The Child

Lucy looked at the crib, the baby shoes John had bought and her flat stomach. Turning to her husband, she smiled softly. What did John mean ‘was she sure’? She had been sure for so long that she could not remember doubt. A nod. Slowly, he took out his phone and uttered the words she had longed to hear. “I’ll pay for next day delivery.”

The milkman was whistling by the door when the app confirmed the parcel had been dispatched. Lucy’s excitement had become insomnia. She waited by the door all night and morning until the knock finally came. Lucy latched onto the handle and flung it open to see a stork standing, clipboard on wing, next to a cardboard box. It was brown, marked with small holes, labelled delicate and this side up. The stork was unsurprising but the size of the box concerned Lucy. It was larger than her and she thought that peculiar for such a small order. Nonetheless, the stork insisted on signing the clipboard before flying away.

After thirty minutes of struggling to get the package through the front door, Lucy and John opened it. There was something wrong with their baby. He was wrinkled, had a head of grey hair, wore tortoise-shelled glasses and was only an inch smaller than John. The old man grinned. He assured his parents that he was delighted to meet them and, not registering their shock, asked if they had a garden. He loved gardening. Apparently. Lucy needed to send an email. The old man asked whether anyone had seen where he had put his reading glasses.

Walking past the study that evening, Lucy heard whimpering. She walked in and saw the old man sitting at her computer, staring through tears at the email she had left open. The one from Stork-r, the Stork delivery app. The one that thanked her for writing to them. The one that confirmed they had accidentally delivered ‘faulty stock’ and were prepared to replace it with a baby, free of charge.

“Mum,” the old man croaked through tears, “I found my glasses.” Silence. “There’s a trifle in the kitchen.” Silence. “I thought I’d come through and tell you. I didn’t mean to read that.” Silence. “Are you going to send me away?”

Lucy posted on Facebook: for sale: baby shoes, never worn.

 

  • A re-imagining of Hemmingway’s ‘For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn’