JoAnna Novak

Five Minutes with the Baby


  1. Hank is ruin­ing my show­er. I’m a slideshow on TV: camp­fire-me with my future hus­band and s’mores, starv­ing-me under grad­u­a­tion robes. And where are all eyes but on fat­head Hank. Hank and his chub­by-wub­by cheeks. Hank and his thim­ble nose. I didn’t reg­is­ter for this. Hank smells like wet feet and earth. We won’t be get­ting along.
  1. I do not want to hold the baby, and espe­cial­ly not Hanky, and real­ly, yes, no. Hank is the sort of baby you put in a buck­et. You want him con­tained. Sit still, Hank. Lie down. Hank dips roti­ni in Italian dress­ing. Kraft parme­san looks like dust. Baby Hank looks like a duck. Everyone pass­es him around, but I won’t ruin my polka-dots.
  1. There are pic­tures from most life-events. You can find some from this one, too. You can see me, cor­sage pinned to my heart. You can­not see Hank. He wasn’t pho­tographed, except in my eyes. Zoom in. There he is, reflect­ed. There he is—cooing at the TV. There he is—a lumberjack.
  1. In one year, I put Hank in day­care; ladies in jumpers remark on his cheeks. In two years, every­one is sur­prised he’s called “Lumb.” Lumb as in lum­ber­jack. Lumb rhymes with thumb. Hank is all thumbs. He builds sand­cas­tles with shov­els and buck­ets. He sucks his toes. He likes soft ice cream and rolling on his rug, naked.
  1. Blow out the can­dles, say women in my future. They have Ohio thighs and swin­ish noses. They bought my cake from Sam’s Club. I know that cake. It smells like tires. Flank steak. Gasoline. Like crusty French bread. Aveeno. Do you want cham­pagne, they say? It’s Andre. Do you want a frank in bed? It’s soy. Do you want Hank? He’s a doll.


JoAnna Novak is the Pushcart-Prize-nom­i­nat­ed author of three chap­books Two Fats and a Virtue (forth­com­ing from Slash Pine Press, 2014), Laps (Another New Calligraphy, 2014), and Something Real (danc­ing girl press, 2011). A final­ist for the 2014 Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction, her writ­ing has recent­ly appeared in BOMB, Joyland, DIAGRAM, and Guernica. A found­ing edi­tor of Tammy, she lives in Massachusetts, where she is work­ing on a nov­el and a memoir.