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FICTION   MAY 2006 – NO. 6

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Hole in the World

by Liz Dolan

The final story selection from our second Guest Fiction Editor, Peter Orner.

I have a sister Anna who is eight and I am five. She can bounce a beach ball all over the living room before breakfast without knocking down any lamps like I do. Once I bumped my mommy's big, fat tummy because she told me a new baby was in there floating around. I am the baby of the family and I don't want anyone taking my place. When Mommy went to the hospital to have the baby, she didn't take me with her. He was born a few days before Christmas and Mommy said he was a gift but the only gift I wanted for Christmas was a set of Neo Pets which I didn't get.

When I went to visit her in the hospital, I sat on her bed with my arms wrapped around her. I kicked and screamed because she wouldn't let me stay with her. Just the baby stayed. But the good part is that after a while Mommy came home without the baby. I heard her tell Daddy he was going to A.I. I know A is the first letter of my big sister's name and I is eye but that's all I know.

Soon, a short man with curly hair carried big and small shiny machines into our house. They looked like fun but he said they were for the new baby; I told him to put them upstairs in the nursery. Daddy had painted the walls yellow like butter and Mommy had hung blue and white curtains on the windows. But he put the machines in the computer room downstairs instead. Daddy moved the computer to the nursery. Now any time I want to play "Putt Putt" and "Dino," I have to go upstairs to the computer far away from Mommy who is usually in the kitchen baking oatmeal cookies without nuts because I hate nuts.

I told my mother I was going to bite the baby when he came home. Mommy spends so much time on the phone talking to doctors about the baby I think I'll do even worse things to him like shake salt in his diaper or kiss him hard on the mouth so he can't breathe. Then Mommy had to go to A. I. to stay with him. A. I. is a children's hospital, Mommy said. She didn't even come home to read Bread and Jam for Frances to me before I went to sleep. Because Frances wouldn't eat anything but bread and jam her mommy taught her a lesson by placing bread and jam on the table for her for every meal for days. Grandma came to babysit me. I told her I didn't need a babysit. "Go babysit at A. I. so Mommy can come home."

I heard Daddy tell Grandma that they were going to baptize the baby in the hospital and Grandma said, "It's probably a good idea but I am sad that I will miss it." Then seven of Mommy's friends arrived like Power Rangers with mops and brooms to clean our house. They didn't even bring their kids for me to play with. They pulled out the bottles of green and yellow cleaners Mommy kept above the stove and paper towels and rags. They pulled the sheets off the beds and the towels from the bathrooms; the washer and dryer whirred all day. Grandma kept saying, "Stay out of the way, Katie."

Then Ms. Angela, who didn't bring Cecelia and Caroline with her, carried a long, fluffy, pink thing that looked like cotton candy into my playroom and brushed everything with it. "What a mess this room is, Katie." Then she put my stuffed animals in my plastic dinosaur box and my Power Puff girls in my stuffed animals box. And no matter how many times I said, "The Power Puff girls go in the blue box," Ms. Angela kept ignoring me and touching everything that belonged to me with that pink magic wand.

Then the doorbell started ringing and food was delivered. "Kazroles," Grandma called them, filled with gooey stuff and yukky green vegetables. I ate Cheerios every night but Grandma bought the milk with the purple top instead of the green top and it tasted like water. "Go home, Grandma, you do everything different from Mommy." But Grandma stayed.

Finally, Mommy came home again without the baby. "Hooray," I said, "I hope he never comes home." But shortly after Mommy arrived, while I was sitting in her lap, a white van pulled into our driveway — "A nambulance," Mommy called it. A man delivered the baby just like he was delivering Grotto Pizza. The baby sure was funny looking; he had a face round like the moon that I stared at at night when I couldn't sleep and wished I could creep into Mommy's bed with her. His eyes were round, too, like Oreos. His skin was yellow and gray like throw-up.

He was hooked up to a big machine by a wire that went up his nose. Another wire was taped to his toe. A plastic bag hung from a long silver pole. "The bag is filled with sugar water," Mommy said. "The water runs through a tube through a needle that feeds him through his skin." I liked the needle in his skin because I knowed how needles hurt from my boxinations. When I asked my Mommy for sugar water, she said, "No."

When I asked her, "Can I hold the baby?" she said, "No."

When I asked her, "Can I carry the baby?" she said, "No, no, Katie, no." The only thing she let me do was turn off the beeper on the machine when it started ringing. I loved when the lights and red numbers on the machines started flashing even though Mommy ran to the baby and started checking all his wires. Sometimes I pulled the wire off his toe just to hear the beeps and watch the lights flash red.

Soon a lady came to our house and stayed all day every day. Mommy said she was a nurse. She always wore a flowered top and pink or blue pants and white shoes. I liked those colors. She had thick hair, black like night, and a round face and round eyes like the baby. "Is she the baby's mother, too?" I asked.

"No, Mommy said. "She's Korean and she is going to help us care for the baby." I was beginning to wonder who was going to care for me. "Don't tell bathroom jokes to the nurse," Mommy said. My big sister teached me all the jokes I know.

I said "Okay." But sometimes I forgot and told the nurse my favorite poop and pee jokes. The nurse always laughed. But the baby never laughed. He didn't do anything but breathe loud:  "Gasping," Mommy called it. When Mommy sat on the couch with the baby in her arms, I would crunch up close to her. He would stare at me.

"I know he likes me."

"Yes, he does; of course, he does; you're his big sister." Sometimes I would read Good Night, Gorilla to him. I would hold the pages up in front of his face almost touching his nose so he was sure to see the gorilla take the keys from the belt of the zookeeper and open up the cages of the hyena and the armadillo. I would tell Mommy that he laughed out loud when the animals followed the zookeeper to his house and the gorilla climbed into his bed. But the baby didn't really laugh. He gasped.

When I went to preschool I drew pictures of him attached to the machines and wires. My friends hoped their mommies would have babies like him. One day he had no wire in his nose. He was on the counter in the center of the kitchen in a blue seat with red and green plastic fish swinging from a rod so he could see them. When Mommy went to the bathroom, I climbed onto the stool and crawled across the counter.

I poked him in the cheek; I really wanted to poke him in the eye to see if it was squishy like Jello, but Mommy returned and yelled, "What are you doing?" I scrambled off the counter and onto the stool. I caught my leg on the silver bar of the stool and fell onto the wood floor. Mommy yelled again, "That's what you get for hurting the baby." Mommy had never been mean to me before.

That's when I decided I loved marshmallows. When Mommy put a plate with chicken tenders and cheese noodles in front of me, I folded my arms across my chest and stared at the plate. "But, Katie, you love chicken tenders and cheese noodles." When Mommy put a turkey sandwich with mayonnaise in front of me, I stared at the mirror in the red frame above the sink. Soon Mommy said, "No more marshmallows for you." But I had plenty in the shoebox under my bed.

My sister heard me telling jokes to the nurse; "You're not suppose to tell those stupid jokes to her."

"You teached me those stupid jokes, Anna."

"I know I did. But things are different now. So you and I have to be different, too."

"Why are things different?" I stood on one leg and tried to balance to see what different was like.

"Because the baby is very sick and Mommy and Daddy are very worried about him. He can't breathe. You know how that feels?"

"Show me."

"I don't have to show you. Just hold your breath." I held my breath.

" I still want you to show me." Anna got up from the floor where she was working on a puzzle, put her hand on the back of my neck and her other hand over my mouth and nose. I almost exploded.

"See how scary it is. The baby can't breathe or eat without the machines. So, Katie, if you and I are really good, maybe he'll get better."

The baby had to go back to A.I. again. This time Daddy went and slept over with him. I missed Daddy but not as much as I missed Mommy. Daddy came home without him. He walked over to the sink where Mommy was washing out the paintbrush she had used to paint the rocking chair for the baby's room. Mommy told me she had rocked me to sleep in it every night after I was born. Daddy wrapped his arms around her and whispered something in her ear. Mommy nodded her head, put the brush on a paper towel, and walked upstairs.

I grabbed Daddy by his shirt tail, "Daddy, Daddy, I ran faster than everybody in my class today."

"You did, huh, well you better run fast now." Before I ran five steps, Daddy reached down, grabbed me around my waist and turned me upside down. I screamed and kicked my legs until I saw Mommy come down the stairs with her small, brown suitcase. "No, Mommy, no, don't go." Daddy turned me right side up and stood me on the floor.

I throwed my arms around her legs and begged her, "Don't go Mommy."

"I have to go, honey, I have to."

When Grandma came back to babysit, I stood on the couch and looked out the window waiting for Mommy's blue van to pull into the driveway. After a while, I started feeling dizzy and throwed up all over the couch. "Maybe I can go to A.I. with Mommy."

Grandma took me by the hand and led me upstairs to my bedroom, "You better take a nap."

"Five year olds don't take naps, Grandma." But I fell asleep as soon as I lay my head on the pillow. I didn't go to preschool again that week. Grandma didn't know how to do anything. She forgot to cut the crusts off my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and she cut the halves into triangles instead of rectangles.

Finally, Mommy came home again without the baby. She put her hand on my forehead; "You're still warm, precious."

"Don't go to A. I. again, Mommy."

"I won't ever have to go there again, honey. I promise." She hugged me so tight I couldn't breathe.

The next day Mommy, Daddy, and Grandma were sitting at the kitchen counter drinking their tea. Nobody was talking. "Go home, Grandma," I said.

"Grandma is staying for a few more days," Mommy said.

I went upstairs to my sister Anna. She stayed home from school and was upstairs drawing pictures of the baby. Her drawings were on the floor, on the table, on the bed. Her eyes were all red and her nose was slobbery. I asked "Why are you crying?"

"Because the baby will never come home. I guess we weren't good enough."

"Don't cry. It's not like you got eaten by a shark." She showed me a drawing of the baby in a brown box.

"We're going to put the baby in a casket and put him in the ground."

"Won't he be scared 'specially at night? Won't he be all shivery? Maybe we can put the toucan and the kookaburra in his arms to watch him. Maybe Goodnight, Gorilla. He liked Goodnight, Gorilla."


The baby has been in the ground for a while now. I liked him but most of the time I hated him. I'm glad I'm the baby of the family again but sometimes I wish he was here because Mommy has been crying a lot. The other night when she was washing my hair, she started to cry. "I got soap in my eyes," she said. But I know she was using baby shampoo and it doesn't burn your eyes. So I showed Mommy my tug boat in the tub and told her we should have put the baby in the boat and sailed him out to sea. We live by the ocean. He would have lots of fun flipping in the air with the dolphins.

We use to go the playground everyday and now we hardly ever go. Or we go when no other kids are there. Who wants to go to the playground when there are no other kids to play with? I bet if the baby was here we would go everyday so he could meet babies his own age.

Yesterday, I dug three holes in the backyard. I had no boxes so I wrapped my Power Puff dolls in newspaper and buried them in the dirt. I read Goodnight, Moon to them so they would remember "the bowl full of mush" if they got hungry and "the old lady whispering hush" if they got scared. I sprinkled water on them from my green garden pail and said, "You got dead forever. Amen." Tomorrow I will dig them up and see how they feel. If they are okay, I'll tell Mommy to go to the cemetery to dig up the baby. I'll bring my orange pail and shovel to help. That way Mommy can stop crying and we can go the playground with the other kids and I can get my Goodnight, Gorilla back.

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Articles in this Issue

Tabula Rasa, by John Falk
Hole in the World, by Liz Dolan
Claude Garamond, by Simon Loxley
Smyrna, by Robert Bevan
El Presidente, by Wayne Curtis
Infectious Disease, by Charles L. Mee
Guidance Counseling, by Gabrielle Moss
Haberdashery, by Charles Roderick
Art History, by Rebecca Solnit
April 2006


Liz Dolan has published poems, memoir, and short stories in New Delta Review, Rattle, Harpweaver, Mudlark, and Natural Bridge, among others. She has received a fellowship and grants from the Delaware Division of the Arts and a Pushcart nomination in fiction, 2005. She is one of eight Delaware poets recently chosen for the masters level retreat with Fleda Brown, Delaware Poet Laureate. Liz was recently accepted as an associate artist in residence with Sharon Olds at the Atlantic Center for the Arts.

Where loss is found.

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