beneath a full moon. My wife dropped The Book, and we both covered our ears. The screeching ceased.
“Da-Dada,” he said, lush soil spilling from his tiny, bleeding teeth. My wife retreated into herself, defeat flooding her face. She swiveled to me, sobbing. I let out a deep sigh as my wife sank deeper into me.
“I’m so sorry, turtledove. I thought he’d be the one. I’ll grab the shovel,” I said to coat her despair in some feigned warmth. “Back into the ground.”
If you liked this story, please consider purchasing my debut horror collection, ANOKA, now available in paperback, on Kindle, and as an Audible audiobook.