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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Throwback: FTMT Short Story No1

This was written early last year and is the first of a series of twelve short stories that illustrate different aspects of Fairytale Management. These stories will be published here on a regular basis.

Suggested soundtrack is of course available from www.impossiblesongs.com (the FTMT blog is large - please browse previous months and archives).

The Throwback.

All Diane and Jack wanted now was a baby of their own. Their life together would be complete if they only had a baby. They were comfortable in their lifestyles and careers, settled in a nice home in a good neighbourhood, a cosy circle of family and reliable friends surrounded them and Jack was angling for that next promotion that would lead to a partnership. Diane ached for that baby however. She was 36, still pretty and slim and in good health and had begun to collect baby clothes and items secretly during after work shopping trips. Sometimes they were bought but occasionally and now increasingly she would shoplift a bottle of baby oil or baby bottle teats, hiding them under her coat. Sometimes she’d be slipping a bib or a pair of baby socks up her jacket sleeve. She would then nonchalantly pay for her shopping and retrieve the stolen items once in the security of her car. She would then touch them gently and hold then to her lips and nose and breathe them in slowly enjoying the moment of personal secrecy and illicit pleasure.

Of course Jack knew she was broody but pretended not to, that was until the anniversary dinner. It was during the starter they looked deep into one another eyes and agreed that now was the time to try for a family. All through the meal Diane felt herself tense and strangely on edge, she sat at the table and slowly pushed her thighs together and apart feeling a warmth and excitement deep inside. She felt light-headed, more aware of her nipples and breasts, more feminine and alluring. She applied extra perfume in the ladies, tweaked her hair and rubbed her hands across her tummy as she walked back to the table. Jack felt happy and smug at the decision and agreement, he was happy that Diane had heard what she wanted to hear and he felt a little more virile at the thought of fathering his own child.

Of course they had a normal (whatever in the complex and false perceptions of life today that may mean) if unspectacular sex life, they’d been together now for 10 years tonight and saw there love making as being mature and civilised, on a plateau and now that the contraception was to stop, ultimately fruitful. As they held hands across the table and the dinner candle burned low they both anticipated a juicy and satisfying evening in bed. Of course some couples would by this point be running to the restaurant toilet or the back seat of the car and getting on with it but Diane and Jack were content to savour the moment, enjoying the foreplay implicit in their decision and the anticipation of what would eventually follow. The bill came and they headed home, Jack driving slightly more carefully than usual imagining an occupied baby seat in the back whilst Diane fantasised about a quick and effective sexual coupling and then in the later months how she would be holding her baby swollen tummy under the grip of the seatbelt.

Of course they had chatted many times about starting a family, when would the time be right, favourite names and numbers, what friends would say, but now it was for real and they would do it for real and a baby person would exist because of them. They got home after a quicker than usual bedtime routine with no pills or condoms enthusiastically started the process of multiplication. Jack wasn’t at all religious but for some reason, even as they made love together he thought he could hear a voice far away in some space in his head saying, “be fruitful and multiply”.

That night they both slept well in a deep dreaming sleep, satisfied by the decision, tired by the lovemaking and warmed by the prospect of what may happen. Diane’s dreams were a colourful mixture of a surreal shopping trip for baby clothes and then buying exotic pets and bringing them home to a surprised Jack in baskets and hampers accompanied and assisted by Zulu Warriors and African native bearers. Jack dreamt of playing fantasy golf where he drove and putted balls into the opening and closing legs of recumbent beauty queens and glamour models. The golf was going well until the rain shower began and the models put on Mackintoshes, turned into kangaroos and hopped away leaving him alone.

Some time in the early hours of what was now Saturday morning Diane awoke slowly and warmly, snuggling and stretching only slightly, blinking in the grey light and then for no reason she could fathom found herself mouthing the words “I wish, I wish for baby Julie, bring her to me, truly truly”. She repeated words again deadpan and then again in a singsong whisper that was muffled by her upper arm against her mouth. She continued to repeat them quietly, borne and expressed on a childish melody until she drifted back behind the pillows of sleep until full morning broke.

Over the weekend the usual chores, visits, car washes, golf matches and lunches and suppers took place and between the sheets they enjoyed themselves in their newly enthusiastic love making sessions. Weeks passed and passions ebbed and flowed but their ultimate purpose remained in focus and Diane continued buying the baby lotions and socks and the like, still gazing across the check out lines at new mums and toddlers and new-borns on seats in shopping trolleys and in buggies as they did their shopping. Occasionally the little rythme would come back into her head “I wish, I wish for baby Julie, bring her to me, truly truly”. She wondered quite what it might mean, how it had planted itself, or was it just silly and part of her baby wishes? She didn’t really like the name Julie; it wasn’t on their lists, though she had looked it up in her “baby names” book. It always reminded her of Romeo and Juliet or Mary Poppins/Julie Andrews and it wasn’t what she wanted. No, she liked Rachel or Megan. “If it’s a girl it’ll be Rachel or Megan” she told Jack. Jack agreed, mainly because he had no strong feelings on names and trusted Diane for other things like Christmas card lists, colour schemes for the house, bedding plants, recipes and curtain materials. “She is very good at that sort of thing”; he would tell his colleagues at work. They knew the feeling.

About three months after the anniversary meal and the big decision being taken Diane still not pregnant but eager was shopping in the local supermarket. She had a list on a post-it stuck to the little board on the trolley. Milk, eggs, conditioner, shampoo, kitchen roll, apples, kiwis, pizza, 60w bulbs and a squiggle. “What was the squiggle?” she thought. She had written the list at her desk at work during her coffee break and couldn’t even remember writing the scribble. Beer? Bread? Bisto? It was a “b” something she decided and as she was by the fruit counter bananas seemed as likely as anything. She was about to rummage through the bunches for a good bunch when she saw a huge banana attached to a clump of smaller ones. It was green and unripe, hard and only slightly curved, the smaller ones were normal, a nice shade of yellow and ready to eat. Normally she would have rejected so oddly balanced a bunch but she didn’t. She bagged them and popped them in her cart. The big green banana was so big (at least a foot long) that it stuck out of the end of the bag. “A real misfit in the banana family” thought Diane “the sorting process (where ever it’s done) must have failed some where to allow so large a banana into the normally uniform stock”. “It’s almost like a throwback, some giant piece of prehistoric fruit”, she thought to herself. At the checkout, the girl blipped through all Diane’s purchases, weighing the bananas and allowing herself a wry smile at the shape and size of the monster fruit accompanying the others in the bag. Diane hardly noticed as she was concentrating on an obviously teething baby boy being carried by his father queuing at the next checkout. The boy was dribbling onto his father’s shoulder, sucking and lunging at the fabric of dad’s anorak and mesmerising the broody Diane in the process. “ Thirteen Pounds sixty two “ said the checkout girl, “got a loyalty card?”

At home in the fruit bowl the giant green banana looked like the Queen Mary 2 at Southampton surrounded by dinghies. It’s great green bulk peering out from behind the apples and other bananas on the breakfast bar dominating the kitchen landscape. Diane was touching the banana with the tip of her index finger, running a long bright red nail along its full length as it lay in the bowl. She ran her finger along the fruit for four or five times, hardly conscious of what she was doing, she began to salivate and roll her tongue around inside her mouth and then as if waking quickly from an unplanned nap caught herself singing quietly in a half whisper.

“I wish, I wish for baby Julie, bring her to me, truly truly” she whispered. “What did you say? Said Jack, who was blissfully unaware of the banana caress. “Oh nothing” she said, slightly startled and feeling guilty “ Silly song I must have heard on TV, I don’t know”. Jack made the coffee and stared out into the garden and imagined a sandpit and a swing and odd toys scattered across the lawn discarded at the end of the day.

That night they made love with a vivid new urgency. There was sweat and a deeper grinding and mechanical motion than usual and the sleep that followed was misty black and tropically warm for both of them. “I wish, I wish for baby Julie, bring her to me, truly truly”. The song came again to Diane, somehow sung by a child’s voice, not her own (or was it her own as a child?), or was it like a choir of African children, so sweet and almost spiritual and so far away?

The next morning Diane got up early and for a time paced around the lounge and dining room alone, then urged by some abstract trigger-pull quickly made herself tea and with no hesitation sat down on the couch and ate the great green banana. It was thick and moist inside, not at all ripe and with a cold and fibrous heart but she hardly noticed. Her mind was a blank as she ate and drank automatically, a bite of banana, a mouthful of tea. She remained on the couch for what seemed a long time slowly becoming aware of the heavy weight in her stomach that was the undigested banana. At first she felt slightly sick, then gassy and bloated, then as the feeling began to dull down, curiously warm inside. She got up, made another cup of tea, drank it and fell asleep once more comfy on the couch, touched by an unfamiliar and enjoyable glow of well being and self-satisfaction.

Weeks passed, the memory of the banana was short lived, there were no more huge bananas in any of the supermarket bunches and the silly song never returned to Diane’s dreams or waking hours. She did however have quite a notion (and appetite) for fresh fruit. The desire had slowly crept up on her bit by bit, apple by orange by banana by melon until she was easily consuming five or six pieces a day and she no longer craved chocolate or sipped endless cups of whatever coffee or tea was on offer. The new fruit regime certainly made her feel better than she had for years, vigorous, bright and happy. So it was not a shock but a huge and pleasant surprise when joy of joys she found that her period was late. Always a regular girl this was what she’d hoped for, but to be safe she waited a few days till Friday evening before confiding in Jack (who could never remember these dates himself).

“Guess what!” she beamed. Jack felt a desire to play the fool and wind her up but thought better of it. “You’re not? He bumbled. “Hmmmm!” Her whole face, mouth and eyes were beaming even wider now as she screamed, “My period’s late!” They hugged spontaneously both thinking how quickly could they get down to the pharmacy and purchase a test kit. The kit was duly purchased, removed from the pack and put to good use. After a ten minute wait that seemed to take forever a blue hue appeared in the phial window and Jack and Diane's celebration began. Parents and friends were phoned, a message requesting an appointment left on the surgery voice mail and some cheap champagne was slugged as a delivered pizza was consumed. Diane had of course requested extra pineapple and banana toppings to accompany the tuna, mushrooms and black olives. The celebration ended (in a way) as it had all begun with a gentle but purposeful lovemaking session in bed.

Diane was enjoying the whole pregnancy experience. She was spoiling herself and so were others too. The neurotic shoplifting had ceased, shopping was for real now and a steady stream of gifts and treats came her way from friends and family and all conversations centred around the forthcoming event. She enjoyed the feeling of her body changing shape and focus and her nest building instincts were sharper and more acute than ever. Meanwhile Jack planned nursery shelves, garden layouts, looked at people carriers instead of coupes and read parenting books and magazine articles earnestly, now deeply intent of being the model parent. Diane also ate more, more and more, mostly fresh fruit. She thought it must be an intense pregnancy craving because it never really abated and her desire for fruit never diminished even after she had just enjoyed a piece. Jack worried about this, but he was worried anyway and decided that surely it would all balance out over time as the pregnancy ran it’s course.

Diane’s doctor listened with half an ear as she told him about the fruit fad, “so long as your diet is balanced, fish, oils, fruit, cereals and milk”, he parroted. Her ultrasound scan at twelve weeks showed a very healthy and well developed baby figure, though the murky image was slightly hard to make out and Jack considered it more of a join the dots picture than anything else. However it proved somebody was in there and the fuzzy image was treasured by Diane and planted in the front page of the new “New Baby” scrap book she was putting together.

The next few months alternately crawled and raced by, Diane bloomed and expanded until by the eighth month she seemed so enormous she could only be described as pregnant fit to burst. Excitement in the house was of course at fever pitch and Jack could not imagine how she would ever go full term, in fact he was convinced either she or the doctor had go the dates wrong. If the bump was all baby then it was at least 12 Pounds and as big babies were in neither side of the family it was puzzling and for Jack all a bit disconcerting. Diane was keeping very well despite her bulk and still was ravenous as every for all shapes, sizes and kinds of fruit. The early days of the healthy five pieces a day had now long gone and now she would easily consume 6 banana, 6 apples, bunches of grapes and a couple of melons every day. She was still picking at her normal meals and snacking on more fruit in between but her actual weight was a secret. She had decided to keep the details to herself some time ago. Jack was happy and worried in equal measure but ready with all his love and resources to welcome this unexpectedly large offspring as soon as it arrived and arrive it duly did.

It was a wet and miserable day when Jack got the call he had been waiting on, her waters had broken as she stood doing breathing exercises on the patio after a rain shower and rapid contractions followed, Diane was calm but only wanted to get herself to hospital and delivered into the hands of the experts. Jack’s job was to deliver her and not the baby (thank God!). He sped home from work, opened the door, asked a few irrelevant questions and in series of pre planned and part instinctive manoeuvres had her at the hospital door with all the right baggage and accessories twenty-five minutes later. On they way to the hospital Diane had eaten another two bananas despite Jack’s protests, throwing the skins carelessly at a waste bin as she passed through the hospital doors seated in a wheelchair Jack had grabbed from under the A&E entrance canopy.

Diane was whisked through the administration process and in a very few minutes Jack found himself sitting alone staring at health and welfare information posters in the maternity ward’s corridor. He wished that he smoked, or that he was happily drunk or that some one else was there with him. He felt small, helpless and more and more like a character in a bad sit-com or the bumbling father in a pre-natal class video.

Nothing in any Sci-Fi movie script, video diary or classroom training session could have prepared him for what was about to happen next. First of all the nurse summoned him into the delivery room where he saw Diane on the delivery bed writhing, sweating, shouting his name and in obvious distress. “It’s a big baby sir, hold her hand, mop her brow and hold the gas and air mask for her!” said a different nurse. A young woman doctor stood at the foot of the bed holding a stethoscope and looking concerned. Diane meanwhile was thrashing and moaning on the bed. Jack stood at her left-hand side and did his best to comfort her and whispered the few words he could find into her ear. Her eyes were closed tight with the pain she was feeling but she squeezed his hand as he spoke.

A few minutes passed in this stage of the delivery and then things really started to happen. The delivery table seemed too weak to cope with Diane’s writhing and now what seemed like kicking, it moved and rocked and the increasing violence of the whole thing was sending Jack quickly into a state of shock. The hospital staff remained calm however and kept control of the situation, one of a kind they had dealt with many times previously. And so after another fifteen minutes of struggle and very real and obvious pain for Diane the baby was born. The baby emerged dark and wet from it’s warm home of nine months as Diane gave a final push and Jack held her firmly looking down between her legs in anticipation. From the doctor and the nursing staff there were a series of gasps and exclamations as the baby was revealed, sticky, brown and wet and very hairy in the most inhuman way.

The midwife and nurses looked at the baby now wrapped in a green hospital cloth cradled in the doctor’s arms, breathing it’s first few breaths it’s bright eyes struggling to adjust to even the dim lighting in the delivery room. The doctor looked at the baby and then over to Diane and Jack, now both stunned, frozen and gaping in the electricity of the moment. She hesitated, wrestling with a package of thoughts and impressions and then quickly handed the baby gorilla to Diane without a word. Diane looked at her little girl, cradled her, smiled and gazed into her dark eyes saying, “Julie, I love you!”

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