ROSALIE had convinced me to share a cigarette with her even though she was a little pregnant. She’d come babysitting with me. We sprawled on the Schulmans’ front porch swing, in the glow of their fancy baby monitor.

“But you can be ready,” I said, flitting a mosquito away from her face. Hormones were making her crazy worried and sad.  Other people in the subdivision drove by, their cars expensive and quiet. The nearby lake swamped the air with the smell of fish.

“I love you, but I don’t think that’s true,” Rosalie said. She slumped against my shoulder. I moved the cigarette to my other hand. “What if it ruins my life. What if I’m a terrible mom,” she said.

“It won’t. You won’t,” I said, combing her hair with my fingers.

“What if I never get to move to New York and be a real housewife to some gross zillionaire.”

“There is no chance that will not happen.”

“What if have a brain aneurysm when my kid is two weeks old and abandon her forever.”

“Then I’ll adopt her.”

“Or him.”

“Or him,” I said, and crushed the cigarette on the worn-out sole of my sneakers.

• • •

The Schulman baby had an old-world, grandmotherly name like me. I held her in one arm and fed her a bottle with the other. She made little sucking sounds like the ocean and I kissed her warm face over and over even though she pretty much ignored me.

“Giving a baby an elderly name is so trendy now. People are trying so hard to be timeless, but they’re doing the complete opposite thing. It’s like naming your kid Ariel in 1993. What the fuck is with this oven?” Rosalie said. She was trying to cook a pizza. The stove was covered in knobs and dials; it had taken me fifteen minutes to heat the bottle.

“I know, God, thank you,” I said.

“About which?” Rosalie said.

“The oven. Or—both.” I watched Rosalie squint at the stove buttons. She wore my sweatshirt over her dress.

• • •

When Rosalie found out she was pregnant she called me at 3am and I ran outside in my pajamas to answer. I rode my bike to her apartment, kicking up sticks behind me in the dark. She was sitting on the front cement steps, not crying. I sat next to her and she held my hands and we said “Oh my God” back and forth. Finally I asked if I could get her anything, so we walked to the Conoco and I paid for our frozen Cokes and a new box of pregnancy tests. She peed on all the tests one by one while I sat on the edge of the bathtub with my phone in stopwatch mode, reporting: Two minutes, two lines. Two minutes, two lines. Outside, she squinted into the sunrise and used her junior-high basketball stance to toss the full box of positive tests in the dumpster. “Swish,” she said. When I got back into bed I smoothed out the Conoco receipt from my pocket and stuck it into the novel I was reading.

• • •

“Joe has some super tragic ideas for names. All boys. He likes Arthur.”

“Oh,” I said.

“I told him Arthur is the boy version of like, Frances.”

“I didn’t realize you were discussing names.”

“Well, a little,” she said.

“I just guess I didn’t know you were at all.”

“Yeah,” she said. “A little.” She shrugged and twisted one of the oven knobs.

I hadn’t realized that she was definitely having a baby. I heard a beep.

“I love the name Frances,” I said. I could smell pizza cooking, dough doubling in the heat.

• • •

The Schulman baby slept in a blue nursery with a white noise machine and a wooden mobile.

“I don’t think I can stop smoking,” Rosalie whispered.

“Pregos in the ’60s didn’t stop,” I whispered.

“If you were me, what would you do?”

“About the smoking?”

“About the baby.”

Rosalie had told me when I showed up on New Year’s Eve in a beautiful dress three sizes too big. She’d gone to work on an hour of sleep after I got in a fight with my mom and needed to talk. She’d pulled me out of a frat boy’s room in college, even though she was just as drunk. And Joe definitely didn’t deserve her and Joe’s baby didn’t even deserve her.

“If I were you,” I said. “I don’t think I would have a baby.”

She dropped her hand into the baby’s crib. She traced her fingers along the edge of the bars. She fell into the rocking chair and put her hands over her face.

“I guess I meant right this second,” Rosalie said. “What would you do right this second.”

I asked what she wanted to do, which is how we ended up at the lake.

• • •

A dead fish washed up at the shore. We sat on the flat wooden dock and swayed gently along with it as it floated. The Schulman baby was drowsy and bundled, her head rolling against my collarbone. “This is the kind of mom I want to be,” Rosalie said. “Just taking my baby with me wherever I go.” I felt the same way but it seemed silly to say so, since she had the fetus and I didn’t.

“You should start taking vitamins,” I said.

She said okay. She was watching the baby blink herself awake in the moonlight.

“Let me see your belly,” I whispered.

She lifted up the hem of the dress with both hands and pushed out her hips to show me the smallest fullness there, a shiny swell between her hipbones. Her dark bangs fell over her face as she looked down and from where I sat she looked like a girl in the ’60s, like one of her dad’s Life magazine pages taped to her bedroom walls, a flower child resting at Woodstock. Like she could make a cigarette look okay in context, with a pregnant belly and a shift dress. Joe didn’t deserve her, but to be fair to him, nobody did. I took her dirty, bare feet in my hands.

“Edith, I’m having a baby,” she said in a new, drawn-out, sweet voice.

“A beautiful old lady baby,” I said.

“Named Ethel. She’s probably playing bridge in there.”

“She’s going to shoot out of your vagina holding knitting needles.”

I laughed at my own joke. Rosalie smiled.

“What a smart baby," she said, almost to herself.

The Schulman baby woke up and her cries bounced off the water, echoed endlessly, up through the trees. Rosalie picked her up and laid her down in the middle of the dock. I asked what she was doing and she shushed me like I was sobbing, too.

The baby lay on the swaying wooden dock, kicking. She could have rolled, could have slipped into the water quiet and quick, the breath in her lungs squelched with dark freshwater. But she probably wouldn’t. Rosalie cooed. She took off our sweatshirt and swaddled the baby in it. They murmured to each other until I couldn’t tell whose voice was whose.


Lindsey Gates-Markel was born in Illinois in 1983. She has done graduate fiction work at the University of Iowa and earned her MFA from Lesley University in 2012. Her short fiction was most recently published by WhiskeyPaper, Sundog Lit, and Hobart.

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LF #062 © Lindsey Gates-Markel. Published by Little Fiction | Big Truths, June 2014.


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but nobody did

by lindsey gates markel