The Entire Screaming World
Steven Paul Taylor
We pull out of the Providence General lot, yakking away about our German neighbors and their new baby, Theo. “All that red hair,” my wife Rachel says. “He’s just darling.”
“Kid’s got his dad’s head,” I say.
Rachel looks over at me, bites at her lip and cocks her head like she does.
“Of all things, why would you say that? He’s got a million cute parts.”
We drive a ways, then I peek at our two girls in the back seat, checking out the shape of their heads. Damn pumpkin heads just like mine. Maybe they’ll grow into them I’m thinking, as we turn into our subdivision, the land of big-headed babies, dead ends and cul-de-sacs.
“Sunny,” is what my wife calls me, but she says it real intense like. “You see that guy tailgating us?”
I check the rear-view. There’s this black dude in a straw hat riding our tail. I figure I’ve cut him off or braked wrong. He pulls this swerve move and waves me over. Maybe he doesn’t like the looks of my brand new vinyl top Cutlass Supreme, my pretty wife and two girls throwing animal crackers in the back seat. Maybe he’s been hitting the bourbon sauce, so I floor it and grab the wheel like I’m Steve friggin’ McQueen.
“Geez, honey,” my wife yells and almost throws herself over the seat, buckling in the kids. “What’d you do to him?”
I’m too busy driving to answer, looking in all the mirrors at his ’66 Caddy finned up so tall I swear it’s a land shark matching me turn for turn. I skid around Wanker’s Corner doing fifty. The kids start screaming, but the guy sticks and the chase is on for real. All I can think of is ‘head for the barn, so I floor it and shout, “hold ‘em tight baby.”
I’ve left the garage door open; so I skid in, get the door down just as he squeals to a stop behind us in the driveway. “Call the cops,” I shout to Rachel and pick up a shovel.
“Get the kids in.”
“Sunny, don’t,” Rachel screams, but I’m out the side door of the garage and lock it behind me.
The guy looks like Redd Fox. He’s hopping foot to foot like a three-legged pup and holding something behind his back like he’s hiding a cigarette or a gun. “This an emergency, man,” he shouts. “You tell me where this address at?”
I jump back and raise my shovel to swing, but it’s a piece of paper he pulls from behind his back and waves in my face.
“What you doing with that shovel, kid,” he’s squinting up his face at me like I’m a damn fool. “I’m telling ya, if you be listening…easy with that shovel now. My friend Iris having a baby. I’m lost as hell.”
“A baby?” I say.
“A baby,” he repeats and steps toward me holding the paper out. “You show me where this at or not?”
The guy reminds me of my grandfather. Same clothes. Same car. Same straw hat. He couldn’t be making this up. I feel like a shit-heel with the shovel cocked up like a baseball bat, so I toss the thing point first into the juniper hedge and wave at my wife peeking out the window. “No way I can explain it,” I say.
So I jump in the Caddy and Redd Foxx does the same and guns it out of our cul-de-sac. There’s not a shock left in the Caddy and I have to hold on tight to keep from ending up in his lap. “She’s like, having a baby right now?” I ask again. He just looks at me like I’m an imbecile. “If’n it ain’t too late.”
Iris’ two kids are screaming on the steps when we pull up. Iris herself is on her back, lying on the landing of her split-level, dress to her hips, legs apart and the look of God’s hell on her face. “For sure it’s coming,” Iris screams. “Dear Sweet Jesus.”
The kids scream louder. Then Redd Fox screams, “Do something.”
“Do something?” I scream. “What? Me?”
“This ain’t the time for no democracy,” he screams.
“Well, call the paramedics,” I scream and squat in front of Iris.
This is something private I should not be looking at. I wasn’t this close watching my own kids being born. Iris rises up and takes me by the shoulders with her strong hands. “Sweet Jesus,” she screams, fearful, hollow and full, from a place inside herself that is deep past the center of all the earth.
“Sweet Jesus is right,” I say looking her right in the eyes. I lay her back down and take a breath of the musty air we all share. I put my white hands part way into her and under the baby’s shiny head, then its beautiful black shoulders; blood and birth and things I can’t imagine glisten up my arms as I gently pull him from the amazing grasp of Iris. I clean out his mouth. Turn him over in my hand. Massage the boy’s back, as he joins the chorus of the entire screaming world.