Spruce Tips


The father has bought a large fish.  On the porch the father does things with a knife to the fish.  The mother, holding the girl baby, looks through the window at the father and the fish.  The father looks up and smiles, showing his teeth, one of the front ones fake and discolored.  He's a big father, a big man, rather large, with a long tall head, very handsome, with a sweet manly voice, a caring voice that says "I love you" over and over to the girl baby as he puts her to sleep nights.  Mornings, the father walks the house drinking coffee from his mug.  When the father sits in the living room rocker, you can see his genitals under the black flaps of terrycloth robe, a heap of silent something, a mountain recess where sleeping bears wait for spring, or a brain.
      Your baby's brain must be treated with great care, experts tell them.
      They are their own experts, however, not for their subscription to Mothers and Babies that tells of great diets, how cloth diapers are the way to go, but for the immense love they hold for the girl baby.  The love they hold will protect their baby's brain.  The baby is beautiful.  The mother plays banjo for the baby, plays guitar soft for soft ears.
      The mother is a fine musician, a fine snowboarder too, but there will be no snowboarding for the mother, not now.
      And even if she, the mother, did care to head up the mountain to ride fast, the month is wrong.  It is late May, spring blossoming all around, the mountains shifting in and out of God's glorious light.  There is even half a rainbow out there, its bottom end a colorful mist upon the water.  The mother watches it from where she sits on the blanket beside the great floor-to-ceiling windows, holding the baby, the white-whiskered black dog standing by, doggy sentry.
      She was better off alone, some experts say, and speak of how, oh, when they have a baby, there is no way in the world they will take any kind of painkillers.  It means you don't love your baby if you take painkillers.  They say that if you love your baby, what grows inside you, not only will you embrace the pain that comes from being pregnant, from giving birth, but hope for more, more pain.
      Twisted people.  What do they know of motherhood and babies?
      Have you ever talked to a baby?  What do you say to a baby?
      The father bounces the baby.  He says, "You live in the lap of luxury.  Will you buy it?"
      A grand specimen of a father!  A grand husband too.  See the father whisk the girl baby away to the player piano.  The father sits on the bench, the girl baby in his lap, and pumps the pedals with his large bare feet.  The keys dance below the girl baby's eyes, playing The Sound of Music.  They have been told by experts—everybody is an expert when it comes to babies—that the baby, when she becomes a child, will not remember this music, those keys, will not remember the father holding her.  Other experts tell them that the sounds from the piano cut grooves into their girl baby's brain.  Be careful, they say, about what grooves you cut into your little baby's brain.
      The mother holds the baby high in the air.  She says, "Sweet baby."
      One expert says that when you bounce a baby, a groove is cut into her brain.
      The father is finished with his fish.  He takes the fish inside, puts a fish slice in the frying pan to fry.  It is a nice house they live in, a great house owned by the mother's father.  The great floor-to-ceiling windows were imported from Seattle.  And the kitchen is a wonderful kitchen, full of spices and stainless utensils.  The fish in the pan hisses in the oil, in the garlic steam.  The smell floats through the house.
      But you hear things.  There was that fall when the mother was busted up, her bruises emerald, purple and pink.  The father was her boyfriend then.  He drank.  There were drugs, even.  That's what the experts say.  That was before they were married, when the mother, escaping the would-be father, spent the winter months in a tent on the side of a hill.  Everybody thought she was a hero.  She built her own fires and showered once a week at the high school gym.  She was better off alone, say the experts.
      The father pokes the fish with a fork.
      And the mother nurses the baby.
      The experts have driven up the mountain and are in the yard now picking baby spruce tips to make beer with.  As the mother nurses the girl baby, she watches her friends through the large windows, and wants, just look at her forehead, crinkled and wanting, to go out there, do that too, pick baby spruce tips.
      The mother and her baby.
      Some experts, talking behind their backs, marvel over the lives they live, the luxury of it.
      And the mother looks awful great.  Take off her shoes, you'll see.  Take off her socks.  Her feet alone prove that she is a great mother.  See her play banjo, sit, or pull out her tit.  We love when she does that.  The baby sucks it, her throat in motion as the mother looks out the window.  Her body was made to save the world, we say, or at least the whales that wait for fall in Berners Bay, sucking down schools of wiggling fish.  The fish will help the whales in their swim to the warmer waters of Hawaii.  The mother is from Kentucky.  She stands, brushes her hair.  The bruises on her face never quite healed, and one expert says that the mother is not bright.  The mother's brain is nugatory, just look at her face, the expert says, and we look at it.  The mother's face looks like an aerial photo of the Inside Passage in winter, a blur of white through which, here and there, an island can be seen.  
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