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Claudia Smith

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There is a baby and he is so small, he's smaller than a needle. Smaller than the threading hole on a needle. I had him next to me, nursing, before he shrank. Now I can't find him. He's slipped through the bedboards, or fallen through a crack in the floor.

We make goo. Goo is water and cornstarch. I scrunch up my nose. Ooo, goo, I say. My son laughs. Goo! He says. Ewww. Goo! He smears the goo over his face, he stuffs it into his mouth. I put him in the bathtub.  We cover his duckies in goo. Ooo, we say. Goo.

There is a slip of a baby following me. He's a ghost baby, but not really, because he never was. He was never a baby, not completely. He is maybe not even a he. He is all of the almost-babies. The lamplight outside our windows is bright.   I wake. My husband is groaning, still asleep. Outside the air conditioning unit hums. I listen to the baby monitor.  Our baby is stirring. He may cry a little, go back to sleep. Now he's crying.  He heard me pacing.

We fall into a shallow slumber when he nurses at night. My mother told me never to nurse a baby in bed. You could lean over, suffocate. But I would never.

Lights slip in and out of cracks, and there is some giggling, some tittering. When I was a little girl, I would see the figure of a man walking in and out of the walls. I knew the man was real and I knew he couldn't be. After I bring our baby back to his crib, I look out the window. Our apartment is in a nature preserve off the highway. You can hear the cars whoosh past the forest, if you listen hard enough. If you listen hard enough, they begin to sound like rushing water.


Claudia Smith's stories have appeared in a number of online and print literary journals; she also had a story anthologized in Consumed: Women on Excess, edited by Savannah Schroll.  One of her stories will be included in the forthcoming Norton's anthology The New Sudden Fiction, edited by James Thomas and Robert Shapard.  More of her stories may be found at www.claudiaweb.net.

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