My Son has no Mouth (Episode 1/3)
Yet he must eat
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His mother died giving birth to him and I couldn't forgive him for it; if that makes me something rotten then so be it. I wept dryly by her dying side, stunned, and as the doctors and nurses chided me out of my seat so as to attend to the paperwork for the mutant responsible for the death of the bloated woman lying in the plastic hospital bed in front of me. The doctors ushered her body away and brought me to the boy with ropy tumorous skin covering his mouth. They assured me that a procedure to remove the fleshy patch keeping his mouth shut could be exercised and they would just need me to sign off on it. I did and handed the cold and whimpering child with no mouth off to the them, excusing myself to the bathroom. The primary physician seemed to regard me with some understanding pity, but how could he?
I stood in the bathroom, stomping my rubber soles against the solid tiles beneath my feet. The man looking back at me from the mirror seemed to be much smaller than I remembered. I'd been so red and boisterous and ready for the family life. Now the man there slumped his shoulders and his hair seemed to be greasy and gray. His eyes, that of a stabbed bull in the arena, looking up and accepting death, terrified and darting.
I briefly wondered what it would be like to kill myself. I could buy a gun, go home, paint the walls. This conclusion was wholly unreasonable, I know. This would leave the boy alone in the world. Though, more importantly, everyone would regard me as a poor parent. So I was stuck. Adoption? Perhaps. Call it a grief induced confusion if you want, but I prefer to call it being taken away on a wave of extremes. High tide, low tide. Moving quickly between the proposition of acting as a good newly single father and being the bastard that ducks out when needed most. I was deeply sad. That is my only defense and that sucks.
After washing my face in the deep bowl of the hospital bathroom, I wandered back down the lime green hallway to press my face against the window of the nursery where my son lay. He rolled back and forth, twisting his small and inconsequential limbs in all directions with his eyes wide open in terror, nostrils flaring. He wished to belt out a scream like any other baby might and yet was refused even that. The muffles came from him small.
They cut him a new mouth and as he healed, it was almost easy to ignore the jagged look of his lips. The doctors assured me they would heal nicely with time and that I would hardly be able to even notice they'd ever been sealed shut.
I took my son home and within the week I buried my wife. The funeral was brief and small. The baby did manage to cry out with its newfound mouth on that day. So did I. I'd cry into my pillow as the small boy lay on the bed next to me. He would look up at me with curious blue milky eyes and the world would fall away for a little while.
Time went by. Weeks.
One morning I awoke to my alarm and was stunned to find that my baby wasn't crying from his crib. I could hear him struggling in his haphazard blankets and I could tell he was attempting to muffle out a high pitched babe scream. I darted to the crib, terrified that he was choking on something.
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As I looked down into the crib, I saw him staring up at me with those pleading blue eyes. He had no mouth. It had sealed itself over again. His nostrils flared hysterically and his soft feet kicked out below his twisting torso. I panicked.
I took my child up in my arms and rushed him to the kitchen, phone in hand, ready to dial 911. I could feel the boy thrashing in my arms and I almost dropped him but abandoned the phone instead. The cellphone shot from my hand and slid across the kitchen tiles. He was gagging and snot and vomit shot from his nose. The image of me holding the limp form of my dead baby in my outstretched hands shot through my mind and I decided that was not going to happen.
It was quick enough work. I grabbed a long butchers knife from the block on the counter and held him over the sink as I carved him a smile. Was I doing the right thing? The dam in his throat broke and the sink drain pooled with blood and vomit. I screamed. He screamed. I was terrified and sick to my stomach. I was immediately struck with how small I felt. Was this what being a parent was like? Surely no one else in the history of the world had ever had to perform such a macabre act on their infant.
Tears streamed down my face as I patted him on the spine and he choked up in the sink.
He would come up to me in the morning, I would brush his hair neatly, straighten his shirt, cut him a new mouth for the day and send him on his merry way. I would be lying if I said that the thought of sending him off to school with runny red lips didn't eat me up most nights.
Beyond his poor eating habits and his strange mouth problem, he is a lovely child. I swear, I can't get that kid to eat anything. Sometimes after I dinner, I find the contents of his plate in the trash. Although, he must be getting enough nutrition. He doesn't seem to be wasting away.
The first startling clue was when the dogs in the neighborhood started going missing. It wasn't the craziest thing in the world to be sure, but seeing as we live in a rather upscale gated community, it was definitely odd to have a dog burglar on the prowl. Then the dogs' mutilated corpses would be found in undeveloped portions of the community or in sewer drains. Each of them had massive hunks of flesh taken from their bodies as though they'd been dined on.
Speculation of wild coyotes or mountain lions ran rife through the neighborhood and I was sure to keep a closer eye on my boy so that he wouldn't be munched up by some wily beast.
I purchased him a puppy for his fifth birthday and he said something to me that chilled me to the bone:
"Thank you daddy! I've been so hungry!"
I thought this was a strange quip and nothing more initially, but I sleep with the dog in my bed these days as sometimes I can see my son giving the poor thing a sideways glance with a twinkle in his eye.
I'm beginning to wonder whether or not he was born without a mouth for a reason. I don't know if I plan on giving him his smile this morning.
Episode 2 will be published 11/7/20
Written by Lucas Whorley