Babies in the House
Andrew Roe

There are babies in the house and he does not want them. There are babies in the house and he did not ask for them.

Every day they appear. They do not go away. They sleep, but not enough. Every morning they keep coming back. A boy baby and a girl baby. They have names. They have a smell. Baby smell. Poop smell. You can’t really tell which is which: the boy, the girl. Because they look the same. Copies of each other. Just cheeks and hair fuzz and red-raw skin. He wants them to go back from where they came. People in stores point, smile. Twins. My. How cute. And who are you?

They are everywhere. He goes into one room and one of them—or both, usually both—is there. And if not, he can hear them somewhere else. Crying. Needing. His mother holding one, his father holding the other, while also vacuuming, cleaning, opening mail, washing dishes, cooking him a quesadilla and cutting it into triangles, just like he likes, and they say sorry that it got burned a bit. The house is too small now. Before it had been just right.

He watches TV. He is quiet. He watches TV and he wants to hit them, his brother and sister, these babies, and maybe some day he will. What will that feel like? Will it feel bad or will it feel good? Or both bad and good?

He is four. He is older. He will always be older.

Two times he went to the hospital. When the babies were still in his mother’s belly. She made faces when they kicked. Her belly so big and hard-looking. She asked if he wanted to touch it. He said no. She couldn’t move all that much. He tried to crawl up into her lap in the bed with wheels and steel rails but it didn’t work. There wasn’t enough room for him. You pressed a button and a nurse came. They brought Jell-O whenever you wanted it. All colors. Green. Orange. Red. He liked the green best. The second time at the hospital, he saw a lizard when he was leaving, running right in front of him on the sidewalk, then disappearing. He’d thought they’d always just stay there, stay inside her belly forever.

There are babies in the house and there is nothing he can do. Because if he could do something, he would.

They have names but he doesn’t like to use them. Not to say them. Not to think them. They are “the babies,” or “babies.” Nothing more.

There are babies in the house and he does not want them, not now, not ever. It’s already getting hard to think of when they weren’t there, even when he closes his eyes and holds his breath and tries real hard.

He waits. Puts his hand to his chest when he lies down to sleep at night. Feels the bump-bump of his heart. It’s there. A steady beating. A life. Him.

Andrew Roe lives in Oceanside, California. His fiction has appeared in Tin House, One Story, The Sun, Glimmer Train and other publications. He keeps a sporadic blog here.