While the Baby Burned


While the baby burned, the pale dental nurse went back to work among the pale green walls, and the substitute periodontist fingered the D-11 root extractor.  They talked operative burrs: flat fissure, pear-shaped, football, round, tapered, flame, chamfer, bevel, bud bur, steel, inverted cone, diamond, brown stone, greenstone.  She said the walls were painted green because so it goes with Dr. Green.  He touched her elbow and led her into the operating room, his palm gentling the small of her back.


While the baby burned, the substitute teacher said second graders ought not be pushed.  She led the games.  Around the World.  Heads Up Seven Up.  Monkey in the Middle.  At recess she stuck another nicotine patch and talked cigarettes with the phys ed lesbians.  After lunch she showed a cartoon movie.  At the buses she said Hardbutt.  Mrs. Green is a Hardbutt.  Who said this job ain't easy?  Look at them angelfaces.


While the baby burned, the attendant manned the gas gauges, monitored the temperatures in the furnaces, the banker in the big furnace, the baby in the little furnace.  How she longed to kick against the refractory bricks.  How she kept white knuckled to her papers, dotting i's, crossing t's, official official official.  How she dreaded the evening's blind date, dinner at Dolly's, a walk canalside, her tongue damming against the words little furnace, little furnace.


While the baby burned, little children played kickball in the street outside the Green place, their voices like an angry cherub choir demanding me my mine.  While the baby burned, the phone kept ringing, and the Caller ID turned up prospective grandmothers, prospective grandfathers, prospective aunts and uncles and cousins.  While the baby burned, the basketball game ran silent on the television.  While the baby burned, the kitchen sink ran unattended into the garbage disposal.  While the baby burned, the postman delivered the mail, the lawncutting service weedwhacked the neighbors' yard, two firemen knocked on the door.  While the baby burned, Dr. Green answered the door, pulled two twenties from his billfold, placed them in a fireman's boot, thanked them for their service to the community.


While the baby burned, Mrs. Green bled onto thin reinforced paper, and vomited blood into the home commode.  Dr. Green knocked and she sent him away.  She wiped blood from the floor and she wiped blood from her nostrils.  A speck of blood littered the sink porcelain.  A speck of blood attached like an egg to the pale green wall.  A memory surfaced from an afterschool special she had seen when she was eleven.  Before the commercial break, the father said, We can make another, and the mother said, I wanted this one.  

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