The Baby’s Mother

The refrigerator door was open in the brightly lit kitchen. Milk spilled on the linoleum tiles. A toddler stared at the milk draining from the carton. “Miwk,” the toddler said, and put his hand in it. Then he scampered across the room avoiding most of the cockroaches but crushing on one or two as they shot over to where the milk was spilled.

In the living room the toddler found his bottle on the low table in front of the TV. He stared momentarily at the screen, black and white figures talking quickly to one another. Then he trotted over to the open front door of the apartment and down the hall. He passed the elevators and went into a small room that had an opening in the wall that led to the incinerator shaft. Someone had left the incinerator cover open and the room was filled with a chemical smell of burning. The toddler stopped and stared at the hole in the wall. He teetered a little, listening to the rushing of the fire below. The bottle bounced off the wall beside the opening and clattered to the floor. He picked it up and flung it again. On the third throw it went into the hole and could be heard bouncing against the walls of the shaft on its way down. The toddler laughed. Then he sat down and waited, watching the hole.

A few hours later, a maintenance guy in a blue uniform noticed the toddler and scooched down beside him. “It’s time for you to go home, little guy,” he said. He took the child by the hand and led him back down the hall to the open door of the apartment. “Anybody home?” he called. The infant crawled on the couch while the maintenance man looked around the apartment, stomping some roaches, cleaning up the spilled milk, shutting the refrigerator door. “Hellooo,” the maintenance guy called.

He stepped over some things scattered down the hall to the bedroom- dirty plates, framed photograph with the glass broken, half-eaten muffins with roaches hiding underneath.

In the bedroom the window was open with the sheer curtains blowing. There was a desk with papers everywhere, a laptop stained where coffee had been spilled on the keys, some books knocked on the floor. The infant’s mother was on the roof far below the window. She stood there, semi-transparent, smoking a cigarette. She stared out at the city that was also visible through her translucent, shimmering form. Her smashed body lay a few paces away, frozen in what looked like a running position.

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