Kangaroo Baby

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Kangaroo BabyI wanted my baby to be born in the normal way at the normal time, but I hadn’t yet painted the baby’s room, ordered furniture, or finished reading What To Expect When You’re Expecting, so I made him stay inside me like my own kangaroo.

He kept growing and I bought bigger and bigger clothes to cover us. My husband worked late and, even when he was home, kept to himself. I liked having the baby inside with me, breathing when I breathed. That way, neither of us was alone.

After a year, the baby asked to be born, but I said the world wasn’t ready yet, what with all the pollution, war, rising oceans.

My husband said we should try for another child, but I told him we already have a child.

After another year, the baby asked if the world was ready yet, but I said no because I didn’t want to share him with my husband.

My husband said we should see a therapist, talk through the baby thing, but I said there was no baby thing.

When the baby was five, I enrolled us in kindergarten so he wouldn’t miss out, and I went to school every day, squeezed into one of those small chairs, colored and Play-Dohed and shared toys better than any other kid in that class, the whiny, snotty bunch of them.

At six, the baby stuck out a foot, said it was getting painfully cramped inside, and it was time for him to be born, but I said, “Not yet,” and shoehorned his foot back in.

My husband said, “Have you thought about this from my point of view?” I said, “I’m doing all the heavy lifting here.”

By the time the baby was seven, I signed myself up for baseball and Cub Scouts. He said he enjoyed our time together, but he wanted to be born. I said I’d think about it, but eventually decided he should stay inside longer so he’d be better prepared for the world. I didn’t want him hurt or disappointed after all this time.

He said, “At this rate, I’ll be sixty before I’m born. I said, “Don’t be silly. You won’t even qualify for Medicare until sixty-five.”

My husband said, “Enough is enough,” and left the house. I stood in the kitchen and watched through the window as he packed the car and drove away. I rested my hands on my abdomen, grateful I still had the baby with me.

The house was extra quiet that night. Just water dripping from the bathroom sink. I pulled the box from under the bed. The box I had kept. Rattle, hospital receipts, trial size Johnson’s Baby Powder, receiving blanket, and ultrasound pictures of the baby at two and five months, a little bean we had called Kangaroo before we knew he would have been a boy.

I told the baby I was ready now, but he didn’t answer.


Photo used under CC.




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About Author

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Julia Strayer has stories in Glimmer Train, Post Road, SmokeLong Quarterly, Mid-American Review, and others, including The Best Small Fictions anthology. She teaches at New York University, and is completing a linked story collection.

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