Writing prompt #52

You are the only one in the supermarket during a blizzard. Feeling creeped out, you decide to leave, when suddenly you find a baby abandoned on the floor.


Shim      by clcronan 2020

“B” looked up from her book, out the large pane window covered in advertising posters, and let go a low moan, “Oh, noooooooo.” She was forever losing track of time when she read. That fact went back as far as she could remember. She had known for days about the blizzard due in, and it had gotten noticeably darker since she last looked up, and she had no sense of how long it had been since the last customer was in, so she absolutely should have known to go home hours ago. “Oh, whatevah, that’s the price you pay for a good read.” She always said that when she found herself in yet another situation caused by her reading habit.

She stood up off the old wooden stool, holding the counter for balance, and noticed her legs had gone numb. She wondered how long they’d been that way this time. Her doctor told her that blood clots are invisible killers and good circulation meant standing up, and even walking around every couple of hours. He must not be much of a reader.

In the midst of assessing her situation, the power went out. “Oh, noooooooo. That’s just pissah.” She knew her way around this whole-in-the-wall general store/gas station well enough to navigate it in the dark. She had, after all, worked there for just about 40 years. So she shuffled toward the office to get a lantern. When she kicked something large and heavy she growled in pain and in shock. “What the eveh-lovin-devil is that!” She reached into her pocket and pulled out her key chain with the tiny led bulb and pinched it on and held it down to see what she had kicked. “Oh, noooooo!” she whispered quietly at the sleeping baby who was bundled into a car carrier, and oblivious to their situation. She stood staring for a long time, feeling like it should be just a joke, and yet unable to reconcile that with the blizzard outside making this a most impractical day for a practical joke. And not a very funny joke at that.

She tried to lift the carrier to bring the baby into the office with her. The not-funny joke got not-funnier. It seemed as if the carrier had been super-glued into place. “Wait. What? Really? Nooooooo.” She always liked to talk out confusions, and if that meant talking to herself, she was fine with that. She stood there, staring at the rather large baby in the rather small carrier, when she shivered. That brought her out of the need to solve the new problem until she solved the old one; electricity, heat, reporting herself stranded - reporting THEMselves stranded. 

The generator was out back, and it was gas powered, so she’d likely have to get a pump to work, even though they were not, of course, on the generator. She walked away from the sleeping baby and started putting on her outdoor gear. When she tried to open the back door she found it blocked by a tall snow drift. “OK, pissah, the front door it is then. This just keeps getting funnier.”

As she pushed open the font door and stormed out, a great accumulation from the overhang fell on her head, and went right down inside the back of her jacket. She tightened her scarf and pulled up her hood and cast a nasty glance toward the overhang and said, “Not funny eithah.”

She shoveled her way toward the back, continually cursing herself for getting lost in “the book zone,” and letting this storm get this far ahead of her. It seemed to take forever, and that whipping wind blowing it all back into the path was the reason why. But she did finally get there, and while she was shoveling out the back door, her mind could send forth no kudos, but only, “Oh, nooooo, please tell me I unlocked this damned door!” Which she did not.

She dug out the door to the generator shed, checked the fuel gauge, found it very close to E as predicted, grabbed the gas can, and trudged back through the disappearing path toward the pumps. She knew just the trick to getting fuel without power, but it was a lot of work and by this time she’d started to worry about that baby waking up and about getting the wood stove stoked before it went completely cold. She trudged through the store, unlocked the back door, filled the generator, pulled the starter 467 times, got a mouthful of its putrid exhaust as it wheezed to life, and then she kicked the shed door closed. She trudged through the store to get some firewood from the “for sale” bin out front, and back in again to tend to the fire. The stove seemed in on the joke too because it creaked a creaky laugh at her as she discovered nothing but cold ash. “Nope. Not funny eithah.”

After getting a good strong fire started, she finally became aware that the baby wasn’t crying. She was sure that hours had gone by since it was fed or had a clean diaper put on. She peeled off her snow-covered gear and left it by the stove to dry. Stocking-footed she padded across the store with horrible thoughts about why that baby might be so quiet. “Oh, noooooooo,” she said in a soul-crushing tone.

But to her great relief, big baby eyes were blinking at her when she came around into that aisle where they had met. “Hi, baby. You got a name?” She rummaged her hands around between the blankets and the plastic lining of the baby carrier hoping to find a note. No note, just a giant wet spot. “What? The stork that brought you couldn’t leave a diaper bag too?” “B” went over to aisle 4 and got a pack of diapers. She headed back to aisle1 but remembered she’d need wipes too. Back to 4 for wipes. Back to 1. Buttpaste. Back to 4, back to 1. Something to lie the baby on. Up to the checkout to grab a lap throw from the ‘Impulse Buy’ bin. Back to 1. Clothes. “Well, we ain’t got no clothes in this convenience mart! What am I supposed to do now?! Oh, wait, ‘course we do! ‘I Saw a Moose in Maine’ Tshirts ovah by the fishin gear!”

“B” was never a mother, or even a babysitter. The closest she’d ever come to changing a diaper was having to watch young mothers change kids on the hoods of their cars while getting a fill. Then, of course having to go pick up the dirty diapers after they left it on the ground and put it in the trash bin that was a whole 4 feet away. So when she got the kid down onto the lap throw and pulled back on the tape on his diaper, she gagged and gagged and gagged again trying to see through her tears and breath through her nose and keep from touching any of that toxic waste someone had sat this kid in.”

The baby just giggled. As “B” finally got through the nightmare, and mostly returned most things to almost normal, the baby giggled again. “So, baby BOY, does that mean you are somehow in on this running joke I’ve been living through tonight?” 

She had him snug as a bug in his carrier. Then he started crying. She dropped her head and her shoulders, looked at the kid from beneath her eyebrows and muttered, “Seriously? Not funny. Seriously not funny.”

Food. Baby food. We have baby food. Milk. Bottle. Fire. “C’mon kid, Let’s do some shopping. She could not lift the heavy carrier so she pushed it around the store, gathering everything she thought they might need. Including a day old sandwich and and nice cold beer for her. She poured whole milk in a plastic bottle but couldn’t figure how she could heat it on the wood stove. She parked it as close as she dared and decided to open some jars since this boy was not in any mood to wait. She used a chip clip to hold a shami cloth over his clean t-shirt and opened a package of baby spoons, then a jar of chicken and rice. Her gag reflex kicked in again. “Oh, noooooo, baby boy, this explains that nightmare in your pants earlier! Good Lord, is this what babyhood is like? How does anyone survive it!” The way he gobbled that stuff down made her fearful of the next time he’d need changing. But after two jars and most of a full bottle he fell asleep. “Ya sure are a cunnin’ little buggah, ain’t ya?” “B” said aloud.

“B” rolled the office chair out to sit by the fire with the baby. It made a terrible racket. She flipped a milk crate over to use as a foot stool and plopped down, exhausted. It was seductively quiet, the only sounds being the crackling fire, and the snuffling breathing of a baby, and then the rhythmic, lowing snores of a very tired women.

“B” was startled awake. She sat bolt upright in the office chair, knocking over the milk crate which careened into the carrier which started the baby crying, as her chair slammed into the sales counter knocking her to the floor. And there was this pounding, pounding, pounding. “Where the, what the, who the, ...” the questions came to her in such rapid fire that she could not shake the confusion. And the pounding continued. Up on her feet, her foggy memory of the nights events started to explain everything but the pounding. Then a man’s voice, “Hello? Hello? Anybody? Hello?”

There was a blob shape made of snow and ice pounding on the door. She was not awake enough to understand where a person would come from on a night like this. Her brain snapped to attention, “The dad! Your dad! Oh,Wow!”

She flung the door open and pulled the man in, nearly throwing them both off balance. She was so excited that her responsibility for the child was at an end that she talked a blue streak. She scooped the baby out of his cacoon and held him out to the man, “Oh, noooooo, looks like we slept through the need for a new diaper. But now that you’re here I’m sure you can handle this like a pro, which I am not, don’t get me wrong, we got by ok, but I wasn’t sure at all when you’d get here, oh, and you didn’t forget to forget the diaper bag so I just pulled a bunch of stuff from the shelves, so you should find everything you need right here in our little overnight camp. Well, everybody will sure have a story to tell from this escapade, right? What a crazy night!...”

“LADY!” The snowman had stared to thaw from the warmth of the fire. His eyes were doing that deer-caught-in-the-headlights thing, and he was holding the kid out at arms length like it might explode.


“This is not my kid. I don’t have a kid. I think you think I am someone else, but I just saw the chimney smoke and was hoping to warm up.”

“Huh?” They stared at each other, both trying to make sense of what just happened.

He shrugged and gestured the very smelly baby toward her.


He stomped his boots against the floor and great chunks of ice and snow fell from him and began melting into puddles, and then rivulets headed straight for ‘camp.’ “B” deftly kicked everything out of the path, and set about the business of changing the baby. “So, who did you say you were?” The baby required a full box of wipes and a new Moose T-shirt and the inner most throw of the cocoon needed to be peeled out, and of course the kid wanted another bottle. The stranger watched silently, trying to figure out what he had waked into. “B” parked a bottle by the fire, tucked the baby back in his carrier, and looked up at the stranger. 

“Tim,” he said as he reached out his hand, “My logging rig is parked just down the road a piece, and it was getting wicked cold and lonely in there, and I was getting to need a cup of coffee so I headed for the smoke I saw from your chimney.” “Oh.” replied “B” and she excused herself to check the generator.

Tim put on a pot of coffee and sat in the chair and made small talk with the baby. He spotted the warming bottle and decided to make himself useful. When “B” returned, she inhaled deeply and said, “That coffee smells great.” Tim got up to pour two cups, still holding the baby. ”B” sat in the chair and asked, “So, what’s your story? You were driving a logging rig in a blizzard?

The two of them talked until the sky took on a greyish-pink cast. “Well, I guess it’s morning. But still snowing, and still no electricity.” The baby, who had been sleeping in his carrier, stirred awake. “And I suppose you’ll be needing anothah change.”

Hesitantly, she said, “Tim, I hate to put you in a bad situation, but I really have to ask you a question. It’s about this kid. I think, well, that is to say, I almost sure that he’s actually a shim.”

“A what now?”

“Would you mind taking a look. I think his testicles are actually, well, more like, well, the opposite of testicles.”

Tim stared at her, blinking rapidly. He crossed and uncrossed his arms and his legs. He shook his head as if trying to unhear what she said.

“Please just take a look for me.”

“Wait. Is a shim even a thing? Maybe you just don’t know what baby balls look like. Please dear god, do not make me look at something I will never unsee!”

“B” shrugged at him, and gave him the nod that said, this is really happening. He stepped toward the changing station she had set up on the floor. She peeled back the tape, then folded back the diaper to expose the baby’s infant sized member. “Well, that looks all in order to me, jeez, you really had me,...” “B” held up the little frank to show there were no beans. Then she lifted the baby's hips to make it clear that her suspicion was correct. Tim threw up in his mouth. Then he ran toward to front door to go throw up some more. 

“B” apologized for the shock, but said she had been wrestling with this little discovery since the first diaper change. She kept calling the kid ‘baby boy,’ but only because she wasn’t prepared for such a thing to happen in her little world. “The baby needs one of those new pronouns, but I’ve only ever used the two common ones for my whole life. I feel like I am Alice in Wonderland. This isn’t all a hallucination from eating a bad sandwich is it? You’re a real live person and not a figment of my imagination, right?”

Tim sat in the office chair with his head between his knees. “Listen, lady, this just got soooo ‘Twilight Zone’ on me. Maybe even ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show,’ you ever seen that? I need a minute.”

“B” was glad she finally shared the situation. She was grateful that Tim had trudged over from his rig. She knew the baby’s parents had abandoned . . .shim . . .and she was afraid of what would happen if . . .s/he . . .ended up in the foster system. Now that she was letting the situation sink in, she felt a real protectiveness toward the kid. She sat on the milk crate rocking the baby gently. “Kid, you have no idea what goes on here on earth, you have a life of hell ahead of you. I wish I knew of an adoption agency that specialized in kids with your condition.”

Tim looked up at them with very sad eyes, “Ayah, on that, sistah.”

July 31, 2020 00:22

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