Having just thoroughly disemboweled a stuffed teddy bear and removed a battery-powered heart-beat simulation unit from its stomach (more on this later), I turn my thoughts to other projects. Such as the cats. According to something I vaguely recall reading, house cats are known to sneak into cribs and furiously suck the breath from the mouths of newborns! Ruthless creatures, cats. And then there's the matter of that white van parked out in front of our house. It's been there for three days now and lately it seems quite feasible that someone has stuffed it full of tons of explosives, probably fashioned out of nitrogen fertilizer. . . . Greetings from smack dab in the middle of our new postpartum lifestyle. Judging from the thickness of the leech-like bags suspended beneath our eyes, we'd have to wager that we've been at it for nearly six weeks now. Hard to say for certain. What with our concept of time becoming hopelessly muddled and fuzzy. What with the strange voices coming out of the air ducts. What with those darn hallucinations. . . .
The best I can figure, it all started when my then-girlfriend Diana telephoned to reveal that she would now be eating any damn thing she wanted and that soon her breasts would swell to the size of small dirigibles. What Diana didn't mention was that she would soon be transformed into a hormonally unbalanced predatory animal. Pregnancy, for those of you who have never encountered it, is a serious medical condition that sometimes results in a small civil ceremony. Birth eventually follows. In Diana's case, the birth appeared to go off without a hitch. Which is quite easy for me to say, since I wasn't the one trying to pass our 8-pound, 6-ounce son, Christian (masquerading as a watermelon-sized object) out of my body. Next came the afterbirth—a purple, gelatinous substance resembling pur饤 squid. The hospital nursing staff allowed us to keep it, but we didn't because our friend's food dryer went on the fritz. I have no memory of what happened after leaving the hospital, except for the following journal entries I seem to have scrawled on our bedroom wall:
Hour 4: Lactation specialist drops by the house. She lets it slip that men can produce milk, although only in tiny quantities. She fails, however, to answer the riddle of why men have nipples? Laughs nervously when I repeat the question six or seven times, then excuses herself from the room, backing out very slowly.
Hour 32: Thick nylon straps! Metal buckles! The restraint system in our child seat has begun to worry me! Is it truly necessary? Have I underestimated the strength of infants? Looks quite similar to the restraints used for wild animals or the criminally insane. Note to self: Have decided to purchase a tranquilizer dart gun tomorrow afternoon.
Hour 47: Diana's milk comes in, in a big way. This does not go unnoticed by the neighborhood cats, several of which remain riveted to the ledge outside our bedroom window, watching, waiting, plotting. Something must be done about these darn cats!
Hour 69: All activity takes longer under these conditions. Exponentially longer. Tonight, it becomes painfully clear that in order to obtain six hours of sleep, it was necessary to have gone to bed three days ago.
Hour 84: Circumcision day! Complete and utter breakdown (for all three of us). Much howling and gnashing of teeth. Luckily, we wore Halloween masks to the doctor's office so Christian couldn't identify us or connect us with the event. Upon arriving home, we removed the masks, feigned surprise at seeing him, then repeatedly told him he had been kidnapped by pirates who, despite our protests, were hell-bent on removing his foreskin. Christian buys it, but his gullibility worries us.
Hour 108: Christian appears to be developing a serious addiction to a made-in-Taiwan teddy bear. Refuses to close his eyes unless it's nearby, with its electronic heart-beat unit cranked at full volume. Have come to the conclusion that what he is hearing isn't a heartbeat at all. Not even close. By 6:15 this morning, I decide the noise has more than likely been produced by a Taiwanese political prisoner forced to bang repeatedly on an empty pot.
Hour 121: Thinking of new, modern twists for bedtime stories. Like the one about Nut Brown Hare and his son (also a rabbit), which, as of today, I have read aloud more than 1 million times. In it, father and son are immersed in this cutesy game of one-upmanship, repeatedly saying to each other: "I love you this much," then pointing to an apple tree or the sky to drive home their point. My suggestion: Why not use explosives? That's what I think Nut Brown Hare should have done. Pre-wired plastique charges, claymore landmines, etc. That way, when his son says, "I love you this much," and gestures in a sweeping motion down to a nearby meadow, his old man could nod casually, then tap a hidden detonator button with his foot and make the meadow explode! Or cause the farmer's thatched cottage to burst into flames! That would get his kid's attention for sure. Then the two of them could have spent the rest of the book battling pirates or outwitting cattle rustlers.
Hour 142: All attempts at reason have failed. He wails uncontrollably despite my assurances that nothing is wrong (i.e., his diapers aren't soiled; there is no large, evil entity lurking beneath his crib). Appears to have repeated problems focusing eyes. Also, his arms and legs flail about drunkenly. I suspect the nurses may be drugging him. Must keep an eye on them.
Hour 156: More French outfits! The third one in four days! Where could they be coming from? We certainly don't know any French people. Could French clothiers be breaking into our house and leaving clothes behind? Perhaps there's more to Christian's past than the ob-gyn let on? Must remember to lock doors, windows, hide open wine bottles.
Hour 212: Have decided that perhaps what I really wanted was a feral child. Imagine the pride and enjoyment of watching your son catch ground squirrels and dig up gophers with his own little hands! But alas, there are no wolves in the vicinity who could raise him and teach him the ways of the pack. Despite my initial misgivings, I place him on the patio with our two cats for much of the afternoon and monitor the situation from behind closed curtains. They offer tutorials in paw licking, fur-ball regurgitation, and napping. Christian appears disinterested, restless. Patience! Feral children are not made overnight. These things take time.
Hour 243: Perplexed! Feelings of powerlessness regarding ducks and bunny rabbits. Perhaps we've been too harsh? Perhaps a few pictures of them on the wall in the nursery might not be such a bad thing? Anthropomorphism is a weakness. Or is it? Must think this through. Must get a better grip on the situation.
Hour 272: Lack of sleep becomes overwhelming. All the while, Christian grows stronger. Has developed the ability to photosynthesize. He appears to derive huge amounts of energy simply from staring at lamps. After an interminable night, decided to arise at 4am. Grew depressed upon realizing that in my past life, I made it a rule never to begin dreaming before 5:30am. . . . Mind wandering off at every opportunity. Spent the entire day addressing our son as Chester, who—technically—is our cat.
Hour 308: Tip: Swaddling is only excessive when rope or duct tape is employed. Any other form of passive restraint is fair game. Also, must consult specialist on whether 16 years is an appropriate age to stop swaddling.
Hour 329: Spent much of the early morning hours, from 4:15 onwards, with a wide-awake Christian sitting on my chest. It has become quite apparent that he is sneaking out and drinking coffee in the late evening. Either that or he's begun ingesting methamphetamine. His body seems to reject sleep as though it were a toxin. Perhaps the French clothiers are behind it? Whilst he was perched on my chest, I repeatedly asked him: "Why have you come here? Who sent you? Do you have a message for us?" No reply, but he will start singing soon enough!
Hour 378: The Taiwanese teddy bear's hideous heart beating is driving me mad. The on/off switch broke earlier today, and now I am powerless to escape the pounding noise. The situation vaguely reminds me of an Edgar Allan Poe story. Christian appears quite relaxed, but an ugly episode feels imminent!
Hour 412: The nanny arrives this morning. She seems nice enough, but one can never tell about these things. When asked, she claims to have no opinion on the conflict in Chiapas, Mexico, although we sense she is aligned with the rebel faction. When asked if she owns a balaclava, she says no.
Hour 448: I knew it would come to this. It wouldn't shut up. The Taiwanese bear is no longer. Twenty minutes ago, after Christian drifted off to sleep, I plunged a shank deep into its guts and pried out the malfunctioning heartbeat simulation unit. Diana is horrified. I feel strangely at peace.
Hour 479: Unsettling noises come from Christian's throat during late-night feeding. An eerie creaking sound, similar to that heard when the Nazi submarine dove too deep in the movie Das Boot. We fear an implosion is imminent. Must get a grip.
Hour 521: First reactionary smile. At least it appears to be reactionary. The possibility always exists that he wasn't smiling at us, but that he possesses the ability to glimpse into other dimensions, other parallel universes. Didn't we watch a TV show on that? Think, dammit! Try and remember. . . . What can he be smiling at? Is it us or the ectoplasmic cloud-like aura no doubt hovering above our heads?
Hour 551: First night out, away from the house, away from Christian. My mother, who is visiting from Kansas, has volunteered to watch him while the two of us view a relaxing movie about a meteorite that collides with Earth and kills millions of Americans. Suddenly, the paranoia descends: Just how well do we know Mother? How is it that we were lulled into not running a criminal record check on her? At the very least, why didn't we ask for references? Trust no one!
Hour 569: Some brief observations from the changing table: Large deposits of untapped gas must be located in Christian's stomach. Drilling seems out of the question. Also, judging from the contents of his diapers, he appears to be collecting large amounts of refuse from neighboring communities in his intestines. Can such a practice be healthy?
Hour 570: It happened just the way they said it would. A few moments ago I no longer could recall what it was like to be without a child. All memory appears to have been erased. One can only imagine where this might lead.
Hour 583: More voices over the Graco two-channel radio baby monitor. They sound strangely Bulgarian. Must find a translator before it is too late, someone who can make sense of their gibberish. Can't place my finger on it, but something seems on the verge . . . of happening. Constant monitoring of the frequencies seems to be our only hope!
Hour 598: Have begun to fear the night. 3:30am has become the "Death Zone," the equivalent of climbing above 26,000 feet without supplementary oxygen. Many a good man can get lost at that hour if he's not careful, and spend the rest of the morning wandering aimlessly in a catatonic fog.
Hour 597: Took Christian on his first outing this afternoon. Complete strangers, many of whom looked to be carriers of tuberculosis, felt compelled to stop me and inspect him in his stroller. In an attempt to keep the masses at bay, I begin telling people that he is a dangerous felon, entrusted to us by the courts due to overcrowded prisons. "Don't be fooled by his size," I shout to anyone who approaches. "He is ruthless, very dangerous. Stay back!"
Hour 609: Have completely lost the ability to formulate sentences just as a package arrives. It contains a mobile made in Holland and more French clothing. No card or return address. The situation appears to be getting out of hand. On the T-shirt are the words: "Dans le sable, j'mi trouv? un ami . . ." I ask the nanny if she understands French—a logical assumption, seeing as how she's from El Salvador. She tells us it has something to do with a labor dispute among farmworkers. What's with those French, anyhow?
Hour 617: All I wanted was a devil hat! El sombrero del diablo. (A simple stocking-cap job with two horns jutting out from the side. Hardly Satanic. More Vikingesque, similar in style to the headgear they wore whilst pillaging Europe.) But the saleswoman insists that devil hats are no longer available. It seems the seamstress who made them has moved on to other styles. I purchase a red-and-black velvet medieval minstrel cap and instantly regret it. A heavy funk descends.
Hour 643: At lunch, the nanny announces that earlier this morning a stranger put some sort of a curse on Christian. The Evil Eye or something of that sort. It happened so quickly, just a simple glance into his stroller and ZAPPPP PVVVOOOT! Now, she swears his testicles will soon shrivel to the size of grape seeds unless I remove my shirt and wrap Christian in it. My odor, she says, will protect him. At last, the woman is making sense!
Hour 672: Got hold of some bad pleated cotton squares this afternoon. The stuff disintegrates all over Christian's buttocks during diaper changes. His backside has begun resembling an albino's.
Hour 756: Strange, I never noticed it before, but the soft spot on top of Christian's head resembles the blowhole in the head of a whale or a dolphin. Call me crazy, but suddenly it seems feasible that our son comes from the lost city of Atlantis! Don't ask me how. Am unable to locate any evidence of gills, although his fingernails have begun feeling like talons. Not sure what to make of this.
Hour 798: All attempts to stitch devil horns onto one of Christian's ridiculous French stocking caps have failed. Not even duct tape or industrial staples can rectify the problem. Must our son be denied the simple pleasure of looking like an imp? It's all too much to bear!
Hour 824: Arrive home this evening to find the nanny whispering to Christian in Spanish. Her words seemed to have a certain political ring to them, which puzzles me at first. Then it dawns on me: She's filling his little head with Marxist ideology. The indoctrination had begun. The Red Menace, it seems, has infiltrated the very walls of our castle. Call me overprotective, but I have a hunch that unless we act fast, Christian will soon be spirited away to the nanny's secret guerrilla stronghold located in a nearby jungle. Vigilance above all else!
Hour 956: After lengthy lobbying on my part, a quota on refrigerator-mounted infant photographs has been achieved. According to the just-enacted regulation, which I have been informed is subject to change without notice, only one-quarter of the surface area of our Frigidaire can be plastered with baby photographs at any given time.
Hour 1008: Diana's most pronounced postpartum psychotic moment to date. She begins sobbing uncontrollably during that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer adopts a stretch of New Jersey turnpike for litter clean-up purposes, then decides to get rid of the carpool lane. Love that crazy Kramer! I attempt to defuse the situation by shouting: "Do you mind? Your uncontrollable wailing is disturbing my concentration!" Note to self: New postpartum psychosis coping approach might be advisable. Will spend the next few hours, while locked outside of the house, devising new strategy!