There’s a child in the water – the greenish, yellowish, brackenish, and overwhelmingly pine scented water. He’s upside down, both feet in the air, with his broad baby shoulders wedged tight against the ridged sides of the deep metal wash bucket - almost as if he tried to crawl, headfirst, back into the soothing liquid heat of some warm primal birth canal.
But it’s cold. The dirty water’s cold. The baby’s cold. The room’s cold, the house is cold, everything’s cold. I’m cold. And it's all so quiet – except, of course, it isn’t. Everyone else’s slower sirens are still arriving outside and inside there’s a screaming mother and a cursing father and somewhere, in another room, there are children playing and a television set is blaring, incongruously tuned to Sesame Street.
Underneath the drunken father’s loudly offered explanation, the unintelligible high-pitched ramblings of the three small babbling brothers, and the mother’s hysterical and repetitious “Holy Mary, Madre de Dios,” I can hear the familiar voice of Oscar-the-Grouch, stuck right-side-up inside his own silver can, grousing at some unseen intruder.
It's the baby, it's just the baby that's so awfully quiet. It’s unusual for toddlers this size to be so quiet. Truthfully, I’m amazed by how still everything seems to be when, if fact, if I’d just quit thinking about how quiet he is, I’d realize that things are rapidly approaching unbearably noisy.
And so I do – and instantaneously I want everyone around me to shut-up. I want the mother to quit keening and the brothers to quit babbling and the father to sober up and quit yelling and I want someone to go into the other room and shut the goddamn television off and make that stupid whining Oscar just go the hell away. I want the sirens outside to stop sirening, I want my heart to quit pounding so loudly in my ears that I’m almost positive that I’m going to be sick, and, most of all, I want that god forsaken clean-footed baby to pull his big-old swollen infant head out of that carelessly abandoned bucket of last night’s dirty-assed Pine-Sol water and I want him to grin some crooked, wide-mouthed, 6-toothed, 13 month old grin and I want to hear him holler “Peek-a-boo” at all of us so that I don’t have to be the one to walk over there, yank him out and confirm what I goddamned well already know to be true.