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Betty And The Baby
by Marvin Pinkis


"What is it? Can't you see I'm on the phone? Excuse me, Sandra, Betty thinks she has something important to tell me. Don't go away. I want to hear all about Sally and Vern."


"What? Say it."

"Baby's eating his poop again."

"Eating what?"

"Well, you told me not to say the other word. He's in his crib and he's..."

"Oh, shit. What's that, Sandra? You heard? Maybe it is normal for kids to say what they mean, but I don't have to like it. Hell, I better go."

After cleaning up the disgusting mess, angry and shaky, Mildred sat at the kitchen table drinking coffee and smoking.

"Ma, did I do that when I was a baby?"

"Of course not. Now go nap."

Mildred marveled that she managed to handle two children. One was a handful. Betty had started off strange and stayed that way. Still, Mildred felt she'd been a good parent for a single mother often too sick or fatigued or hung over to work steady.

She recalled the dreadful morning when she had entered Betty's room. A smiling infant lay in the crib with fecal matter smeared over her face, clothes, the bedding. Mildred threw up and did not re-enter the room for over two hours before she mustered the courage to clean up Betty and the crib.

Betty approached her mother. "Ma?"

"What now?

"I can't sleep."

"Why not?"

"The bedroom stinks."

"Sleep on the couch. I'll put Georgie in his playpen and air out the room."

"Ma, are you sure I never did what baby does?"

Mildred paused from her ironing. "Do you think you did?"

"I can't remember."

But Betty had a faint glimmer of getting yelled at, more like screamed at, the same way Ma reacted every time Georgie did it.

Betty likely had been in the room with the baby when it happened that first time. She then had left the room and gone to the bathroom where she carefully scrubbed her hands and fingernails, and followed that routine each time the occasion rose.