– Bo –
It’s dark out. At this time of night, I should be listening to the distant crickets chirping from the window, along with intermittent snorkeling snores from Dad and deep inhalations from Mom. Our usual sleep serenade barely lasted half the night before Baby interrupted with her own song of whaling.
Instead of resting peacefully, as we always would, the whole apartment echoes with Baby’s cries.
Lit with only strong nightlights and dim lamps, the apartment’s setting would appear calm, if you didn’t hear the noise coming from our littlest family member.
Our shadows pace with us as Mom walks Baby through the apartment’s living spaces, in and out of rooms. Dad and I trail behind her.
“I know, honey, I know,” Mom whispers, patting the tiny screamer’s back.
“What do we do?” Dad asks with dark circles under his eyes and heavy lids on top.
“I don’t know,” Mom whispers with a shake of her head.
Dad combs his fingers through his already messy hair, making his dark coat stick up even more. He reminds me of one of those dogs with raised hairs on their backs… including the growing frustration coming from his aura.
Baby’s screech goes up another octave. My ears twitch from the frequency.
Mom’s loose ponytail is slowly coming undone with every round she takes of the room.
Dad reaches out his hands.
“Let me try,” he whispers.
Trading Baby as swiftly and gently as Mom flips pancakes, our screamer dulls her cries for a moment, then proceeds to wail as she settles on Dad’s shoulder.
My gut clenches with every squeal. As much as this hurts my ears, there’s a fear eating my insides that I’m not used to.
What is it?
“What could she want?” Mom whispers through her teeth, barely audible above Baby.
“Maybe she didn’t eat enough,” Dad suggests with a high tone.
Mom jabs the air with her open hand, pointing to Baby.
“She’s the one that got fussy and pushed me away,” Mom responds.
Ducking my head in reflex from the growing tension, my stomach begins to turn.
“Well, maybe she was having trouble latching on-”
“She’d been eating for over fifteen minutes already. I’m dried up on one side!” Mom seethes.
I know they’re upset – my tucked tail says so. But, I never knew Mom and Dad could fight with low voices.
You’d think it was Baby who was angry, she’s so loud. But, from what I can tell, I feel pain coming from her, not anger.
Do Mom and Dad know this?
“Maybe she’s hot,” Dad states.
“The AC has been blasting,” Mom says.
“Maybe she’s cold?” He asks.
Mom places her hand on Baby’s little forehead, rubbing her thin scalp of light brown hair. Then she rubs down the length of her soft, rolling arms.
“Her temperature feels fine,” Mom says.
The urge to help Baby from her pain grows in my stomach.
I’ve only ever felt protective of my parents, but this little one’s frustrations are calling my instincts to attention the way my parents’ never have.
I don’t understand it.
Dad pats Baby’s back and adds a light skip to his step.
Mom and Dad freeze.
My mouth shuts to stop panting.
I feel a moment of contented relief from Baby.
She quiets for a second or two then continues to cry again.
Mom and Dad look at each other with wide eyes.
“Gas!” they say in unison.
A feeling of excitement from both of my parents clears the air’s tension.
My tail lifts with a mild wag and my mouth drops open to pant in relief.
“Keep patting!” Mom whispers loudly.
Dad pats with a little more force. After some time, Baby release another loud bubble. Then another. And another.
Her crying slows down.
Baby rubs her little face against Dad’s shoulder.
Dad sits on the chair, rocking Baby in his arms as her muffled squirming slows down.
Mom slumps into the couch beside Dad.
I pant and lay down in front of Mom. Closing my mouth, I rest my head on the tops of her feet.
Baby has stopped wriggling.
Dad leans back in the chair, adjusting his arms to lean on a throw pillow.
Mom’s eyes begin to close and her heavy breathing begins.
My own eyes feel heavy, so I let them close.
Now we can go back to our restful evenings.