Rhonda’s Bigheaded Baby
by Wyatt Robinette
After the second keg is finished, Rhonda lifts it like it’s a large basket and hobbles to the edge of her short diving board. Behind her is the red gravel outside the concrete walkway bordering her amoeba shaped pool, a tan brick wall, and the starless night sky. She pumps the keg over her head while she waits for friends and friends-of-friends to notice her and grow quiet. Even though it’s her party, Rhonda dresses plainly (she calls it comfortably). Yellow painted toenails poke out from the bottom of her flare jeans and blink in the faint light of Tiki torches. Her V-neck undershirt is old and stained from the foaming tap that coils over her right shoulder. A breeze picks up her wavy, red hair and it looks like it’s charged with lust and the electricity produced from lite beer and hot summer air.
She screams, “I’m twenty-six, bitches!” and lets the silver canister fly.
The following splash and drunk cheers wake Rhonda’s bigheaded baby. Of course he isn’t thinking with words. I can’t stare into his round head and say, hey, this is what he’s thinking as he climbs out of bed, wearing a shirt that reads “I Tore Mom a New One”, which is both an ironic nod to the joys of childbirth and a testament to the baby’s freakish size. What I can tell you is how the baby is driven by abstract emotions that envelope and explode throughout his body. Right now, standing in his air-conditioned room, he wants to find the warm feeling mother provides.
He sleeps on a twin mattress because no crib can contain his long body and fantastically sized head. When he was born, he weighed twenty-three pounds and was a little longer than two and a half feet. Rhonda likes to say she didn’t give birth to a baby. Fourteen months ago, a little man stormed out of her.
At nine months, he was able to open the door to his small upstairs bedroom. This is what he does now, five months later. He stumbles to the door or, actually, it’s more like he runs and stops, and runs and stops, as he finds and corrects his inner balance.
Once he’s outside his room, the baby turns left and wobbles towards the stairs and thumping music. When he’s inches from the top step, hands grab and lift from under his armpits. He hears the man carrying him make a shoosh sound like an airplane but the baby doesn’t know what an airplane is.
At the bottom of the stairs, the man puts the baby on the tile floor in the entryway and says, “Damn, you’re heavy. I’m gonna find your mom.”
Drunk people fill the living room but no one looks like mother. The baby wobbles and steps back from the stairs as if it is surprised by how many people it sees. Like its baby mind is blown by the knowledge the world contains more people than mother and him. His arms flap like he was pushed but he wasn’t. He has a big head and the sudden shift in weight feels like a heavy hand is pushing him back and down. This hand rolls from the top of his head to the base of his spine and back again.
As the baby stumbles and falls, he sees a man on the couch adjust his weight and open his phone. He sees a group of women by the kitchen entrance opposite the stairs, standing with their backs turned to the couches, TV, stereo equipment, and men around them. Some wear dresses and tall heels that remind the baby of mother when the sun is rising, when it’s just entering the blinds of his room. Others wear bikinis and drip water on the green carpet. Their wet bodies and wide smiles remind the baby of bath time. For a few seconds he hears mother’s soft voice over the thump and twang of classic rock. He hears, “You’re my baby. Mama loves you. Now it’s time to be clean.” Which is what Rhonda sings when she palms water over the tufts of red hair sprouting out of his watermelon sized head. He doesn’t understand the words but he knows the safe feeling they provide. However this voice is a memory. This fills the baby’s body with the pain of loss and the feeling of the distance he felt before, the distance that made him seek mother. And this feeling has grown. The physical sensation this causes in the baby as he’s stumbling, slowly falling, is like his heart is leaving him. Like it’s up and out of his chest, blinking and fading from view like one of the party lights.
A tall woman in a tight blue dress drops her drink and breaks the tight circle of women’s backs. She sprints between the coffee table and TV with her arms in front of her. Her eyes are glazed over and her cheeks are flushed. People are pushed and a drink is spilled. “Watch it,” someone says. Somehow her leaning forward has synchronized with the baby falling and it looks like the baby’s head has an invisible rope tied around it and her waist and by craning the big thing back he has sling-shotted her from the comfort of her friends to his feet and rescue.
She catches him, cradling his legs and head just before they hit the floor. “I gotcha,” she says. She lifts and carries him back to the circle of women. “Shhh, shhh, you’re okay now.”
“I’ve never seen you move that fast.”
“Cheryl only moves fast for young boys,” a drunk slurs before drinking from his red plastic cup.
“Damn right he tore his mother a new one.”
The baby paws Cheryl’s right breast.
“Look at him. Just over one year old and he’s acting like the rest of them. Men can’t keep their hands to themselves at no age,” Cheryl says.
“He’s just hungry,” the man who was on the couch but who is now standing, or, should I say, craning into the circle of women says. “You should feed him.”
“He’s got Rhonda for that,” Cheryl says adjusting the baby’s weight in her arms.
“Well, where is she?” the man asks.
Heads are turned and necks are craned but no one sees Rhonda. The baby climbs Cheryl’s arm and scans the room.
“Feed him, then he’ll probably go back to sleep,” the man says. More men gather behind him and by the entrance to the kitchen.
A drunk girl in a bikini says, “Yeah feed him, Cheryl.”
“I don’t know if I can,” Cheryl says, blushing. “I stopped breast feeding my twins months ago.”
“Whip ‘em out.”
“The poor boy’s hungry.”
“I’m hungry too.”
“Should I do it?” she asks, cocking her head and raising an eyebrow.
Everyone yells, “Do it, do it!”
Cheryl cradles the child with one arm, turns her back to as much of her audience as she can, and pulls a breast out of the top of her blue dress. Men and women cheer. Some say Cheryl, some say baby, and some say tits. When the nipple touches the baby’s lips, he closes his eyes. He wraps his lips around the breast, which feels drier and not as welcoming as mother’s, and sucks. But Cheryl’s breast doesn’t release any milk. This confuses the baby and he opens his eyes and sucks harder.
“That little bastard knows how to suck tit,” a man says, raising his glass.
“Go baby,” three men chant as they take photos with their phones.
“Damn, bastard bit me,” Cheryl says, trying to maneuver away. The baby strains forward, sucking longer and deeper, shoveling as much tit into its big head as it can. His eyes dart between Cheryl’s face and her breast as if he is waiting for her to transform into mother. But she doesn’t. The baby closes his eyes and sucks harder.
“Getting rough, getting rough.”
“That looks like fun,” the drunk girl in a bikini says. “I could go for some of that.”
She grabs the baby from Cheryl, pulling it out of her arms then off her breast. His mouth makes a wet plopping noise that’s loud enough to be heard over the shouting and drinking and music. The drunk girl in a bikini cradles him to her flat stomach and guides his mouth to her breast.
“Come on, come on,” she says.
“You’re not feeding anybody with those mosquito bites,” Cheryl says, putting her breast into her dress. Her face tightens as she stares at the young girl. Men ooh and ahh and a few of the women giggle. One man starts a low chant of fight, fight, fight, but this goes nowhere and the man grows quiet and leaves.
“Suck it,” the drunk in the bikini says. The baby blinks at her small breast. I swear, it’s like his face is saying: What am I to do with this? It’s great for looking at but you can’t seriously believe I’d get milk from that little thing.
“Come on,” she says as she pushes his head against her chest and rubs her nipple on his lips. The baby fights at first but then closes his eyes and starts sucking.
“Goddamn. Men can learn a thing or two from babies.”
“I’m hungry,” a man shouts. “Feed me, feed me.”
“Me too, let me have a taste.”
“Hell no,” the drunk girl in a bikini says. “This baby’s better than both of you combined.”
“You should know.”
“Get a room.”
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