My wife walks around the house in worn underwear with our baby on her breast. Sometimes she mixes soup in a scratched pot with the little lips attached. Or types on the computer. She falls asleep with tiny fingers on her chest. I shake my head in wonder at this turn of events. At my wife, who is now a woman with a baby on her breast. My wife, with the baby on her breast, used to be a girl who drove three states to see a band and skip stones on a Vermont lake. She is probably still that girl beneath the baby on her breast. In the morning, she will stand in a square of light from the window, little toes at her hip. She will glow like she never did while pregnant. Sometimes I wonder if she is going to get dressed, but then I worry that she will throw a shirt on while the baby is still attached. That she will go out grocery shopping with a weird bump on the left side of her. Not to mention the suckling. The noise from the bump beneath the shirt could be disconcerting to other shoppers picking out peaches. But then I flip the channel and a hockey game is on.
When I am lucky I get to change the diaper of our baby, who is usually on the breast. She is not now, so I lay her on the bed and her top lip is blistered. A great bulb on her little lip from sucking. This shocks me, having only seen the back of her head and little curled up legs for the past month. I call my wife, who is undressed, into the room. She’s injured! But a light flips on in the baby’s eyes and my wife takes her up in her arms and blistered lips latch on. It’s perfectly normal she informs me, before heading out to the couch. I hear the click of the television and the low whisper of a documentary. I stare out the window to the tree we planted after our baby was born, a maple for Robert Frost’s poem. It is standing straight and the leaves are red.
Our baby is Super Nose. She can smell milk from three miles away!
I have become Pancake Daddy and my wife is named Milk, Please. Our baby has learned to walk. She breaks things with her hands. We’ve moved all the glass vases to higher ground. She stands on tiptoe and reaches anyway. She cannot be stopped. This morning she ate three pancakes and then chased my wife around the house on her little feet. Milk, Please! Milk, Please! I fed the dog and we looked at each other, heads cocked.
Late at night, after Super Nose is asleep on her round belly, Milk, Please will sit rubbing lotion on her cracked nipples. I remind her about the time we rowed the boat to the center of Lake Champlain and took off our clothes and jumped in. It was about four feet deep there and she took a pile of seaweed and threw it at me. We floated on our backs and became the sky.
“Do you remember that?”
“I bruised my thigh climbing back into the boat,” she replies and stands ready for bed.
“Milk, Please, sit with me and mock commercials.”
Before she turns down the hallway toward the bedroom she corrects me,
“My name is not Milk, Please.”
Milk, Please used to be handy with a hammer and nail. She was good with her hands. She built a bed and a table. She built a birdhouse and painted it yellow. The birds rushed to the hole and knocked against each other at its sight, hanging in the elm tree in the back yard. They stopped on the chain link fence and booed the bird that moved in. She saw the sadness in that and so she built more. She painted them green and blue. She painted them red. She laid down a ceramic tile floor in the kitchen and hung all new interior doors. She fixed me dinner with fresh bread and vegetables from the garden she planted. She fixed everything, the leaky faucet, and the squeaking screen door. She fixed her hair. She bundled it up tight or combed it straight. She put batteries in my remote control. But now, Milk, Please does not talk to me.
Milk, Please makes coffee in the morning. She makes bread and empanadas and serves them without a word. She disappears into the bedroom, stepping over plastic trucks, and I hear her typing and laughing. She sneaks out with her arms covering her breasts and goes to the mall or to the botanical garden. She goes to the library.
Milk, Please comes back with books on carpentry. She has an armload of books on Niagara Falls and daredevils. She disappears into the bedroom while I am feeding Super Nose pancakes. On the Thursday it rained, she came to me in my lazy-boy with a beer. She had had it. She looked around at the walls that still needed painting, at the couch that needed a slipcover. She looked at me with eyes so pale with light that a waft of air from a blink was likely to extinguish the flicker altogether.
”I can't do it anymore. I need to do something important. I need to leave my mark.”
I touched her elbow and pointed her to the birdhouses swinging with chicks. I pointed to Super Nose coloring the wall. She pulled her elbow from me and disappeared.
Three days later she entered the television room and indicated that I should address her as The Great Blondin. I laughed and she disappeared to the basement where I heard her sawing planks of wood she had carried five miles from the Home Depot on Walden Avenue. She wants me to call her The Great Blondin. Her name is Wanda. I love to call her Wanda! I always say it with the exclamation, like the first time she told me her name and I said Wanda! Wow that is something. She smiled when I said that and I swear I think she blushed. Wanda! She looked at me then and her eyes felled me. She said let me fix your shirt collar.
At the park by the river, I slide and swing. Super Nose eats sand. She has a yellow shovel and a blue, blue pail, but instead of shoveling the sand into the pail, she shovels it into her mouth. This makes her happy. I scoop her up under my arm and fly her like an airplane. Her blonde curls pressed back against her head. I slide her milk belly into the bucket swing and send her up and watch her fall. She squeals and I send her up into the sky, where the clouds are so fat and white. They are cotton balls dipped in Bactine soothing my sore.
There is a stir at the river’s edge. A crowd has gathered and a woman in a pink kerchief is pointing to a barrel, bobbing in the current. Stenciled on the side is “The Great Blondin.” I swing Super Nose up into the clouds and run to the waters edge. I dive in and do the elementary backstroke to the barrel and knock on the lid.
“Who is it?”
“It is Pancake Daddy, what are you doing here?”
“I’m going over the Falls.”
“You are four miles away, Wanda!”
She opens the lid, looks around and laughs.
We doggy paddle back to shore. Super Nose is just
barely swinging. She puckers her lips and says, “Mama.”
B R A V E S O U L S R E C E I V E
Archive of Recent Activities
Area For Textual Encounter
Holy Shit This Is Creepy!