Sweet Thyme Baby – 5

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

5

(Start at the Beginning of Sweet Thyme Baby)

(Click here to read Section 4 first)

 

“Come here, Dee.” George lifted the baby out of the basket and laid him tummy down across his lap. Pinkus came out of the kitchen and tilted the reading light so its beam lay on the baby’s back. George tugged down his diaper – extemporized from a red and blue striped tea towel – and revealed a round brown butt like two bran muffins side by side. “Look.”

 

Scabs and scars, round, the size of blueberries. A dozen of them. Dee put her finger on one. The fresh scar tissue was slightly raised.

 

“Cigarette burns,” George said.

 

“Holy Mary,” Maggie said.

 

“I know ’em, when I see ’em.”

 

Dee went back to the window seat.

 

She knew she should have something to say about this baby and his scars. But she could not hold onto a thought for long enough to come up with anything. Thoughts wandered off, disappeared in the maze of compartments like her mind was a warehouse full of boxes….

 

“You can’t just ignore this,” Maggie said. “He’s been abused. More than once too. Some of those scabs are fresh.”

 

“You want us to give him back to whoever did this?”

 

“We don’t know the situation –.”

 

“My God Almighty, Dee,” George said, “there’s no situation makes this okay.”

 

“I’m not saying there is. If it is cigarette….”

 

“You don’t believe me?” George asked.

 

“It could be something else.” A virus. Like ringworm.

 

George said, “You want to see my back, Dee? You want to see what the guys did to welcome me to the Mitchell Downs Boys’ Facility in Cleveland, Ohio?”

 

She had never seen George angry. All at once, she believed what at most times was impossible to comprehend. He had spent more than half his life in prisons of some kind. She wasn’t frightened of him, but if he said the baby had been burned by cigarettes then he had.

 

“Just take him to the police. Show them. They’ll put him in foster care. Look how cute he is. Someone will take good care of him. But you can’t just…keep him. It’s against the law.”

 

All but Dee laughed.

 

Pinkus put a mug of chamomile tea into Dee’s hand. “You gotta trust me on this one. This child’s been abused and the kiddy system’ll just toss him back and forth like a bag of compost. He’s better off with us.” He pushed her legs aside to make room for his round backside on the window seat. His eyes on her were so intense she thought of a starving animal and was embarrassed, looked away.

 

“Dee, I know you think I’m dotty where babies are concerned. But I’m not. You know, I did have another life before I came to the garden.”

 

She nodded.

 

“It’s still wrong to keep him.”

 

“I’m not saying forever. I’m saying just a little while, so he can settle down.”

 

He seemed pretty settled already, sitting on George’s big lap, wriggling his legs and arms and moving his eyes from speaker to speaker as if he could follow the conversation.

 

“How old do you think he is?”

 

Pinkus said, “Between three and four months.”

 

The sweet age when smiles bloom.

 

Maggie said, “Here’s what I think. Someone, a woman or a girl probably, came into the garden for the funeral –.”

 

“One of Con and Carlotta’s strays.”

 

“Or someone who had maybe heard about the garden from someone.”

 

“Right,” Maggie said, “it’s always been word of mouth brings them. Someone heard about the garden and knew it was a place where a whole bunch of people had got second chances. Like all of us here, Dee.”

 

“And maybe,” Pinkus said, “this person knew if she – or he – kept the baby something worse’n cigarette burns was going to happen. Maybe it seemed like leaving him here in the garden was his second chance.”

 

“Whoever it was left him in the herb garden. In the dirt. Naked. There was no guarantee you two were going to come along.”

 

“So she wasn’t thinking clearly. All the better reason for her to give us the baby.”

 

“She didn’t give you the baby. It was left. It was abandoned.” Dee remembered a saying of Con Ryan’s: The law’s made as many wrongs as it’s righted. “I have to think about this. What she really wanted to do was walk out the door and not come back, but she could not do that. These people depended on her for some reason. She made a stern face and wondered if she looked as inept as she felt.  “I don’t know how we should handle this exactly. But we can’t keep him. Absolutely not. Don’t get attached to him, Pinky. He isn’t your baby.”

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

 

Click here to read Part 6 of Sweet Thyme Baby

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