"Push. Push hon. You can do it. You are doing great."
She was doing better than I was, but the nurses kept encouraging me to encourage her. We have been in the hospital for three days now, maybe four, and the doctors would not tell us what the complications were. Something was wrong. They either werenít sure, or just wouldnít tell us, and I was starting to wonder which was better.
"Just get the fucking baby out of me already!" Katie screamed. Katie never swore. "I feel like I am trying to shove out a bucket of bricks!"
I think that stuck out in my mind. That exact quote. I am not sure why.
"Itís aÖ well, itís a boy!?"
I wasnít sure how to take that. I wanted a boy, we both wanted a boy, but it was announced as more of a question than I thought it should be. We were first time parents, so I thought maybe that was just how doctors announced it. Or at least this doctor. Maybe he didnít want to be the bearer of bad news. If we were hoping for a girl. Also, this was not our normal doctor. Dr. Peters was in the hospital being treated for something himself. Dr. Newguy maybe didnít know if we already knew the sex or were waiting for it to be a surprise. I considered all these things, but the hesitation still worried me.
"Heís beautiful" my wife exclaimed when Newguy finally held up our new baby boy. I thought it was a joke.
We had looked at the sonogram but asked not to be told the sex, or to have anything pointed out. When you donít know what you are looking for, it really isnít that obvious. Also, we were on something of the budget plan. We got all the third-rate rooms, equipment. Our sonogram resembled an old Atari more than state of the art medical science. That was what I contributed the blocky-ness of our baby to. I had thought it was kind of fun that our baby seemed to resemble Mario circa 1984.
Newguy handed our new baby, Thomas, to Katie and she rocked him in her arms and I could see the tears of joy taking the place of those of pain.
I wanted to share in her excitement, and I did, but I wasnít sure what to think. The best I could tell, Thomas was made of Legos.
Thomas resembled a newborn baby in every fashion, but at the same time, was a little different. His body was the colors it should be, but in solid colors. Everywhere, his skin tone changed, it did so with the next piece. He was held together by those little round nubs that stick out of the blocky-ness. I could see them on his little baby limbs, and each stub had "Lego" printed on it.
But I wasnít burdened so much with the questions of how it had been possible, as how it would be possible. How would he grow? Would he be able to fit in with the other kids at school? How would he eat, and how would his preferences lean? How would he crap? I shoved all those questions aside, at least until we got Thomas home, and went and hugged beautiful Katie and said, "Heís beautiful."
Thomas grew up surprisingly normal. We thought it was normal anyway. You adapt. Having nothing to compare it to, we thought it was cute when he would take his leg apart. He would try to put it back together, but he didnít have the cognitive skills for that yet. He usually ended up chewing on his pieces until we would take them away from him and put him back together. I was curious what would happen if he accidentally swallowed a piece of his own foot, but Katie didnít share my curiosity. That is not funny she would tell me.
I had so many questions about our sonís body, and some stuck out more than others. Thomasí body was completely hairless when he was born and remained so for some time. When he did start to grow hair, it happened all at once instead of gradually. One morning he woke up with a full head of hair, but it was one solid piece. Like he had found it in the middle of the night and attached it to his head. One day I noticed he had eyebrows, but they appeared to be drawn on. I couldnít remember how long they had been there. Had it been a matter of weeks, or had they too just appeared?
When Katie went back to work, we searched around and found a daycare for Thomas. Catherine came highly recommended, and was amazingly understanding. She did everything she could to help Thomas feel comfortable. The first two weeks she would relay to Katie how he kept to himself and played with the toy trucks, but behaved wonderfully. After a couple of weeks, he started to play with the other kids, and another month later, he was the most popular kid there. They would all make games out of taking his legs and arms apart and putting him back together. On a couple of occasions, he would have a random red or green piece in the middle of one of his legs. We would dig through the Lego box with Catherine and find his missing piece and replace it.
By the time Thomas was ready for Kindergarten, many of our fears had been relaxed. He had gotten along well with all the other kids in daycare. My wife and I constantly read, doing everything we could as first time parents. We read Dr. Spock. We read the entire What to Expect WhenÖ series. We bought every new Lego series, both for Thomas to play with, and to read up on all the directions. We wanted to cover our bases. Still, we had our worries that first day of class.
"All the other kids will pick on him. I know it! I knew we shouldnít have left him."
Katie was sobbing into the phone. It was the first day of Kindergarten. We had met with both the principal and Kindergarten teacher on a couple of occasions two weeks before class started. We felt it best to let them know what to expect and we wanted to feel them out. Make sure everything would be okay.
"I am sure he is just fine hon. Calm down. He will be just fine. If anything had happened they would have called us. The other kids probably love him." I had to hide my own fears for the sake of both our nerves. I finally calmed her down enough to go back to work, although I didnít get much work done.
When I picked Thomas up from school that afternoon, he had the biggest smile I had ever seen. Mrs. Andes, his teacher, said all the kids loved him, and didnít tease him at all. He spent all evening telling Katie and myself about his day over and over.
This repeated for the first month or two of classes. Thomas would barely want to leave when we came in the afternoons to pick him up. All the other kids wanted to come over to play. Katie and I relished having the "cool kid" in the class. We were proud.
"Mr. Martin. You need to come down here right away."
"What is it?" I asked. No one ever called me Mr. Martin. Mrs. Andes had a squeak in her voice, and she wouldnít explain. "Have you called Katie yet? Is Tommy alright?"
"No, her line was busy. You should get down here as soon as possible." I could hear little kids crying in the background.
When I showed up at the school, there were already two ambulances parked outside. I had called Katie on my cell on my way. I ran into Thomasí room, and most of the kids were standing in a circle around his body. A cop was questioning a couple of the kids back by Mrs. Andesí desk. Thomas had been playing with everyone, showing them how he could take himself apart and put him back together. He had rebuilt his leg on his arm. Then, he apparently went too far, and with half of his body spread out around him, he began having trouble breathing. The kids tried to put him back together as quickly as possible, but it was too late. Reassembled, Mrs. Andes tried but couldnít find a pulse. She yelled for one of the other teachers to call 911, and she took him apart and rearranged his pieces, futile attempts to revive. I broke through the circle and picked Thomas up in my arms and looked back to see Katie storming into the room. The paramedics sat around and shrugged their shoulders. "We did everything we could think of." We rode with Thomas in the back of the ambulance to the hospital, and at the hospital, the doctors separated him piece by piece, and spread him out on a bed, but shrugged their shoulders, like the paramedics before them. Still weeping, Katie prayed for it all to be over and asked if we could take him home. At home, we prayed for his body again, mixed his body into the Tupperware box of Legos that Thomas kept under his bed and I shelved him in our attic, the best burial we could imagine.
B R A V E S O U L S R E C E I V E
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Last Year Today
LET IT BE WIDELY KNOWN THAT
a new steve delahoyde/waki gamez "irritable colon" cinematic production is available -
recently filmed in a swank condo lodged in what once was
a semi-toxic underground corn silo in iowa city, iowa
hint #1: mustache-wearing frustrated writer/dead person = the eyeshot editor in action
HINT #2 - IRRITABLE COLON'S LATEST OFFERING IS A MUST!
and also please check out the winter issue of pig iron malt
which features strong/savory/serious stories by
eyeshot contributor david barringer and the eyeshot editor