Excerpt: 'Along for the Ride'

"Oh, you know Heidi," he said, as if I did. "She's got to do everything herself, and do it perfectly. But don't worry, she'll be fine. The first couple of months are just hard. I remember with Hollis, your mom was just about to go out of her mind. Of course, he was incredibly colicky. We used to walk him all night long, and he'd still scream. And his appetite! Good Lord. He'd suck your mom dry and still be ravenous…"

He kept talking, but I'd heard this song before, knew all the words, so I just sipped my coffee. Looking left, I could see a few more houses, then what appeared to be some sort of boardwalk lined with businesses, as well as a public beach, already crowded with umbrellas and sunbathers.

"Anyway," my father was saying now as he crumpled up his muffin wrapper, tossing it back in the bag, "I've got to get back to work, so let me show you your room. We can catch up over dinner, later. That sound good?"

"Sure," I said as we headed back inside, where the sound machine was still blasting. My dad shook his head, then reached down, turning it off with a click: the sudden silence was jarring. "So you're writing?"

"Oh, yeah. I'm on a real roll, definitely going to finish the book soon," he replied. "It's just a matter of organizing, really, getting the last little bits down on the page." We went back to the foyer, then went up the staircase. As we walked down the hallway, we passed an open door, through which I could see a pink wall with a brown polka-dot border. Inside, it was silent, no crying, at least that I could hear. My dad pushed open the next door down, then waved me in with one hand. "Sorry for the small quarters," he said as I stepped over the threshold. "But you have the best view."

He wasn't kidding. Though the room was tiny, with a twin bed, a bureau, and not much room for anything else, the lone window looked out over an undeveloped area of land, nothing but sea grass and sand and water. "This is great," I said. "Isn't it? It was originally my office. But then we had to put the baby's room next door, so I moved to the other side of the house. I didn't want to keep her up, you know, with the noises of my creative process." He chuckled, like this was a joke I was supposed to get. "Speaking of which, I'd better get to it. The mornings have been really productive for me lately. I'll catch up with you at dinner, all right?" "Oh," I said, glancing at my watch. It was 11:05. "Sure."

"Great." He squeezed my arm, then started down the hallway, humming to himself, as I watched him go. A moment after he passed the door to the pink and brown room, I heard the door click shut.

I woke up at six thirty that evening to the sound of a baby crying.

Crying, actually, was too tepid a word. Thisbe was screaming, her lungs clearly getting a serious workout. And while it was merely audible in my room, with just a thin wall between us, when I went out in the hallway in search of a bathroom to brush my teeth, the noise was deafening.

I stood for a second in the dimness outside the door to the pink room, listening to the cries as they rose, rose, rose, then fell sharply, only to spike again, even louder. I was wondering if I was the only one aware of it until, during a rare and short moment of silence, I heard someone saying, "Shh, shh," before quickly being drowned out again.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...