#72 Baby Stuff: Never Used

by James Silberstein

To help sleep, he used to count expenses. Add up everything so as not to fib when she asked if they had enough. Times always tight. Sleep never easy. Counting, adding, subtracting soothed him.

Money no longer mattered, nothing added up, but he couldn’t stop counting. Maybe the classifieds would solve the problem. The things needed a good home. He needed them gone. He remembered how he made her argue for every purchase. Why had he been so stingy?

What to Expect ($7.92). “The newest edition.” She didn’t even break the spine.

Muslin swaddle blankets ($47.85). “Expensive, but tighter and warmer,” she said. Still in the plastic.

Espresso crib ($299.99). “Meets safety standards,” she warned.

Matching changing table ($214.44).

Car seat ($128.99). “Make sure you install it right.”

Bouncer ($49.99) “For the living room.”

Boppy ($40.29) “For breastfeeding in bed.”

Glider ($187.98) “It’s perfect, no squeaks.” She approved and he finally smiled.

Then the incalculable: Mother followed child from birth into death.

Better if the stuff went to strangers; family and friends looked at him as if seeing their own corpse. But strangers might want to pay him. A donation then. The generous thought gave his mind respite, until connotations of tax write-offs sickened him. How do you stop adding when everything’s been subtracted?

A pyre then.

The convulsions of grief canceled—only briefly—the dull, constant ache. Always it returned—his unbearable heart, a slow thump, the only thing left to count.


Jonathan Riley said...

Wow! There is a night and day difference from the first draft to this one. The first one was good but this one is breathtaking. I loved it. I'm glad you ignored my advice to lean heavier toward the advert side because chose the right direction. I absolutely love how each item and it's price reminds him of something she said. The way you put them side by side was priceless :) The adding and counting, the obsession with it, the final lines. All perfect. My favorite line here:"How do you stop adding when everything’s been subtracted?" Bravo!

James said...

Much thanks, Jonathan,

I'm still considering your approach, putting the items in a posting, trying to get the things themselves to tell the story. No easy feat, but worth a shot. Thanks again and hope to see you next year.