by Jen Schneider
We climbed four uneven wooden boards to enter the trailer.
I was glad to be wearing socks with my sandals. I have an oversized
fear of splinters. Wired, in my DNA. I never understood why.
As soon as I walked in, I heard it. An odd banging sort of noise.
Unlike anything I had heard before. I tried to focus on the stilted
conversation but my mind kept drifting to the sound
behind a door on the far-right corner of the room. I couldn’t think.
The quiet banging imploded in my head. “What’s that noise?”
I blurted. “My baby,” she replied. “Can I meet her?” I said.
The stranger shrugged and pointed at the door. I took
the gesture to mean yes and walked across the wooden floor.
Clutter, dust, and danger consumed much of my slow
movement. I turned the door handle, and
pushed the door open. Then I stopped thinking. Deep, dark brown
eyes were sunken, with gray shadows painted on delicate skin.
A ribcage pierced through too taut skin on what should have
been a pudgy, clothed belly. Labored breaths escaped the tiny baby.
The banging had ceased, but my heart collapsed. I scooped the tiny,
emaciated body up and flew. Glad for my sturdy sandals. The woman
smoking crack with my friend never saw us leave. The seatbelt
cradled us both, and I drove to the county hospital. Baby was wrapped in
my pale green fleece hoodie. My sandals
carried us through the revolving
door. I demanded a doctor, saying
it was urgent. I handed the baby to nurses, and
pleaded for care with the officer guarding the door.
“Who is the mother?” he asked.
“The mother? I do not know,” I replied.
“Will the baby live?” is all I wanted to know.
“Live? I do not know,” the officer replied.
“Do you know you just kidnapped a child?” he asked.
That was all he wanted to know.
* * * * *
An essay version of "Booked" will be published in Bat City Review (Issue 16, 2020).
Jen Schneider is an educator, attorney, and writer. She lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Philadelphia. Her work appears in The Coil, The Popular Culture Studies Journal, unstamatic, Zingara Poetry Review, 42 Stories Anthology (forthcoming), Voices on the Move (forthcoming), Chaleur Magazine, LSE Review of Books, and other literary and scholarly journals.