The baby had a black knitted cap with little straps to tie under the chin. If you inspected it really closely you could almost make out the Batman logo. It looked like it had been melted – if that was possible with yarn – and its owner brushed it with her little legs that were not strong enough to walk. His tongue protruded out of his mouth almost rhythmically as if his need to eat out-reached his ability to grasp what he could see.
He laid back in a car seat wedged into a shopping cart in a check out aisle at one of those stores where you can buy almost anything except maybe a vehicle. And next to him on the check out counter were two shirts bought for him even though his momma and daddy know he’ll outgrow them in a month anyway. Oh, he’s growing so big, so fast and so much that the measuring tape and scales have a hard time jumping up to his measurements.
In those regular seasons of growth were the emptying pockets of his parents. They say kids will age you, but I swear these kids don’t look over the age of 16. She’s soft-spoken and was legitimately happy when news came about her being pregnant. Her parents were not surprised. It was story told every generation and so when this newly anointed grandmother just shrugged her shoulders and feigned indifference, the girl sank stoic and hoped for the best.
“I know it isn’t much but I don’t want to put it on the card…,” she let trail off into the halo of light reflecting off the beads of her Monroe and Madonna in her upper lip.
He didn’t say anything at first.
He hadn’t thought to be careful as he never had any reason to, ever. His parents protected him from everything. His mom, a stern nurturer and his dad an ex-army soldier lost the true vision of fatherhood in his visions of war that never came to fruition. His voice wasn’t strong so he became a drill sergeant by lack of interaction in the nurturing of his one son and three daughters. When they both heard the news mom cried and dad told him to do things right and left the room for a bottle of booze that he could sink his broken dreams into.
The boy, now daddy, is stern and clenched of jaw always. He dresses like he hasn’t had the need to grow up. His pants and shirt don’t meet at his middle and his drawers are showing. His snapback cap, tattoos and piercings are nothing to judge him by. But his face is. I think his face is. When she asked him about the card he tuned out for a second, like he learned to do with authority figures. This time he feels a tinge of sadness like someone poked a pin into his lifelong aspirations but he stays strong because that’s all he knows: responsibility. Responsibility to her and this baby, not because he necessarily wanted it in the first place but because it’s what he should do, right? Right?!
She fades back slowly.
“I think we should just pay cash. Do you have any cash?” she smiled mightily for a girl her size, tiny. People wonder how she squeezed out that baby.
He sighs deeply and pull out wallet made of duct-tape, folded crisp and sharp. “I never carry cash.” as he hands it over to her.
“Well, you should.” She pushes the baby who is oblivious to all this down the aisle. He signs the electronic card reader.
And they check out.