Mariam had the impression that the baby too was examining her. She was lying on her
back, her head tilted sideways, looking at Mariam intently with a mixture of amusement,
confusion, and suspicion. Mariam wondered if her face might frighten her, but then the
baby squealed happily and Mariam knew that a favorable judgment had been passed on her
"Shh," Mariam whispered "You'll wake up your mother, half deaf as she is."
The baby's hand balled into a fist. It rose, fell, found a spastic path to her mouth. Around a
mouthful of her own hand, the baby gave Mariam a grin, little bubbles of spittle shining on
"Look at you. What a sorry sight you are, dressed like a damn boy. And all bundled up in
this heat. No wonder you're still awake."
Mariam pulled the blanket off the baby, was horrified to find a second one beneath,
clucked her tongue, and pulled that one off too. The baby giggled with relief. She flapped
her arms like a bird.
"Better, nay? "
As Mariam was pulling back, the baby grabbed her pinkie. The tiny fingers curled
themselves tightly around it. They felt warm and soft, moist with drool.
"Gunuh," the baby said.
"All right, Ms; let go."
The baby hung on, kicked her legs again.
Mariam pulled her finger free. The baby smiled and made a series of gurgling sounds. The
knuckles went back to the mouth.
"What are you so happy about? Huh? What are you smiling at? You're not so clever as
your mother says. You have a brute for a father and a fool for a mother. You wouldn't smile
so much if you knew. No you wouldn't. Go to sleep, now. Go on."
Mariam rose to her feet and walked a few steps before the baby started making theeh, eh,
eh sounds that Mariam knew signaled the onset of a hearty cry. She retraced her steps.
"What is it? What do you want from me?"
The baby grinned toothlessly.
Mariam sighed. She sat down and let her finger be grabbed, looked on as the baby
squeaked, as she flexed her plump legs at the hips and kicked air. Mariam sat there,
watching, until the baby stopped moving and began snoring softly.
Outside, mockingbirds were singing blithely, and, once in a while, when the songsters
took flight, Mariam could see their wings catching the phosphorescent blue of moonlight
beaming through the clouds. And though her throat was parched with thirst and her feet
burned with pins and needles, it was a long time before Mariam gently freed her finger
from the baby's grip and got up.