Sweet Thyme Baby – 4

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

4

(Start at the Beginning of Sweet Thyme Baby)

(Click here to read Section 3 first)

 

Dee did not like surprises that came in the middle of the night. Maggie stood on the threshold patting her chest with the palm of her hand. Breathless. “They’ve found something. In the garden.”

“Who?”

 

“Pinkus and George.”

 

While Maggie talked at her, she sat on the bed and pulled on her socks and athletic shoes. She was still half asleep and her fingers fumbled as they tried to tie the laces.

 

“What time is it?”

 

“Almost eleven.”

 

Dee put her hands on her knees. “I’m not going….”

 

“Oh, of course you are. Don’t be so stubborn.” Maggie handed her a sweater off the chair.

 

Dee ignored her and went into the bathroom and splashed water on her face. She stared at herself in the mirror and thought how old she looked. And scarred. She had slept on the pillow sham and the ruffles had marked her cheek like a brand.

 

She stuck her head out the bathroom door. “What are you saying, Maggie? About a baby?”

 

“He found one. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”

 

“Who?”

 

“Pinkus.” Maggie narrowed her eyes. “Are you awake now? Because I’m not going to tell you this story all over again.”

 

“I’m listening.”

 

“Put this on first. It’s chilly out.”

 

Maggie held Dee’s elbow and herded her out of the bedroom and down the stairs. “George and Pinkus were taking a walk before bedtime the way they like to. And they were over there by the herb garden Con put in by the spring house, that spot where he said it was so nice and hot….”

 

“Just tell me about the baby.”

 

“Well, that’s what I’m trying to do. I swear, Dee, you are as cross as old Sissypuss when you wake up. Did you ever eat?”

 

“When we get back,” Dee said to quiet her. “I promise.”

 

They walked out the kitchen door and across the terrace at the back of the house, through the vegetable garden and along the path through the orchard. From its perch on the peak of the roof a mockingbird sang out it’s nocturnal variations.

 

Dee said, “You sure this isn’t just one of Pinky’s things? You know the way he gets all broody sometimes.” He had knitted tiny sweaters and knickers one year, more than a dozen sets in pink and blue, and given them to Goodwill in Ocean Beach. “I’ll believe there’s a baby when I see it.”

 

Through the bent willow gate in the orchard’s back wall, along the path across the wildflower meadow and into the woods: Dee often walked in the garden at night. There was nothing to fear; muggers did not hang back in the trees on the off chance someone would pass their way with a purse full of cash. But it was dark. Maggie stubbed her toe and cursed.

 

“Shoulda brought a flashlight,” she said.

 

“Don’t blame me.”

 

“It’s a baby, Dee. When George and me were on the phone, I heard it making snuffling sounds and Pinkus talking baby talk.”

 

The path entered a clearing where there was a stone bench. A second path cut off to the west to the graveyard. They followed it through a mixed-woodland and an open space where George kept some of his bee boxes. To the left and right of the path, they were a white geometry against the dark trees. The path dipped, they crossed a plank bridge over a stream and climbed a few steps set into the roots of a great sycamore. Beyond the tree, a man-high hedge of bougainvillea began. The path turned, became a long narrow lawn at the end of which was a plum tree in blossom and behind it, a small stone house.

 

“Thank God,” Pinkus cried from the front porch. “Hurry up. You’ve got to see it. Him. You’re not going to believe this, Dee. I swear to God, it’s a miracle, it really is.”

 

Dee ran down the lawn with Maggie huffing and complaining behind her.

 

George told the story.

 

“We were over there by the spring house….”

 

“I know this part,” Dee said.

 

*

 

She sat in the window seat with one of George’s needlepoint cushions at the small of her back. She had looked at the baby, her eyes had taken him in; but immediately afterwards she had put her consciousness of him aside so that although she knew he was across the room from her in the basket on the table between George and Pinkus, she was not actively aware of him. She had learned this ability to compartmentalize her consciousness when she was making movies. Whatever it takes, Victor used to say.

 

“Those stones where he was lying were just as toasty as little briquettes,” Pinkus said. “Thank goodness or he would have been half dead from cold. A baby gets pneumonia and that means trouble –.”
“We didn’t have a flashlight. We never take one –.”

 

“It scares the night animals. Only time I ever got sprayed by a skunk, I had a flashlight in my hand.”

 

“But you can see good, Dee, under a clear night sky. The stars and all make good light.”

 

Dee saw exactly how it happened. Pinkus and George, holding hands and talking softly about Con and Carlotta and their generous bequest, marveling at the good fortune that had brought them to the garden in the first place, had almost walked right by the herb garden. But the mix of pungent fragrances released by the afternoon’s warmth still lingered on the air – thyme and rosemary, tarragon and basil and all the others – and reminded George that Maggie had asked him to gather dill. They stopped.

 

George said, “I wish I’d brought a plastic bag.”

 

Pinkus stepped back. “What was that?” He hooked his index finger through George’s belt loop. “Did you hear that noise?”

 

George peered into the gloom near the tumbled down wall of the spring house. “There’s something on the ground. See it?”

 

The noise again. A kind of squeak.

 

“You look,” Pinkus said. He picked up a stick. “I’ll be behind you.”

 

On its back in the sweet thyme they found him, smiling and tugging at his toes. A baby absolutely naked. His hair was brown, his eyes were brown, and his skin was brown except the cheeks and chin, which even in the moonlight were a sun-kissed pink.

 

“A beautiful boy baby with his little root pointing straight up.” George’s voice was an awed whisper.

 

Pinkus looked at Dee. “Where do you think he came from?”

 

“The stork,” she said. “I don’t know. Why ask me?”

 

Maggie shot her a glare, then said, “Someone came to the funeral and left him.”

 

“Like in Dickens,” Pinkus said.

 

“Yeah, right,” Dee said, “Only it’s not Dickens. And it’s not fiction. He’s real. You’ll have to take him to the police.”

 

“No,” George said.

 

Maggie coughed and examined the palm of her hand.

 

Pinkus went into the kitchen. Dee heard him running water in the kettle.

 

“Don’t tell me you want to keep him,” she said. “You can’t be serious.”

 

From the kitchen, Pinkus called out, “Show her, honey. Let her see for herself.”

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

 

Click here to read Part 5 of Sweet Thyme Baby

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