Elaine sat at the kitchen table finalizing her will, she would be donating all her money to charity. She wished she could see all their faces when they found out. She smiled to herself just thinking about it.
She had isolated herself from the rest of the world. She was addicted to a certain kind of loneliness.
She sat at the kitchen table eating dinner. Spaghetti and meatballs on Wednesdays. As she twirled her pasta around her fork she thought she saw a meatball move. She dropped her fork and leaned back in her chair, slowly pushing the plate away. Then the meatball started violently shaking on the plate when suddenly two small arms sprouted out of the sides. The hands covered where the ears should be and it started shaking again, then two little legs popped out. Followed by ears, a nose, a little heart-shaped mouth and two squinty eyes. She couldn’t believe her eyes, or ears, when it suddenly started screaming.
“Waaahh,” it wailed in a high-pitch scream. Then tears came rolling out of its eyes. What should I do, she wondered as she looked at it. The screams became louder. “There, there,” she said as she patted its back, it left a small spot of sauce on her hand. “Don’t cry now. It’ll be okay. Shhh.” She wrapped the meatball in the white napkin from her lap and held it against her chest, patting its back. “There now, that’s better isn’t it? Shhh.”
The meatball quieted down as she paced around the table, bouncing him up and down against her chest. She cut the top off a tissue box and stuffed it with tissues and napkins, making him a little bed. She placed him in the box and put it next to her on the couch as she watched the nightly news. He sat quietly, blinking, looking at her, and eventually fell asleep. She brought the box upstairs, placed it next to her bed and turned out the light. “See you tomorrow.”
Two hours later she awoke to a “Wahhhh.” Startled, she looked at the clock. It was only midnight. She rubbed her eyes and looked over the side of the bed at him. She tried petting him but he was inconsolable. She picked him up and paced the floor, patting his back as she did earlier. But he wasn’t calming down this time. “Shhhh,” she kept saying. Then she felt something tugging on her pajama top. She looked down, he was mouthing at the button on her shirt. “Are you rooting? You must be hungry. Let’s go see what we have,” she reassured him. They went down to the kitchen, she had milk but no bottles.
She took the water bottle from the hamster’s cage, washed it and filled it with milk. Gulp, gulp, gulp. He drank all the milk down as she held the bottle up. His little mouth suckled at the dripper. She continued to pace the room and he eventually fell back asleep in her arms. She looked at the clock. It was now two a.m. She placed him gently back down in the napkins. Finally.
Two more hours later she awoke to wailing again. “What! What do you want now? Its only been two hours since you ate!” He was screaming so loud he began turning red. As she looked down she saw he was sitting in a saucy puddle. “Oh… you need to be changed.” She crafted him a diaper out of rolled up tissues and secured it with bandaids around his waist.
The next morning she awoke to screeching, it was still dark out. She groaned and went to the kitchen to get more milk, placing him on the table. Oh dear, there’s not much left. She looked through the cabinets for something else he might like. Then she heard a “fwapp.” He had rolled himself off the table onto the tile floor. She raced to pick him up. “Are you ok?!” She didn’t see any visible signs of injury. He just looked at her, blinking.
“Well we are out of milk. And I obviously can’t leave you alone. So you’re going to have to come with me.”
Exhausted, she made a sling out of a scarf and tied it around her neck. Then she placed meatball into the sling. He nuzzled against her breast, content.
As they strolled the grocery store he started to fuss in his sling. “Shhh, we’re almost done,” she told him, becoming agitated. People began to stare and she apologized for the noise, but the people rolled their eyes and shook their heads anyway.
She was so embarrassed and exhausted she left the shopping cart in the middle of the aisle and only grabbed the milk and the baby bottles and ran to the express lane. By this time he was shrieking at the top of his lungs, rooting at her breast. “Okay, okay. We’re done. Jesus,” she yelled at him as she put him back in his tissue box. She opened the milk, filled the baby bottle and attempted to feed him. He was so upset, he kept turning his head as she attempted to stuff the bottle in his rigid screaming mouth. “Come on! Baby, please, I know you want it. Just drink for mama.” She put her pinky finger in his mouth and he eventually started sucking on her finger and calmed down. Then she switched it out for the bottle, like Indiana Jones, and he drank and it was quiet. Her nerves jangled, she drove them home in silence, her hands trembling on the wheel.
Exhausted, she got home and flopped down on the couch. She placed the tissue box next to her, her sleeping meatball tucked safely inside. She fell asleep sitting straight up on the couch.
Some time later she awoke. “Meatball?” She leaned over and looked in the box, no meatball. “Meatball!” She frantically searched and found him in the kitchen, between the cat’s paws as the cat contently licked his face. “Cookie! No. Stop!” she screamed as the cat began to bat the meatball back and forth. “No, stop!” she shrieked and managed to scare the cat away.
She reached down to rescue meatball, he was still sound asleep and unscathed. She washed him with washcloths, rinsed him with warm water and gently patted him dry. She changed out the tissues and his bedding. She sighed. “There all nice and clean.” She gave him his bottle as they sat and rocked, the cat staring at them from across the room.
As meatball finally fell asleep she was ready to relax. She leaned back and stared up at the ceiling. She flicked the television on and before she could pick a channel her eyes began to close. Then she heard it, the telltale sound of a diaper getting dirtied. “Ohh no,” she cried as she looked down in the box. Sauce was squirting out of the sides of his diaper and all over the fresh bedding and his freshly bathed body. How can such a little meatball make so much sauce.
Exhausted, she took him back out, remade his bed, cleaned and re-diapered him. She fell asleep on the couch for several hours before being awoken again by screaming. The sun was setting. “Is it dinner time or is it morning?” she groaned.
She looked in the mirror, her hair was greasy, her eyes blood-shot. She hadn’t even taken a shower. She started a pot of coffee, it was five p.m., but what difference does it make when you don’t sleep.
She sat at the kitchen table as meatball screamed beside her In his box. She stared blankly out the window, as the wailing grew louder.
“What! What do you want now? I’ve done everything you could possibly need. You’ve been changed, fed, cleaned. What now? What do you want?” She felt her heart racing and her face getting hot as the shrieks became louder.
She walked to the drawer and grabbed a fork. She stood over the box, her hand raised by her face, looking down at the helpless meatball. He looked up into her eyes and was quiet for a moment. Then he let out a guttural scream as she plunged the fork into his round body, sauce splattered across her face. She lifted the fork to her mouth and swallowed him down in one, hard, satisfying gulp.