"Still Born" by Leslie Bonnette

The putrid pink room was softened by the sunlight streaming through the blinds.  Sparsely furnished, the small square space was unadorned except for a television set suspended from the wall in front of the bed, and a clock. The door was closed. Elizabeth was alone.  She lay still beneath the thin cotton blanket trying to grasp a sense of place and time.   

She closed her eyes, but each stubborn minute brought bizarre images. She ticked off things she knew:  her husband had brought her to the hospital the night before; she was in labor, they were expecting their first child.  She remembered a darkened surgical room with faceless silhouettes moving slowly, muffled words, a tiny leg illuminated against the darkness.  And then nothing.  In the sterile putrid pink room, Elizabeth’s hands explored her body.  Her skin was dry, her mouth was parched and her belly soft and empty.  She was hungry.

Morning sounds echoed in the hall outside the room -- silverware, dishes, and people talking quietly.  As she drifted off, Elizabeth soothed herself with visions of her baby, its soft face nestled in the crook of her neck, her husband whispering softly to their son, the two of them rubbing noses.  In a highchair caked with oatmeal, the dog waited patiently for something to fall.  In autumn, Elizabeth would walk through rustling leaves with her daughter, up the path past the barn and circle around to the brook before lunch.  They would pick out books before contented afternoon naps. The nights would be short. 

Suddenly, the sound of something rolling outside her room stirred her.  An ageless woman in blue scrubs burst through the door, and stood expressionless.  Elizabeth searched the stranger’s face for a sign, some indication of what this woman might say, what she was thinking, but the door closed abruptly.  A chill brushed her neck, and she turned away from the door in her bed, drawing the blanket tightly around her shoulders.  Everything takes so long, she thought.   

“Seth if it’s a boy,” but she hadn’t chosen a girl’s name. Elizabeth pulled her heavy body up and turned on the TV.  From the small screen, Leon Russell appeared, jamming on his piano, his long grey hair wild and free. The rotund, joyous backup singers wailed “Emily” and clapped, Russell stomped on the keys.  Elizabeth smiled thinking, “Emily, that’s it, if she is a girl.”     

Again, the rolling sound outside her room; the sun had faded, replaced by a gentle rain.  In the dim fluorescent light, the clock read three o’clock. She heard a tiny cry.  It’s the babies being wheeled in their bassinettes, she bolted up, elated. Elizabeth’s breasts ached and her hospital nightgown was cool and wet.  It must be time, she thought.  Why does everything take so long here? 

Just then, a timid knock on the door; it opened a few inches.  Standing there in rumpled clothes, ashen and unshaven, stood her husband, deep-circled eyes cast to the floor.  It was at that moment that time and reason stopped: she knew there would be no Seth. No Emily. Elizabeth wept a silent, bottomless cry onto her damp nightgown. 


Gary MillerComment