BORNE FROM THE CUTOFF
The baby wouldn’t have a name. “It died.” Mrs. Delacroix hissed to her friends through lips covered with a dainty lace kerchief as though to damper the indelicacy of voicing, “It was mongoloid. It was a bastard.”
Its gender happened to be male, and had he survived the soon-to-come journey through its mother’s weak canal, his parents would have named him Francois Delacroix, IV. But such a title would never be granted, nor any proper name ascribed. It wasn’t a thing done in Catholic South Louisiana. Their understanding of the Pope’s proprieties and Latin Mass precluded the naming of unborn babies. Neither tight-lipped priest nor parishioner could conjure up a non-contradictory explanation for why a baby was a baby at conception and therefore couldn’t be aborted without inviting the certainty of burning in hell for committing a venial sin, yet still proclaim that to name dead babies that never gulped even a single breath of life, never suckled the smallest taste from mother’s breast, never lifted tiny lids to expose the grey eyes of the world’s newest innocent creature, blackened one’s soul.
When it died, it tried to comfort its parents, singing them a song dead babies can only compose with the help of angels come to take them home, for the baby was unconstrained by man’s interpretation of God’s Word. He knew he was a real baby, and the tune flowed soft and soundless as goose down to his parents’ ears.
Let not my mother worry
why I remain asleep,
for in her joyful world,
she knows not I am dead.
Let my father dream
his dreams of ancestral land.
He thinks I’m safe inside her,
though grief hovers on his heel.
Let angels thwart
the end of them,
while Grandmother smiles
and thinks she wins.
* * * * *
Francois Delacroix, III strolled down the curvy dirt road that led home through his family’s hayfields. He munched on tender honey grass, sucking out its rummy sap while cool, fat drops of midday rain rinsed off his world. The fresh musk of Louisiana earth, blended with blooming clover and crisp rain air, filled him with contentment. On the horizon stood the house he built, warm and proud on ancestral land.
Then his mother drove up beside him, slowing to a gentle roll under the sweet orange trees that lined the road.
“Son, come sit,” came her deep, deliberate voice.
“Mother, Mary’s waiting.” He didn’t lose a stride.
She patted the seat beside her.
“Mother, can’t it wait? Mary went to the—”
“The doctor—I know, she’s… Francois, please stop walking!”
In the ghostly blankness of his mind, Francois’ what do you know blossomed into the vignettes tragiques he’d seen once before. He stopped and stared at his mother. She braked a full stop, the door handle at his fingertips.
The top on her car was down. She wore a yellow sun hat and matching linen dress, and draped across her shoulders lay a waistcoat, its white piping and tiny white button at the neck glowing in the reborn sun. Francois could only stare without breath, wondering who folded back her roof, it only now stopped raining?
His mother smiled her look of concern.
She hated Mary. Did she hate his baby? He had to believe his mother wouldn’t, couldn’t, hate the baby’s mother all her natural life. Another dead baby. Mary too? No, he’d feel it. Mother might feel sorry for Mary now… The thoughts flew in and through and out of his mind in an instant, and he realized his mouth hung open, the soles of his boots had bonded to the earth, and he still didn’t know what terrible thing had happened and couldn’t bring himself to ask, couldn’t will himself to hear.
His gaze rolled down to the door handle. His head didn’t move. His hand pried back the latch. His arm swung open the door.
Hopefully, by the time he looked back into his mother’s face, he’d have figured out what good might come from whatever this bad news might be.
He slid in. He noticed the dark specks of imperfection in the seat leather, foggy in his head.
“Son, you know, I’m here for you…”
“It’s dead, son. It’s dead.”
That was how Francois Delacroix, III found out about his second baby.
Another of his children was dead. Another heir and numeral, a IV. In his mother’s mind, they would all be just one more it.