Published as “All There Is” in Stickman Review, December 2007

I heard the baby hit before I saw it. A soft thunk sound, muffled but solid. I looked and saw what had made that sound and it was the baby’s head hitting the marble floor of the hospital. It didn’t make a sound after that. Didn’t squeal, didn’t cry, but its mouth opened and closed, opened and closed but nothing came out. A second later that stopped too, and the baby was still.

It wasn’t like it jumped out of my arms. I dropped it. That was the truth.

It was brand new. Its body red and hot and sticky still, its eyes slits with a tiny prick of light between the pink lids. She’d held it maybe five minutes, then I took it to clean it up. The father was there too, both of them smiling hard. I don’t think the father held it.

I was going down the hall with it. I wasn’t daydreaming that I remember, I wasn’t thinking about anything special. I wasn’t talking to it and not looking at it either. I had seen it as it came out and it was sweet and ugly, it was a miracle like they all are and it looked perfectly healthy. But I was working now, working the middle of the shift, when I didn’t get sentimental during the births, I just didn’t because there was plenty of work to do and I had to do it.

Thirteen years a nurse and I’d never done anything like this. I’d made mistakes, all of us did. Kept a woman in the sweat room all night after a C-section when she didn’t need to be there. She came out hot and cranky, but alive. Maybe thirteen was my unlucky year.

It was heavy in my arms, a thick live weight through the blanket. Then my arms were light. I don’t know.

It was late, around two. It was dark and quiet in the hall. I picked it up and held it to me and my hands were shaking. It wasn’t moving and I was sure it was dead. I looked up and down the hall. Nobody. Rounded shapes of light lay on the floor at each door from the nightlights in the occupied rooms. One door showed no light and I remembered it was empty. I went into it. The room was dark except for a piece of blue streetlight across the bed next to the window. I laid it in that light and then I began to shake it as if I could shake the life back into it. I kept my eyes on its eyes, but the color was dull in the slits, there was no glimmer now and the eyes weren’t seeing anything. I knew it was dead and I stopped and looked at it lying there dead on the clean tight sheet and then I went out, leaving it in the dark room, in the blue light on its dead face.

I walked down the hall to the stairwell. I took the stairs to the basement and walked down another hall and another, past Records and the locker rooms and I came out in the parking garage. I didn’t meet anyone. As I crossed the empty garage I thought of my cigarettes and keys in my locker but I didn’t stop.

You can find the complete story in “Certain Dawn, Inevitable Dawn” by Tasha. Buy Now