Monday, March 21, 2011

Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge

Another fun flash fiction challenge brought to you by Chuck Wendig. The theme of this one is noir fiction based around babies. I think Chuck might have even invented a new genre: Baby Noir. Before I forget, let me just apologize in advance for this story to Chuck and his wife who are having a baby. But Chuck, you started this! Read more great enteries over at his blog

Jesse’s Baby

At seven months pregnant, Jesse’s blue jeans were so tight we said the baby would be born with a Levi Strauss button imprint on its forehead. I asked her how she could be comfortable like that, especially riding on the back of her old man’s Harley.

“I don’t want to look fat,” she said, scowling, and took a hard suck from her cigarette. Her right eye underneath was a deep shade of purple.

“You don’t look fat, Jess, just pregnant.,” I said, gently. “They make jeans for pregnant women. They have an elastic panel in front.”

Jesse shrugged a boney shoulder. Her attention was on the cigarette she flicked ashes from in my driveway. She took another drag, blew smoke into the summer wind, and looked beyond me down the dirt road. “I’m not wearing that stupid maternity shit,” she said.

I didn’t know what else to say. She was clearly pregnant, although she didn’t look as big as she should. She appeared maybe four months along at the most. Probably because she ate nothing but Fudgesicles and beer.

I hauled the case of Budweiser from the trunk of my car and struggled to close it by balancing the case on my knee. We walked in silence into the back yard. Jesse was a quiet girl anyway. If you didn’t talk to her, she wouldn’t say a word. And then when she did open her mouth, you kind of wished she hadn’t. I always thought the reason she didn’t talk was because of her teeth. Never before had I seen a mouth on a pretty girl so crowded with crooked rotting teeth. She was barely twenty years old. But the more I got to know Jesse, the more I realized the reason she was so quiet was probably because she never had anything good to say. Maybe she knew this too.

The sun beat down hot. I looked at Jesse in her skin tight jeans and T-shirt. She’d pulled her black hair back from her pale face and tied it in a loose bun on top of her head. But she still looked sweltering in those blue jeans. Beads of sweat forming on her upper lip.

“I’ve got a pair of shorts you can borrow,” I said as we rounded the back yard to where the guys sat around the pool, soaking up the sun and the suds.

She laughed, a high pitch cackle, and said, “You’ll never get me in a pair of goddamn shorts, not with my fucking legs. No fucking way.”

We’d talked to her old man, Larry, about our concerns. Both my old man, Ayden, and I. Some of the guys in the club had made remarks, occasional cracks. Larry only laughed. It was as if he was in denial too about the baby.

In the kitchen Jesse opened the case I set on the counter and pulled out a bottle.

“I’ve got juice or ice-tea,” I said, putting the bottles in the fridge.

“I’m good.” She cracked the beer and took a long swallow.

“Has your doctor said anything to you about drinking while you’re pregnant?”

Larry opened the screen door at that moment and stepped inside, his naked beer belly leading the way. He was pink from the sun, his shaved head like the skin on a beefsteak tomato. He looked more pregnant that his woman. “It’s not the booze she needs to worry about, “ he said, “It’s all the fucking blow she does.”

“Kiss my fucking ass,” Jesse said, actually giving him a shove as she past him out the door; an effort as ineffectual as trying to push a bus.

“What happened to Jesse’s eye, Larry?” I didn’t expect a direct answer. It was bold enough for me to be asking him at all. But Larry never seemed to mind me.

“Talking when she should have been listening.” He snorted, opening the fridge and staring into it. He pulled out the t-bones, grabbed two more beers, and went back outside.

That night, when the barbecue was long over, and Ayden and I were watching TV, we got a frantic call from Larry. Something was wrong with Jesse. It was bad, he said. Ayden needed to come quick. They only lived two streets over so Ayden and I were there in minutes. The scene that greeted us in the upstairs bathroom of their house was like something out of a horror movie. Ayden actually took a step back, covering his mouth, retching.

I stood gazing, stunned at Jesse laying in an empty bathtub.

“Why the fuck did you bring her?” Larry said to my old man as I entered the bathroom. I approached her hesitantly and that’s when I noticed movement underneath a wet and bloody towel between her knees. I lifted the edge of the towel. The baby was so small but clearly alive.

“We need an ambulance. Call 911!” I screamed.

Neither Larry nor Ayden budged.

“Call 911!” I repeated.

“Fuck,” Larry said and swiped a thick hand over his face. “The cops will come. I don’t want those fuckers in my house. I got too much shit here. All my fucking guns and shit.”

“Then get rid of them. But call an ambulance,” I ordered and turned back to the baby. The umbilical cord was still attached. It’s cry was weak like a kitten’s. I couldn’t tell if it was a boy or a girl it was so covered in blood. Jessie’s eyes were open, staring. Her skin was chalky. That’s when I saw red marks around her neck.

I turned and looked back at Ayden and Larry. They stood staring at me in silence. And I knew there would be no ambulance coming.

Ayden made a motion with his head for me to get out.

When I didn’t move, he came in, took me by my arm and led me out. He told me to go watch TV in the basement while they took care of it.

“Little Levi won’t make it,” he smirked. “It’s better off.” He closed the door and left me. I did what he said. I watched a Rosanne rerun. It was an episode where Rosanne’s sister was pregnant and they were trying to think of names for the baby.


  1. Wow...wasn't expecting...that. :) I like it. Strong. Kind of compelling. Nice job.

  2. I don't even want to imagine what they would have done!!

    Wow! But good one!

  3. Ohhhh..... Dayum! Excellent job of painting the characters, Julia. Seriously. I can see it happening. Nice work!