Author | Ron Pullins
There is an overstuffed chair in the room. A woman sits on that chair. Dressed like people dressed years ago when they went shopping. She sips a martini. It’s late afternoon and the sun shines in the window onto her dress.
There is a crib in the room, and there’s a baby in the crib. The baby stands with his hands holding onto the upper rail of his crib and looks at the woman. She is his mother. She looks back at him. He smiles. She sips her martini.
The front door opens, October rushes in, as well as Dada. The day part of the day has ended, and the night is being born. Dada’s home. The man duffs his hat, his coat, his briefcase, and then turns again to Baby and smiles. Baby holds onto the crib, eyes wide open.
“Hi, Baby. Dada’s home.” The man is husband to the woman on the chair.
“You!” Baby says. “Fuck off.”
“I heard him. I heard him,” the man says. “He said ‘Dada.’ ‘Dada.’ Baby’s first word. He said ‘Dada.’ ”
His gray suit on, his tie hanging loose, the man picks the baby up and snuggles with his nose. In that masculine way. Now his cheeks are wet, but he ignores it and snuggles Baby again. “Baby loves his dada, doesn’t Baby?”
“Spare me the bullshit,” Baby says. The man presses Baby’s cheek close to his own, closes his eyes, and kisses the air with his lips.
The woman’s dress is long and dark and covers her shins, the length that women wore when they went shopping years ago. She wears a hat as well, and there is a feather in that hat. She sits in a chair of stiff wood and leather, and she sits erect, and stiff. She holds her martini glass politely in front of her, but it is empty.
“He’s eight months old, for god’s sake,” the woman says. “Eight months old, if you know what that means. Babies don’t talk when they’re eight months old.”
“He said, ‘Dada,’” the man says. “I heard him. Didn’t you hear him?”
“I sit here all day. He shits and he burps. He never says anything. He makes noises, but that’s not speaking. You want him to say what you want him to say, so you hear what you want to hear. ‘Dada.’ That’s just so much baby bullshit.” She looks at her glass with regret, sad it is empty.
“Say it again, Baby,” Dada says. “Say it for mommy. So mommy hears. Say, ‘Dada.’ ‘Dada.’”
He carefully puts Baby back in his crib.
“He could say, ‘Fuck off, old man,’ and you’d hear, ‘Dada.’ That’s nothing more than spit up. Spit up and creamed carrots. That’s what you hear. You hear words, but they’re not. You both make me sick.”
There is a table in the room. It is dark and wooden, like the chair, and bare on the top except where rings have been left from years of martinis. The woman sits her drink down. She brushes off her lap, although nothing on her dress to brush off, and she stands.
“Good Baby,” the man says.
She goes to the bar. The table by the wall by the window. Outside the horizon is red. A small round bottle of olives has tipped over and the juice has run out onto the table. Only two stuffed olives are left.
“Yes, time for martinis,” he says. “Indeed that would be nice.” The man feels thirst after his long day at work. “It is so good to be home. Home in our pretty little house. Home in the pretty little evening. Home with my pretty little family. Just Baby. Goobie. Daddy. And Martini. Are we almost out of olives, Goobie?”
“It’s my last drink with you,” she says, pouring the gin. “And we’ve run out of olives.” She shakes gin and vermouth in ice, and strains it out to two glasses. She gives his two olives.
“I want a martini, too,” Baby says. “Two olives. And the good gin, buddy. Not the cheap stuff. Make it dry. Very dry. A drop of Vermouth, no more. And stir, don’t shake.”
“When Baby grows up, he will have a martini with his Dada.” The man goes to the window, pulls back the flimsy curtain with his hand, and stares at the sunset. He sips his martini. “Ah.”
No olives, she finds onions in the cabinet near the table. She adds one to her drink, then with a nod adds another.
“He’s strange,” she says. “I don’t like him. I have never liked him. I am glad he is not in my body. I don’t know how he ever got there in the first place.”
“Baby’s is perfect, like your martinis,” and he holds up his drink. The red light from the dying sunset strikes the martini, darkens the onion, and gives a blood luster to the room. “The perfect blend of gin, vermouth, and olive. He’s our little olive in our sea of gin.”
She opens her purse and looks for something. She takes objects out and puts them on the table next to her drink.
“But you,” he says. “You have a Gibson.”
“That,” he says, pointing to her glass. “With onions. That makes it a Gibson.”
“How about this, sweetheart,” Baby says. “A weekend at Niagara. Our own room overlooking the Falls. Dancing in the parking lot. I got money saved. I’ll break open piggy. I’ll spend my college fund. It’s all yours if you get me away from here. The cigarette thing, a perfect excuse. We’ll say we’re stepping out for cigarettes, get in the car, and go.”
“Who cares about t he onion,” she says, looking at her drink.
“What happened to us? Once you were my little olive. I, the pimento.” He stares as his drink. “Now, onions. The perfect martini does not contain onion.”
The woman goes to the closet where she finds her red wrap and she swings it around her. She gets her gloves. With her hand she tugs on the rim of her hat, getting serious.
“I’m leaving,” she says. “I’m going away.”
“Don’t Mommy go. Baby loves his Mommy, doesn’t Baby? And Dada, too.”
Baby holds on to the crib, waddles along the railing to the woman. “Don’t go,” Baby says. “For god’s sake, don’t leave me here.”
“’Dada.’ Don’t you hear it?” The man produces a clean and folded handkerchief from his pocket, wipes his cheek, smiles at Baby.
“I’m telling you, old man, go piss yourself,” Baby says. “This is not about you.”
“’Dada.’ It’s music to my ears,” the man says.
“Take me with you,” Baby says to woman. One hand over the other, he sidles along the crib towards her. “Take me. I’m begging you. Let’s go somewhere together. Just you and I, sweetheart. Somewhere alone. We’ll talk about things. Tell each other secrets. Okay, okay, I promise: no more shitting my pants. Hey, I’ll learn to walk. You won’t have to carry me around. Whatever you want, that’s what I want.”
“I’m going to get cigarettes,” she says to the man. The woman tugs her fingers further into her white gloves. She admires her gloves, one hand, then the other. “Cigarettes,” she says. “And I’m not coming back.”
His hands firmly on the railing of his crib, Baby is afraid.
“That’s nice,” the man says. He finds his newspaper tucked in the couch, rolls off the rubber band and shakes it open. “If you’re going to the store, I’d like a cigar. A good cigar. Not a sweet cigar, but a mild cigar. Imported is nice, but it doesn’t have to be in its own little tube. But a tube is nice,” he adds. “The best cigars come in little tubes.” He shakes the paper again as if to bring order to the words printed there. “A good cigar is damp and green. A good cigar is sweet, like you.”
“Fuck his cigar,” Baby says. “Get me some gum, if you’re going out. No, get me a gun. No, no, take me with you. Don’t leave me behind.”
There is a mirror on a wall. A light by the mirror hangs like a sconce. The light is on. Four watts. Maybe six. She looks in the mirror, her face near the light, sees her lips, touches them.
“And I’m never coming back,” she says.
“No…!!!” Baby hangs on the railing with both hands tight, and he jumps up and down. “No, no, no, no, no.”
The newspaper has two sections. The first is news and advertising. The second is sports and advertising. The man does not look up from the sports. “Sounds like he wants his Goobie.”
Goobie is the woman’s nickname. From time to time, the man likes to use it.
“You want your Goobie’s breast, don’t you?” the man says. He looks up at Baby.
The woman wipes something from the corner of her lips. “I have a name,” she says. “It’s not Goobie.”
The man folds the paper and looks at the ad on the final page. “Baby loves his Goobie.”
“Butt out,” says Baby. “What’s between me and the lady is between me and the lady.” Baby looks to mother. “Take me, honey. Let’s go to a movie. Anything you want to see. Chick flick, fine. Romance, you got it. Something in black and white. But don’t leave me with him. After the movie we’ll go somewhere. Have a drink, you and I. Talk about love. Have a few laughs. I’ll be good. No crying. No more spitting up.”
“Baby drools, doesn’t Baby?” The man stands and wipes Baby’s mouth with a corner of Baby’s blanket. “He’s better, now, isn’t he?”
The woman leans her shoulder against the wall. There is a wall. She folds her arms.
“He’s hungry, isn’t Baby?” the man says.
“Feed him. What do I care? But the more he eats, the more he shits. I see it all day. Every day. Every. Stinking. Day.”
She doesn’t move. The man picks up Baby.
“We’ll be here when Goobie comes back, won’t we, Baby? Dada’ll read Baby a story. Baby will like that. Baby wants Dada to him read him his book, doesn’t Baby?”
Baby kicks his legs as the man flies him around by his arms.
“Not that book again. Not ‘Red fish, Blue fish….’ How many times can you read the same fucking book? Read the Bible, or a cook book, or the phone book, but not….
“…This one has a little car,
This one has a little star,
Say, what a lot of fish there are….!
“Suess is killing me.”
“So cute,’” the man says. “Baby’s eating Baby’s book.” And indeed Baby is chewing on a corner of One Fish, Two Fish. “Get the camera, Goobie. Let’s keep this moment forever.”
“I’m not Goobie. I’m around this baby all day, then you come home, and you are just like him. You talk like him. You act like him. You got shit on your face. Both of you make me sick. I’m going to buy a lot of cigarettes. I don’t know when I’ll be back.”
The man puts Baby back in the crib.
“I want a cigarette,” Baby says. “Get some Pall Malls. No. Better, take me with you. I’ll pack my diapers. Business casual. Loafers. Blazer. We’ll have an evening out, you and I. What’s playing at the Actor’s Studio. Ionesco? Jez Butterworth? Sarah Ruhl?”
“He’s looking at me,” she says. She stands on one foot and scratches an ankle with the high heel on the other foot. “He’s always looking at me, the little shit.” She sits on the edge of her chair, and returns the objects in her purse. Except for the keys to a car. And her gin with onions. “He lies there all day. That’s all he does. Get used to it. All day. Doing …. biological things.”
“You make a beautiful martini, Goobie,” the man says. “Very dry, like I like it. Yes. Desert dry. Bryce Canyon, wind-sculpted dry. But cold. Witch’s heart cold. Mount Washington in New Hampshire on Christmas Day cold. With an olive. As I like it.”
“I fix it like I fix it,” the woman says. “You can drink it like you like it or not.”
“Go, if you must, but the joy is in your return.”
I’m not coming back.”
“On the train home tonight,” the man says, “I was thinking. Thinking of baby. Thinking I should thank you for letting my seed take root in your body.”
“You should kill him,” she says. “If you kill him while I’m gone, I won’t mind.”
Baby frowns and shakes his crib.
“Now, look,” the man says. “Baby wants out, doesn’t Baby? Baby wants his Dada.”
“Don’t touch me. I’m going with her,” Baby says. “Sweetheart, let’s blow this joint before this guy grabs me again. He wants to pick me up. He can’t keep his mitts off me. Oh, god, oh, god, don’t let him kiss me.”
Baby shakes his crib so hard, and the gate falls open.
“Follow me, Dollface. Let’s blow this pop stand.”
Baby crawls out, across the floor, to the door, but he slips on a toy and rolls to his side.
“Did he walk? Did he walk?” Dada says. “Did baby take his first step? Dada loves his little man. Dada wants to snuggle and make you giggle.”
Dada picks Baby up.
“Baby likes that, doesn’t Baby?”
The woman snaps her purse shut. She stares at Baby. “He’s ugly. He’s your baby. You’re both ugly.”
“Say ‘Dada’ again. If you say ‘Dada,’” the man says, “I’ll pick you up and snuggle your tummy and make you giggle. Baby likes that, doesn’t Baby?”
“He smells,” she says. “I’ve gotten used to it,” the woman says. “But it goes with me wherever I go.”
“I think Baby needs a name,” the man says. “Maybe ‘Andrew.’ When I was young I had a doll named Andy. Raggedy Andy. Andy’s short for Andrew. That would be nice. He would remind me of him.”
“Don’t name me after a rag doll, for god’s sake,” Baby says.
The woman’s hands are crossed on her lap. She sits on the edge of the chair. “I call him pig.”
“Yes,” the man says. “Andrew. On my way to work this morning, riding on the train, sitting by the window I remember, looking out and thinking, I once had a dog named Andrew. Wouldn’t it be lovely, Goobie, if Baby were named ‘Andrew.’ He would remind me of those happy days with my dog.” The man looks at Baby. “Here, Andy. Here, Andy.”
“No, no, no,” Baby says. He has righted himself and waddles on all fours, butt in the air, across the floor towards his mother. “You call me Andy I’ll shit my pants all the way through puberty.”
She has not moved. She stares at him. “His name is Pig. We should kill Pig.”
“Yes,” the man says. “This morning while I was still abed, I was half thinking, half dreaming, what a miracle it was my sperm burrowed into your body and thus gave birth to little Andrew. Perhaps he’ll grow up to be a king someday, or a doll, or someone as cute as my old dog.”
“Kill him,” she says. “Then burn him. He and his diapers. Tonight in the yard. When it’s dark. I have a lighter. I’ll bring some gas.”
She shows him a lighter she has found in her purse.
Baby crawls back into the crib. He forces a smile.
“There,” the man says. “Gobbie’s made baby cry. Baby’s had an accident, hasn’t Baby?”
“No,” Baby says. “Don’t touch me.”
“It’s never an accident,” the woman says. “He shits when he wants.”
“Dollface,” Baby says. He stands on his feet, reaching out to her as he holds onto the rail and wobbling. “Let’s get out of here. Lose this guy. Scram. Hey, let’s go to town. New York City. Bright lights. Big city.”
“I give him to you. He’s your little pig.” She stands, swallows the last of her drink.
“Don’t leave me here with him, goddamn it!” Baby says. His face is red, his mouth is open, he screams. And screams.
“Today at lunch, while I was sitting at the deli,” Dada says. “I was thinking, aren’t things just perfect. Just perfect for us. Then I thought, maybe too perfect. Because if things are perfect, what is left?” For a moment he looks away, away from her, from Baby, out the window. It is snowing. “Because if things are perfect, there’s nothing left but entropy. The great spinning down.” He is alone. As alone as he was on the train ride home. Then he turns and smiles, first at her, then at the Baby. “But, I say, to hell with all that. I will not let fear haunt this lovely life. To hell with tomorrow. We have today. And perfect is what we relish. Let us revel in the now.” He looks at her. “That’s what I was thinking today at the deli. At lunch.”
“Good bye,” she says. She opens the door and stands against the remains of the sky. The stoop is damp. The ground outside is covered with a trace of snow.
“Forever is forever, isn’t it, Baby?” the man says. “And so is Dada. Until we die.”
“You’re going, aren’t you?” Baby says as she stands in the doorway, her back to them.
He stands, holds the railing across his crib, then hits his head and cries. She sighs. The man looks at his empty glass, then at the gin.
“You’re not taking me, are you?” Baby asks. His hands reach out to her. His chest leans against the railing.
She steps out and closes the door. He hears her car start.
“It’s you and me, isn’t it?” Baby says. He rests his head against the crib and looks down.
“Dada,” Dada says. “Say ‘Dada.’ Baby loves Dada, doesn’t Baby?” He picks up Baby and flies him out of the crib and hugs him and turns around.
“Just you and me,” Baby says. “Okay.” Pause. “Alright.” Pause. “Dada,” Baby says. “Dada.”
About the Author | Ron Pullins is a writer and playwright living in Tucson AZ whose works have been read or produced on stage at theaters across the country including Madlab, Mildred’s Umbrella, Whistler in the Dark, Rebelyard, Revolution Theater, No Shame Theater, Guinea Pig Theater, Actors Studio of Newburyport, and Abbie Hoffman Died For Your Sins Festival, Midwest Dramatists, among others. His fiction and poetry have appeared in Shenandoah, Kansas Quarterly, on line at Box of Jars, Sourland Review, Steeltoe Review, Oasis, WildWords, and (forthcoming) Gyroscope and Stoneboat. Plays (forthcoming) at The Actor’s Studio of Newburyport, Panglossian Productions (Williamsburg), Midwest Dramatists (Kansas City).