Daniel

Prompt: Disappointment

daughter and new brother

Probably my very earliest memory was around the time Daniel was born.

I was nearly two years old, and I remember lying in my bed— it must have been a crib— in the dark at night, staring at this little stranger who occupied another crib, a new one, just opposite me. I stared hard, and in my memory this stranger stared back. Two babies, staring it out. I remember hating this baby out of some kind of primeval fear and malice, and wishing it was gone. But no matter how much I stared malevolently at this lump of baby, he didn’t disappear.

He had brown eyes, like mine, but blond hair, which went every which way, no matter how Mama cut it. He had a head full of cowlicks. It was soft to the touch, like a kitten’s fur, but as soon as the water dried from combing it, the tufts of hair would stand up again, like vampires climbing out of coffins. So Mama kept it short, which didn’t really help, since he always looked like possums had chewed on his head while he slept.

Even as a baby he  was reckless. If he wanted to investigate a chicken or a tree or a blazing fire, he might cast my mother a cursory glance as if to say, “Here I go, are you paying attention?” and off he went on his uncanny fast crawl. I don’t know how many times I saw Mama swoop him up by his feet! —at the very last moment before the injury or explosion or fall into the abyss. Even thought I despised this baby and wished him harm, in my tiny calculating mind I thought that drawing my mother’s attention to his reckless and naughty baby behaviour might get him into serious trouble or maybe even cause my mother to realize her great error in bringing him home. So I alerted her when he strayed toward a bee’s nest or a sharp bit of glass or a growling dog. I would do nothing to intervene myself, but just alert Mama to his transgressions. In this way I inadvertently saved his hide countless times.

Mostly though, I watched him breastfeed, my eyes drilling into him with intense loathing, or watched my parents coo and giggle with him, this interloper, this boy! I was forced to conjure up bad dreams in the night, to get my parents’ attention, or by reacting theatrically  to a scrape or scratch— howling endless distressing shrieks at the sight of a drop of blood.

If he sensed my animosity, he did not show it. He always seemed quite pleased to see me. If he baulked while being fed, up in his special little chair that used to be mine— it was pink, in fact— if he baulked while Mama brought the spoon of goop to his mouth, all I had to do was make the slightest funny face, the most insignificant rise of an eyebrow or the start of a tongue poking out of my lips, and he would open his fool mouth and laugh with delight. That very soft laugh that he had, that sounded like a little fairy cough.

But he couldn’t fool me with that toothless grin and the cough of the elves. I wished him dead, even though I did not know what death was. I didn’t care. I wanted my world back.

 


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