Today I submitted this short story to the online magazine For Harriet. We will see. I've posted this story on this blog before but decided that since I submitted it, it was worth the repost. Hope you enjoy it again.
Sugar's Baby (In loving memory of Baby Mary)
Finally! Seem like I been waitin’ forever and a day just to tell my story. I got a story to tell too. I guess you say this better be a good one huh? Well, it ain nothin’ that’s what it is. Iss a story about my nothin’. I couldn’ ax for nothin’ better than nothin’ with every and all the things I been through.
This is a picture of my Mercy. She sure was one pretty one wasn’ she? I didn’ have a camera so I just drew a picture of her. It ain all the way right on because I’m not a professional artist or nothin’ like that, but you can still tell how preddy she was right? I know it. She was only three days when she went on and left. I had her right here in this house. Right here. My sister helped me deliver her. We were in my own room on my own bed. Buford was fightin’ overseas and couldn’ be here. But he was here. In his own quiet way. All my brothers and sisters came and waited in the livinroom for the baby to come. All of them, and me of course, and Mama. Daddy wasn’ here because it was Sunday and he had to preach night service. It wasn’ nothin’ that was ever gon keep him from night service. He didn’ even miss it the Sunday after he passed. He said the Lord told him he was gon take him away and to get the service together. So he wrote it down on a piece of paper and had my oldest living brother Theodore read it to the crowd while his body was layin’ right there.
I laid down on the bed after my water broke and Happy came in and took over. I juss did everything she say. She said push and I pushed. She said breathe and thass what I did too. I guess it took about ten hours, but after it was over I didn’ even remember the time. What time? I just held her in my arms rockin' back and forth. Rockin’ and singin’ to her. I knew she was gon be a girl because Happy been dreamin’ ‘bout spiders . Happy even knew what the girl was gon look like and what she had come here to do. New babies always come to see Happy. They always do. Happy even tole me what to name her. Mercy. I pretty much do whadever Happy tell me and it so happen that I like that name too. Mercy.
After Mercy came through, everybody came into the room with us and took turns holdin’ her and kissin' all over her. Everybody except Rufus. Rufus didn’ touch babies. Ever since his own boy Booty passed on in his arms he stayed away from babies. It wasn’ his fault or nothin’ like that. The angels got ready for Booty to come home thass all. He came in the room though. Sat over in the corner wantin’ to smile. Rufus never did smile much either. He wanted to though. So there was Marvin, JuniorBoy, Theodore, Rufus, Happy, BabyGirl, Sister, Brother, Ruth, Amos, Paul, Simon, Ezra, Joseph and David. Esther, Nehemiah, and Leviticus had passed on by then. I was the baby.
I guess that was the happiest day of my whole life. Holdin’ Mercy in my arms all night. I didn’ even want to go to sleep. Happy told me to sleep when the baby was sleep so I could be well rested for her feedin’. I loved feedin’ my baby. Seem like she knew just how to do it. Even better than I did. Mercy would wrap her little biddy lips around my nipple and juss go at it. All the way till she was full all the way up. Seem like she would drink all the milk from one breast and move herself over to the next.
Happy tole me to go out Tuesday evening to get some fresh air. I didn’t want no fresh air, I just wanted to stay inside and kiss over mercy. I did what she told me to do though. I went in the backyard and sat on the swing Amos had built. That was my dream place. I could stay out there all day and never know what time it was. I would swing on that swing and dream up some good ole dreams. That day I dreamed that Buford could be with us and see Mercy. He wasn’ gon be able to come until the end of the week. Seem like that was takin’ forever. I stopped daydreamin’ long enough to hear Mama and Daddy in my room singin’. They didn’ never sing together. They was barely in the same room together. Daddy was always in the backroom workin’ on his sermon for the next Sunday. Thass what babies do though. They bring folks together. After while I was tired of swingin’ and dreamin’ and I wanted to feed my baby.
I went in the house and Daddy walked out as I was comin’ in. He didn’ say nothin’. But then he barely did say nothin'. I picked up Mercy and there she was just as beautiful as ever. It just wasn’t no baby born in this world as beautiful as mines. Mama heard me say that one time and she tole me don’ never say that again ‘cause it was a disrespect to Baby Jesus. I guess so.
Happy tole me to go on and lay down and take a nap. I tole her I didn’ feel like takin’ no nap. I wanted to hold Mercy. Even if Mercy was sleepin' I just wanted to hold her and look at her while she slept. I could tell Happy didn’t want me to hold my own baby but she really couldn’t say nothin’. She was my baby, not hers. She and Mama left the room not sayin’ nothin' and I did what I wanted to do. I kinda started thinkin’ that maybe Happy was just a little bit jealous of me havin' my very own baby ‘cause she was the only one of us that didn’ never have one yet.
I held Mercy for a real long time and she never did cry or fidget or nothin'. She just laid there. After awhile Rufus walk in and just took Mercy right out of my arms. Didn’t say nothin’, just took her and held her. I didn’t say nothin’ ‘cause it ain like Rufus to even hold a baby. I started to think about all the miracles Mercy was bringin’ to the family already. Mama and Daddy singin' together. Bein’ in the same room. Rufus pickin' up and holdin’ a baby. He put his lips to her cheeks and started to cry. I did too. I guess he was rememberin' Booty.
It look like Happy was right after all about me layin’ down ‘cause I shol did get real real sleepy after that. I laid on down and took a nap. Guess I was even more tired than I thought I was because it was early the next mornin’ when I woke up. I didn’ see Mercy so I went to see who was huggin’ and kissin’ all over her. Seem like I couldn’ find nobody. Then I heard that old piano playin' in the livinroom and I couldn’ race in there fast enough? Didn’ nobody play that piano and make it sound like that except for Buford. I stood there watchin' and listenin' to him. There he really was. So handsome. He looked at me and tole me to come over and sit on the bench with him while he play.
“Where everybody at?” I don’ know why I axed him like he should know.
“They out back getting ready. You gotta go get ready too.”
“Get ready for what? I ain goin’ nowhere. Come on Baby I got to show you yo very own baby girl. She the most beautiful baby ever been born in the world except for Baby Jesus. Where she at?” Then I went in Mama and Daddy 's room and there she was. Sleepin’ like an angel. Somebody had got her all dressed for me. She had on all white with a little bonnet. I picked her up like I always do but she felt…heavy. The kinda heavy that just a few days caint to do nobody. But what did I really know about babies? I kissed her and her skin felt like a doll skin. “She so soft. Buford, aint she just pretty?”
Buford looked at her but he didn’ wanna hold her. Then Rufus came in and took her from me again. “Mercy gon on, Sugar. Get dressed and come on out back with us. “
“Gon on? What you talkin’?” I knew. But I didn’ know. Because I didn’ want to know. Then I heard Mama and Daddy and all my livin’ brothers and sisters in the far end of the backyard singin’ and knew for sure. Mercy had her white dress on so I put my white dress on too. Buford had on his uniform and we walked out together. My Mercy didn’ have no shoes on so I didn’t put none on either.
“And we will all be together on that great gettin’ up mornin’…” They were all there finishin’ up the song. Daddy was holdin’ her over the hole about to pray. I didn’ wanna pray. I didn’ close my or nothin’ neither. I just looked at my Mercy one more time.