ÂŠ 2011 by Alana I. Capria NAP CHAP 5 NAP Magazine & Books Indianapolis, IN NAPLITMAG.COM
BABY IN THREADS Alana I. Capria
Dedicated to Baby, a pale yellow stuffed lamb creature that has been my cousinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s companion since her birth, twenty-one years ago.
Baby spins on turbine wheels until she falls apart at the
joints and jugular. She wonders where the threads have gone. They wind around flowers, strangling mechanical daisies until the petals fall to the ground like anvils. Baby remembers crossing country borders and eating the sand. A monster in a maidâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s apron threw her into a washing machine where she tumbled around, thinking about spinning wheels and fallen girls on concrete floors, choking on nude fairies. She feels discontent too often in her life but then, she felt satisfied. There was the churn of cold water and the permanence of chemical clean. She ate ribbons and the aesthetic yearnings belonging to a doll five times her own age. Comforters and sheets wrapped around her neck. Baby felt and saw blue. It was cold and piercing. The maid monsters tried to eat her sewn on dress. Baby grumbled because the maids made the water too noisy. She liked the silent rippling, the stillness of absolute liquid suspension. Milk leaked from her mouth. Then antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid. Followed by beaten egg yolks and a string of slugâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mucus.
Baby knew stuffing. It could be because she was always
falling apart and being sewn back together by the mother, and later, the child. Baby knew her ears and mouth. Her hands and feet, the thinning concave of her belly. It was all yellow fluff and blue adornments. Baby could have been any sex. Boy or girl. Maybe a hermaphrodite. Baby didn’t know. She tried to touch between her legs to feel for either an appendage or a slit. There was nothing. An asexual, Baby thought and was satisfied by this new identity. She could hurt no one. Not the little boy who stole her from the sister’s room nor the little girl who held her too tightly to her chest. Of course, it was too impersonal and so Baby had to choose some sort of pronoun. By default, it was she. It was all encompassing. She. He. It. Baby wanted to take a bath but the last time she had tried, all the stuffing had started to hang out of the stitches. It had taken several hours in the dryer and even more at the sewing machine before she was right again. So she couldn’t take a bath. She could sit still and close her eyes. She could count her stuffing.
Baby was sure she had a sister. An identical sister, one
not nearly as worn as Baby. This sister had a bit more of a pink flush to her cheeks and did not wear as much blue. But if you did not look closely enough, you would never know the difference. Baby remembers falling behind a bed or being stuffed into a cardboard box. She might as well have died. Everyone thought she had disappeared and so this twin sister emerged, bright and glowing, her arms and legs stuck firmly to her torso. Rosie. The incomparable Rosie. The beauty queen stuffed sister. There was a box of Rosies in the attic. Approximately one dozen identical stuffed dolls, all brand-new and smelling slightly of mouse dung and moth balls. They were Baby clones, ready to replace her if she fell out of the girlâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bag or got stuck in another international laundromat. But Baby always got the last laugh. She would emerge suddenly and one of the many clones would be brought back up to the attic while Baby snuggled into the space left behind. No one could replace Baby.
Baby had nightmares about rotating drums and capsized
boats. Monsters came at her with extended scissor heads. She was afraid of losing her arms. Sometimes, when she was not dreaming, dogs bit at her legs and tried to tear her apart. The girl tried to help her but she was too short. So Baby was left with split open stitches and fur that dripped canine saliva. Then she was forced into surgery without anesthesia. Baby had a fear of needles but that didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t stop the mother figure from trying to put her back together. Once, Baby had a gash running the length of her torso. Her stuffing spilled out onto the ground. The dog ate it and when he went to the bathroom later, Baby noted the white pieces of herself. She cried soundlessly and gestured for the girl to get the stuffing back. In the end, all the pieces of foam went into the garbage bag. Baby looked after it longingly but what could she do? She had arms that did not work. She could not tie and untie knots. She lacked separate fingers, had only a mound of what might have once been fused digits.
Often, Baby was asked about religion.The little girl tried
to preach to her from the Bible and Baby felt that it was rude to do anything other than nod her head agreeably. She knew all the stories from the Old and New Testaments. She understood the seduction of Lot and the resurrection of Jesus. Still, despite her blind faith, the little girl asked Baby about the meaning of life. Baby rarely knew how to answer such questions. She thought about explaining the differences between life or death but then thought that she barely knew those things herself. She was simply a stuffed animal. She existed as long as the little girl chose to have her in her life.What happened later, after the little girl grew up and tossed her in a garbage bag, or gave her away to some teething infant who would lose her beneath the playpen and forget she had ever held Baby in her fat fists? So Baby whispered to the little girl while she slept. The little girl dreamed of earthquakes and a rainbow.There were gravestones and a white haze covering everything. It was peaceful despite being so loud. That was what Baby knew. She also knew that she was right.
Baby was a world traveler. She had been to Europe more
times than the average person. She knew South America well and had shivered while up North in Alaska. She had touched the North Pole and nearly drowned during a freak high tide somewhere in Nova Scotia. Baby also knew days and days stuffed in lost suitcases and the pleasures of being found again. Baby was there the day that a dozen guards swarmed around a sultan staying at a Parisian hotel. She sat down and ate croissants with them later in the day, nodding her head in time to their stories. She ate Christmas trees the week after the New Year and then vomited into a river overflowing with waterlogged trash bags. That was Baby for you. She was sensitive to certain things and barely fazed by others. She had five passports and not one had a stamp. Not even a single sticker.
Baby is a harbinger of disease. She is the queen of
pestilence. She is Typhoid Mary, the kind demon of virulent plague. Oh, Baby. What have you taken with you from overseas? Baby pulls strings of green and orange bacteria out from her limbs and arranges them on the floor in perfect mounds. They look like squirming maggots. Baby picks them out and sucks them down. She eats them like spaghetti strands. Only without sauce. Baby doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t need the extra flavor. Her palate can determine ten million individual flavor profiles from a single drop of food. Baby waves her yellow paws and touches her feet. Once she tried to eat a rusted wrench but the vise grip pulled at her cheeks until they tore. Then she was rushed to the dining room table where the mother had to sew her mouth back together. The wrench gleamed threateningly down the hallway and cursed Baby while the little girl cried. Bad, Baby, the wrench said and Baby spat her stuffing out.
Baby was a believer in ghosts. She used to sit at the edge
of the couch and listen to the oldest cousin read stories from her favorite books on hauntings. While the girl and cousin slept, Baby stayed awake all night, watching the shadows and listening to the strange footsteps traipsing across the floor. Baby never saw any real figures nor did she feel any feel. She couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t. She had no heart. She had no nerves. She was simply a stuffed animal. Once, Baby was lifted up in the middle of the night. She felt a cold, tingling hand cover her torso. Baby rose into the air and stayed there for a moment, looking around wildly. Her button eyes gleamed.The girl slept. Shadows swept over the walls. Then Baby fell. She hit the bed and sat there for a moment, contemplating her travels. The girl opened her eyes and started to scream. Baby felt vindicated. She sat the rest of the night watching the dark but there was nothing. She heard nothing, she saw nothing. In the morning, the stitchings across her stomach came loose and her stuffing spilled out again.
On a near daily basis, Baby is resurrected. She is stitched
and sewn, glued and stapled, bound and taped. She is Baby and then she is not. Baby and then no more. The doubles sit in the attic, waiting to be taken down. They want to assume Babyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s place. All those pretty Rosies. Just waiting, playing bongos to pass the time while Baby suffers fevers and chills in the middle of the night. The Rosies can try. The girl will not let Baby go. She was the one to be trapped within the rotating drum. She was the one stuffed into suitcases and taken on international flights. She was the one the girl cried over nightly. They cannot replace her. There is something comforting in how worn Baby has become. Threadbare through love. Missing various attachments. Baby had a bow once. It was pink and satin. But that is long gone. Baby still has the marks around her neck. She doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t miss it.
Once, Baby considered growing up. She thought about
letting her limbs loosen and fall off. She thought about gnawing at the many strings that kept her together. Let it all hang out. Expel that stuffing. It was all fine and dandy. Baby didn’t mind dying. But the girl... she couldn’t leave her alone. Baby didn’t want the girl to go through life alone. But the girl was no longer a girl. She was a woman. She was in college. She was having sex. She was drinking. She was many years away from the little girl who had loved Baby so blindly. But still, the girl-now-woman adored Baby. She kept her stuffed and sewn. She held her at night. She let her stay on the pillow, even though the fur was no longer a bright yellow but had begun dulling to a strange gray-green. Baby had never felt so loved. The girl-nowwoman kept a sewing kit in her desk for the occasions when Baby began to fall apart. I’ll keep you for as long as you’ll stay together, the girl-now-woman promised her and Baby felt blessed. Her stuffing threatened to come out but Baby kept it all in.
Alana I. Capria (born 1985) has an MFA in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University. She resides in Northern New Jersey with her fiancĂŠ and rabbits. Her writing and links to other publications can be found at http://alanaicapria.com.