6:54 at night, Tuesday, September 7th

The plastic electronic baby won’t stop crying.

My Forever Parents said it’s supposed to be like a real baby but it isn’t. I can’t make it happy. Even when I rock it. Even when I change its diaper and give it a bottle. When I say ush, ush, ush and let it suck on my finger it just looks dumb and screams and screams and screams.

I hold it close one more time and say, Nice and gentle, Nice and gentle, in my brain. Then I try all the things that Gloria used to do whenever I went ape-shit. After that I put my hand behind its head and move up and down on my toes. “All better. All better,” I say. From high to low like a song. Then, “So sorry.”

But still it won’t stop.

I put it down on my bed and when the crying gets louder I start looking for my Baby Doll. The real one. Even though I know it isn’t here. I left it back in Gloria’s apartment but crying babies make me really, really anxious so I have to look. It’s like a rule inside my brain. I look in my drawers. I look in the closet. I look in all the places a Baby Doll might be.

Even in the suitcase. The suitcase is big and black and shaped like a box. I pull it out from under my bed. The zipper goes all the way around. But my Baby Doll isn’t inside.

I take a deep breath. I have to make the crying stop. If I put it in the suitcase and put enough blankets and stuffed animals around it and push it back under the bed then maybe I won’t hear it anymore. It will be like I put the noise away inside my brain.

Because the brain is in the head. It is a dark, dark place where no one can see a thing except me.

So that’s what I do. I put the plastic electronic baby in the suitcase and start grabbing blankets. I put the blankets over its face and then a pillow and some stuffed animals. I’m guessing that after a few minutes the noise will stop.

Because to cry you need to be able to breathe.

***

‘Hey, Ginny,’ my Forever Mom says, ‘What’s up?’
‘Ginny,’ says my Forever Dad, ‘have you been picking at your hands again?’ That was two questions so I don’t say anything.”

7:33 at night, Tuesday, September 7th

I’m done with my shower but the plastic electronic baby is still crying. It was supposed to be quiet by now but it isn’t.

My Forever Parents are sitting on the couch watching a movie. My Forever Mom has her feet in a bucket of water. She says lately they have been swollen. I walk out into the living room and stand in front of her and wait. Because she is a woman. I’m a lot more comfortable with women than I am with men.

“Hey, Ginny,” my Forever Mom says while my Forever Dad presses the pause button. “What’s up? It looks as though you might have something to say.”

“Ginny,” says my Forever Dad, “have you been picking at your hands again? They’re bleeding.”

That was two questions so I don’t say anything.

Then my Forever Mom says, “Ginny, what’s wrong?”

“I don’t want the plastic electronic baby anymore,” I say.

She brushes her hair off her forehead. I like her hair a lot. She let me try to put it in pigtails this summer. “It’s been almost forty minutes since you went into the shower,” she says.

“Did you try to make it stop? Here. Hold this until we can get you some Band-Aids.”

She gives me a napkin.

“I gave it a bottle and changed its diaper three times,” I say. “I rocked it and it wouldn’t stop crying so I s—” Then I stop talking.

“It’s making a different sort of sound now,” my Forever Dad says. “I didn’t know it could get that loud.”

“Can you please make it stop?” I say to my Forever Mom. And then again, “Please?”

“It’s great to hear you asking for help,” my Forever Mom says. “Patrice would be proud.”

Far away down the hallway I hear the crying again so I start looking for places to hide. Because I remember that Gloria always used to come out of the bedroom in the apartment when I couldn’t get my Baby Doll to stop. Especially if she had a man-friend over. Sometimes when it cried and I heard her coming I used to take my Baby Doll and climb out the window.

I grab the napkin tight and close my eyes. “If you make it stop I’ll ask for help all the time,” I say and then I open them again.

“I’ll go have a look,” my Forever Dad says.

He stands up. When he walks past me I recoil. Then I see that he isn’t Gloria. He looks at me funny and walks into the hallway. I hear him open the door to my room. The crying gets louder again.

“I don’t know if this idea is working,” my Forever Mom says. “We wanted you to see what it was like to have a real baby in the house, but this is not turning out like we planned.”

In my bedroom the crying gets as loud as it can get. My Forever Dad comes back out again. One of his hands is in his hair. “She put it in her suitcase,” he says.

“What?”

“I had to follow the sound. I didn’t see it anywhere at first. She crammed it in there with a bunch of blankets and stuffed animals, zipped it shut and then forced it back under her bed,” he says.

“Ginny, why would you do a thing like that?” my Forever Mom says.

“It wouldn’t stop crying,” I say.

“Yes, but—”

My Forever Dad interrupts her. “Look, it’s going to drive us all nuts if we don’t put an end to this. I tried to make it stop, but I couldn’t do it, either. I think it’s at the point of no return. Let’s just call Mrs Winkleman.”

Mrs Winkleman is the health teacher.

“She said she gave the emergency phone number to Ginny this morning,” my Forever Mom says. “It’s on a piece of paper. Check in her backpack.”

He walks into the hall and opens the door to my bedroom again. I cover my ears. He comes out holding my backpack. My Forever Mom finds the paper and takes out her phone. “Mrs Winkleman?” I hear her say. “Yes, this is Ginny’s mom. I’m sorry to call so late, but I’m afraid we’re having a problem with the baby.”

“Don’t worry, Forever Girl,” my Forever Dad says to me. “This will all be over in a few minutes, and then you can get ready for bed. I’m sorry this is so intense and nerve-racking. We really thought—”

My Forever Mom puts the phone down. “She says there’s a hole in the back of its neck. You have to put a paper clip into the hole to touch a button and shut it off.”

He goes into the office and then he comes out again and walks down the hall into my bedroom. I start counting. When I get to twelve the crying stops.

And now I can breathe again.

From Ginny Moon

 

Ben_Ludwig_420Benjamin Ludwig holds an MAT in English Education and an MFA in Writing and lives and teaches in New Hampshire. Shortly after he and his wife married they became foster parents and adopted a teenager with autism. Ginny Moon, his first novel, inspired in part by conversations with other parents at Special Olympics basketball practices, is out now from HQ in hardback and eBook.
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benjaminludwig.com
@BILudwig

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