Father Bestseller and Stupid Hat
by Ryan Robert Mullen
Man, the Sun was strung up
in them trees just like a bunch of Christmas lights, but it was warm and
green and breathing real even. Bugs crawled on our skin and poked their legs into
us, but we didn't care because we were going to have a baby.
And I had this coupon for a
free taco at Taco John's, and she could get free fries at one of those
upscale hot dog joints. She was so hungry. And Man, my face was all hot and
wet, but I wasn't even embarrassed, and it must've looked like some kinda
terrible accident had occurred. It was just that we didn't really mean to
have a baby and to be living in her car.
But we didn't do heroin,
even though I must've looked it when I went to get her a refill on the water.
We didn't do much of anything except collect piles and piles of job
applications. There was a time we actually filled them out, and would stop
back and stop back, and the manager would never be in, and they'd say they'd
call us. Hell, no address and certainly no phone: I wouldn't hire us either.
But'd we'd get up real early, and the windows would be all cool and misted,
and we'd get our free bread and donuts, and wash our faces in the lake, and
count ourselves fortunate no police or sickos disturbed our tumultuous
slumber. We'd have a whole day of work ahead, many applications to tuck away.
The problem with
homelessness is the temperature. Finally we got to talk about how maybe I
should go to the shelter, and maybe she should go stay at mother's. Mother's
is not my mother, not a home for both of us, not a place I can go and put my
feet up and say I got your daughter pregnant and don't have no job. So maybe
we are out here because I'm selfish. I said, Baby I have five dollars for food,
please lets get something, but she threw up every morning because she was so
hungry she had no appetite.
The day we found out we lay
in this green and sunny place, and I said you want to keep it don't you.
The stethoscope is just a
mechanical extension of the ear, and all you really need to do is stick it
against her bellybutton, and you will know the thing moves constantly, and a
sadness like black cherries will unfurl like an old prostitute's sunken
breasts. It will appear in your throat and make you turn.
Turn my body away from her
body, and feel her sweat-sticky ass against my back, and night vision churns
away against the room and that stupid hat. Olí good Sally got this thin but
real shiny blonde hair like small fish. Oh, she really is pretty but rarely
wears barrettes. I have seen pictures of her, a little girl. She now has to work
at Rocky Rococo's Pizza, and has to wear this red shirt and stupid hat. This
stupid hat is in our home. I see it. I kick it beneath a lime green towel. The
stupid hat blames me.
Man that kid makes me think
money & money. And shit, then the neighbors start screaming fuck you, and
Iím awake, but she--she just sleeps right through like some Yankee Clipper, but
not me. Iím getting all sensitive and weepy about this little baby, and how,
man, I never thought in a million years, but now I gotta take care of this
little guy. Shit, I used to party. Used to be in school too and on the Dean's
List and well on my way. Used to be idealistic. Idealism is buying generic
shit. So the baby makes me think about money because the food will affect its
brain. It's good to go out to eat even if it's something cheap. My girlfriend
is real pretty and faithful too, but I pray my baby is not a girl. Because
boys can take it.
Before this baby I didn't
think too much. You don't have to worry about no collectors tossing your ass
in the can and no credit to maintain. I'm worried now. And my forehead is all
folded up, and my eyes busted-in. This baby will have summer days with pine
sap in it's fingernails, reeking of mosquito repellent and campfire. Poor
kids have to be awfully tough, or else. I remember Christmas, the year I got
golf clubs for my birthday, and how I ran up to my room because I had never
even uttered golf before, and I am sorry mom and dad, because now I
understand that present must've cost you an awful lot.
And work is real! I mean,
you can't just go drinking and smoking that shit away, not when you've got some
gal with a baby in her, not when you're a grown man with real balls. Man, did
I smoke away some real good money. Man, did I go out in the cold and have all
my bottles crash through the brown paper, but what else could you use it for?
Rent. The good thing about apartments is right before the electricity gets
cut, you move.
There will be pictures of
this baby, and it will have a cute periwinkle bonnet, and look like such a
doll, and have a toy to remember forever and ever. In the future the rich
will get so old they can barely speak, but what will they do to my baby when
I've left home and they can still get it up chemically. If this kidís a boy,
if this kid doesn't have enough money he might not marry a pretty girl. Just
don't want my baby to be prescribed MAOI inhibitors and not have good
insurance. I messed up, and there wasnít the Second Coming, and everything
My baby will come and make of things what it will.† We can hope for minimum expectations
exceeded and long, green, sunny vacations with mother painter and father
bestseller. I will make you an exquisite house for catching insects and bugs.
Robert Mullen has
been published in over forty print magazines and electronic journals. His
short story collection Naughty Sweet Boy was published by
Word Riot Press in Winter 2004.