Fall Baby by Jennifer Sky

Up in her tree, where the roots became wild branches, she could disappear into the green and the clouds. Light sparkled above as she laid face up, running it through her fingers. She dipped each finger into its path, hiding it from her face, creating shadow creatures with her flesh.

Up here she could see the lightening of passing storms, smell the change of atoms electrified, hear the twilight groans of alligators in the bordering savannas on the edge of everything.

The humid air of her subtropical home was different today, lower, softer on her skin. Fallwas coming. The cool, a slight dissension of the temperature was all she needed to know it was coming. No leaves would brown, or fall from the trees, the change was too subtle for that. It tickled at the back of her neck, whispered in her hair, as she sat aloft, floating above the ground in the house made ofwood, nailed, inserted into the biggest tree. Her Papa had built it for her before he left with the angels, almost like he knew she would want to be up closer to him in heaven. A loose hair brushed her lip, her lip wet from being tucked into her mouth, a habit she had when she was thinking or reading or cooking. The hair stuck to the moist pink and she pushed it away, absently coming back from her intense observation of today's clouds--cumulus, stratus, cirrus--bulging, moving with un-seen forces.

"Papa I miss you," she whispered into the kitty cat light she had made/imagined, a hallucinogenic friend. She missed Papa most when Uncle Daddy came into her room at night.

Uncle Daddy made her hurt and feel icky in her tummy; the big hot hands, his heavy breath on the outside of her ear. That's what made her belly grow. Mama said it was an accident and that we shouldn't talk about it, and that it was good Papa was with God because he would be mad. But she knew Papa would have loved her anyway.

Soon it would be her birthday. She would be eleven this year. October. Halloween, a day when spirits rose and goblins roamed, a night to celebrate the dead. It was her favorite time of the year, even if the Preacher said it was the day of the devil. This year would be different.

She wasn't allowed to see her friends or go to school anymore, her Mama now taught her at home. This year she wouldn't be able to pass out the candy her Sunday school teacher said rotted children's teeth. She wouldn't get to see all the younger girls and boys dressed as beings from favorite childhood stories and nightmares. She wondered what Baby would want to be;
an apple, a Smurf, a woman in black with a tall pointed hat? Her baby, or just Baby as she thought of it-boy, girl, beast - was growing large now like a pumpkin, distorting her body from the flat shelf ofmost ten-year-olds. Mama told her to try not to think of Baby as a person with a future life; a life to be separated from her on the day it was born. She didn't really understand what that meant, but it made her feel sad somehow.

She wondered if Baby would be born on her birthday? That would be funny...She liked that idea. That way we would be able to celebrate together each year, secretly.

That's what she would do! She would give her birthday wish to Baby, each year, forever and ever, and that way she would know that baby would be protected, always.

And so she did.

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