Posted Monday, October 24th, 2005
Debbie Ann Ice
“I’m the one o’clock shift,” said Sarah. She looked around the room filled with women tapping computers. A large sign covered the wall behind the women, coloring the background. It said, "Children's Fund Layette Give Away." The "Layette Give Away" was written in the shape of a smile, blue and pink balloons peeking around each letter.
The woman held up a card and told Sarah to give it to the middle-aged woman in the hallway. “You can hand out the layettes,” she said, then lowered her voice. “It’s real easy. Just make sure they all have the yellow forms. They must have the yellow forms.”
Sarah handed her card to the middle-aged woman in the hall, who started talking before Sarah could introduce herself.
“All the baby baskets are upstairs. Now, all you have to remember is, and this is important.” She stopped talking. Sarah had been looking at a woman carrying a huge wicker basket upstairs. A large stuffed blue elephant peeked over baby shoes and pajamas. Sarah said, sorry, then nodded to indicate she was paying attention.
“You must take the yellow form and make sure it is all filled out.” The woman rolled her eyes and blew out her red cheeks then let a puff of breath out. “You wouldn’t believe the walk-ins. They have all heard about the baby layette give-away and so they just come in without signing up for their basket at our office in Stamford.” She raised her hands in a gesture that said, what can we do. “And another thing. And this is important too.” Again, she paused, annoyed at Sarah, who was no longer looking at her but at the room on the left where several women, most of color, sat stoically, waiting. After a few seconds of silence, Sarah forced herself to look back at the woman.
“You must ask if it is a boy or a girl. They will not tell you a thing. Not one thing. One girl forgot to ask, and I looked at the pink layette and said something like ‘well I hope she likes it,’ and the woman said, it’s a boy. Can you believe it? She was walking out with a pink baby basket!”
An African American woman had walked in at the end of the story. She had her hair in hundreds of small braids, white balls attached at the end of each one. Her pale blue polyester pants suit was two sizes to large, and she wore slippers. An older woman, her skin the color of Worchester sauce, stood by her side.
“They say to come to you.”
“Was your name called?” said the woman.
“Yes, they say I can come right now. I can’t wait long. My baby’s in the car,” said the woman. The old woman nodded.
“Let me finish with her and we will get your basket. Do you have your yellow form?” The middle-aged woman raised her brows at Sarah to indicate she was modeling how to act.
“Yes,” said the older woman.
“So, I get the yellow form, then grab a basket upstairs in the room on the right?” said Sarah, trying to hurry things along.
“No, dear, you take the yellow sheet, hand it to Louise in that room, the one you walked into earlier. Louise has to type the information in. After the information is typed in, they will add her to the list. You take the next name off that list, then go upstairs into the room on your right. Pick out the proper colored basket.” Now the middle-aged woman turned to the African American woman with braids, “I am sorry but you cannot leave the baby in the car. It’s against town ordinances. You have to get the baby.”
The older African American shuffled out the door.
Within a few minutes the older woman returned with the baby. Its eyes were swollen, and its face was wet, as if it had been born right then in the car.
“Ask them what it is, dear—boy or girl,” said the middle aged woman, still hovering over Sarah like an attentive mother.
Sarah looked over the yellow paper. It gave the birth date of the baby—-two days earlier.
Sarah stared at the face, all wizened, and recalled herself eight years earlier, back when her entire future was Charlie, back before the medical bills, the uncertainty, the trauma, the stress, back when it was just this hope bundled in a blanket.
The middle-aged woman said something again; the computers tapped in the distance; the African American woman with braids stood like a soldier before her.
“What is your baby’s name,” said Sarah, loud.
“Amisha.” The old woman said. The woman in braids did not say anything.
A few white volunteers standing by the door stopped talking and looked over at them; the middle-aged woman opened her mouth to say something, then shut it abruptly when Sarah talked.
“Amisha,” Sarah said, again very loud. “A feminine name. Do you think she would like blue or pink. I wore blue when I was little, but I was a brat. Can I hold her?” Sarah said. She held out her arms.
The woman in braids laughed so hard she bent over. The older woman put her hand on her mouth. Sarah let out a loud guffaw, and the yellow paper escaped her hand.
A gust of wind held the yellow twirling form briefly before swooshing it out the door, away from everyone.
Comments [post a comment]
Posted by Gerard C. Smith on Monday, October 24th, 2005 at 2:50 PM
Nice story Debbie Anne. We doan need no stinkin' Bureaucrats with their yellow papers.
Posted by Ellen Meister [ firstname.lastname@example.org
] on Tuesday, October 25th, 2005 at 5:11 AM
Wonderful, gripping story. Great writing from Debbie Ann Ice, as always. Loved the ending.
Posted by Katie Weekley on Tuesday, October 25th, 2005 at 8:41 AM
Great story! Damn that bureaucracy!
Posted by Katrina Denza on Tuesday, October 25th, 2005 at 10:02 AM
Wonderful irony, Deb. Love the end.