by Misty Yarnall
“”Trina plugs the tub. As she turns the faucet, water splashes against the mat suctioned to the porcelain. She drizzles a bottle of Johnson & Johnson across the tub, creating a clean foam. She takes the Elmo towel from the linen cupboard and lays it on the bathroom floor. Her hand in the tub, she tests the water the way she tests his bottles. She sets three rubber duckies on top of the bubbles. The baby cries from the bedroom.
Yesterday, the baby sat in the grass, poking at caterpillars and squinting into the sunlight. Trina knelt in the grass, framed her son into the perfect shot before she took his photo. She blew a dandelion in the wind. The baby reached after the remanence until she plucked another from the grass and made a new wish. She snapped another photo. The sunlight made the wisps of hair on the top of his head look like the white remanence of the dandelions.
She posted the photographs, then lifted the baby and brought him inside for a bath. On the bathroom floor, she yanked the grass stained onesie over his head. His skin was indented by the seams of his outfit. She set him in the bathwater and scrubbed the red lines. The baby cried. Her husband Charles rushed in and turned the nozzle so it dripped cold. The water no longer steamed. He took a blue washcloth and soaked it in soap, and gently washed the baby’s torso.
Now alone, Trina picks up her squirming baby. His skin is warm against her side. He smiles with cheeks that hold the weight of her heart. She carries him to the bathroom and kneels beside the tub, sitting him in the water. His arms splash through the surge. He reaches for heaps of bubbles, crushing between his nubby fingers. He cries.
The baby slips down into the bubbles. His head caresses the porcelain. His wispy hair is damp and dark. His lips touch the water and he squirms like a fish on sun-kissed rock. The rubber duckies swim on. Water splashes up on her, splattering across her t-shirt.
She lifts the baby out of the water and holds him to her chest. His damp head falls against her breast, but he does not latch. He cries into her heart, unheard.
The front door smacks shut. Her husband’s dress shoes scuff off his feet and onto the kitchen floor. She carries the baby into the bedroom and kicks the door behind her. She rocks him back and forth. She smiles into his pinched, red face. His shrill cry drowns her out.
Charles appears in the doorway, the top button of his dress shirt undone. She sets the baby down on the comforter. Charles picks him up, nestles the baby’s head into the crease of his neck, a spot Trina had kissed softly so many times. Trina sits at the edge of the bed, pinching at the comforter, and makes a wish.
Misty Yarnall studies Creative Writing and English at Monroe Community College. Her short fiction can be found in The Merrimack Review, KAIROS Literary Magazine, and Gandy Dancer. Misty is currently working on a collection of short plays.
The Roadrunner Review nominated “Postpartum” for Best Small Fictions.
Image: Photograph by I