The Stolen Spermatozoa – a short story
The basis of this story was conveyed to me by the boy’s parents
It was easy really. Her mother had gone out with her partner and the girl had simply taken him by the hand and led him upstairs. He had often wondered just how all this would come about.
“What about…. you know.”
“The pill, stupid.” She patted his arm. “No Worries.”
Somewhere – it could have been a teacher or one of his adoptive parents – a calm voice said something about a condom and nasty diseases, but she had taken hold of his arm now.
“What’s a matter?”
The child was due just before Christmas. He had wondered what the girl’s mother would say.
“Never said nothin’ about the pill. Make a good little mother she will.”
He remembered her reaching for the television remote and calling out to the man.
“Told yer – in the club.” The man had said nothing.
He had sensed his own parents’ despair, like the times when they had visited school and the angry words he had expected failed to arrive. Now he wondered whether this might be too much but they had only asked him some simple questions, about seeing the girl and her mum.
He had remembered the date when the baby was due. He could have called the girl on her mobile, or just texted her a question, but his mother could see his anxiety and phoned the girl’s home.
“You can go and see the baby if you want to. It’s a boy.”
The girl’s mother had shown him into the house and up the stairs. She knocked on her daughter’s door.
“You all right? Whassiname’s here.”
The girl looked much as she had come to look, with the plainness and the drabness to which he had become accustomed. It was as if the need for her to register with him her desirability had gone, as if he had served his purpose. As her pregnancy went on they had rowed about it and sometimes he had wondered why she had continued to see him, apart from the baby.
The cot was in the corner of the room, between her bed and the window. She stood up and he noticed that the bump had not really gone, but had simply sagged.
“You’d better see ’im, now that you’re here.”
“Well, that’s what you came for, innit?”
He turned and leaned over the cot. The little creature there stirred and turned up his face towards him but the eyes remained tight shut. He felt the girl’s hand on his arm and leaned towards her, to catch her words. All the time he watched the baby’s face, his son’s face.
She pushed him with sufficient force to cause him to sit down on the edge of the bed, as she had all those months ago.
“Gotta be careful.”
He watched while she leant forward and down into the soft white box and dragged the wrapped bundle out and upwards into her arms. The boy stood up, hands turned outwards, ready to nestle the baby in his own arms but the girl turned away. With her back to him she sat and he watched her cross a hand in front and take hold of the bottom edge of her t-shirt. From somewhere a memory stirred.
“Sore tits. If I don’t get on with feedin’ him, I’ll get sore tits.”
Somehow she spoke to him over her shoulder, as if he were to stay put while she got on with things. For a few moments he watched her back, knowing that in front of her, somewhere where he couldn’t see him, the little baby was being fed.
“What are we gonna do?”
“What d’yer mean?”
“This baby, us, all the rest of it. What are we gonna do?”
“Don’t know yet.” She paused, and he wondered whether she too was struggling with it all, with all the questions there seemed to be. He got out some words out his mouth: “Don’t worry, I ain’t….”
“See the social first, that’s what me mum said.”
She turned to him and for a second he saw the baby’s head nestled against the girl’s breast.
“Why don’t you come back next week. Get sorted then.” She nodded towards the door. “Me mum’ll see you out.”
He continued to call, even when she had moved into a sort of bed-sit – the social had not liked the look of her mum’s new fellow. Once he had been able to replace a fuse in a plug and she and the baby had been able to watch the television again. There were other chores, and sometimes an errand. Occasionally he was allowed to hold the baby and he would sit in her room and wonder about this tiny being who now looked up at him quizzically. Sometimes she would leave them while she went into the bathroom to phone someone. Then the baby would cry and he would try, ineffectively to comfort him and she would sweep back into the room with, “Gotta go – baby wants feeding.” It was as if she was pleased with the baby’s dependence on her, despite the interruption of her call. Sometimes he would try to help – “Leave him with me….” but he could do little for his son and she would insist and soon the visit would be over.
Sometimes he took a brush and dustpan from his mother’s cupboard and once he lugged the vacuum cleaner round there. The girl would not allow him to keep a key but he knew where she hid the spare. His mother opened their door for him when he got back.
“What on earth has she got you doing now?”
He knew that his mother was not angry with him and he tried to explain.
“She doesn’t bother, Mum. She won’t let me do much, and if I don’t do this the little lad’s going to grow up in dirt.”
Whenever he set off to do his chores he felt his mother’s despair but he was determined. He rarely went out with his mates now and then his mother noticed him set off with her iron. When he came back with a bag of washing she was angry.
“But she’d no money for the launderette.”
His mother handed him a box of washing powder.
“For goodness sake, do her washing in her sink.”
It was not difficult for his mother had taught him how to look after himself in their home. Now he returned to the girl, pleased to have found another link, something that would keep him in touch with his son.
A few weeks later he set off later, in the new, early evening light that begins to lift the world out of winter. He had not seen the baby bathed; often would tell him that she had that chore to get on with and would send him back to his own world. As he turned into the girl’s street he caught sight of some of her friends up at the far end, For a moment he stopped to see whether she was with them, but they had moved round the corner and all that was left to him were shrieks of laughter.
Her mother opened the door.
“Oh. She’s out. We’re baby-sitting”
There was nowhere to put his foot, to start to move himself up and into the house. From behind her a man’s voice shouted at her to close the fucking door.
“I’ve come.” He struggled for the words – “I’ve come to see the baby.”
“He’s asleep. Why don’t you give her a call tomorrer.”
Back home he sent her a text, a few words – when could he see the baby again?
Next time the girl had another boy with her, someone he recognised from school. Not one of his mates. He came in out of the hallway to where she was changing the baby. The other boy stood over in the corner and looked away, out of the window.
“Can I help?”
The baby looked up at them both; he seemed to be taking more notice now, watching them together. She snatched the clean nappy from his hand.
“Gotta get a move on – we’re goin’ out. Me mum’ll be here in a minute.”
She looked at him and he could tell that his disappointment was clear to her.
“You can get his cot sorted out if you want.”
Perfunctorily he pulled and tugged at the small things, the sheet and the blanket. The back of his hands felt the smoothness of the place where she would lay their baby and then there was nothing else for him to do and he left.
He was nearly home when they pulled up at the corner for the lights. He paused and saw her lean over with an arm round the other boy’s neck, and make him turn, and then kiss him with some force. Then she looked round for him and, as the lights turned, he saw her laugh. By the time the first tears rolled down his face they had gone and he was left with the sudden pangs of jealousy and anger.
His mother helped him with the court and they set off with the solicitor. A much better place for the baby could be found in their home and she and her husband had the time to help their son. They were concerned about the things they had heard about the mother’s new boyfriend, who had now moved in.
He watched as people came and went in the court and tried to follow what was being said. She was there with her mother and he listened to them tell the judge about all the things the girl did to make a home for their little boy. The judge asked him some questions and he remembered the things he did to help the girl and the judge had nodded.
The baby was to remain with his mother and the father was to have access. This was explained to him and he thought of the other boy opening the door to him. His mother was disappointed too – the girl would soon have lost interest in the baby. Adoption; that would have been the best solution. Now the visits would have to continue and she would have to interrogate her son, to keep an eye of sorts on the little one whom, still, she and her husband had not seen, nor held, nor touched. Perhaps things were better that way.
She tried to ignore him at first and kept turning her head away from him; he was standing behind her, waiting for the till in the chemists.
“Look – just bought him this.” He had seen her looking round the floor in her apartment for a dummy. She brushed his hand to one side.
“He’s dead jealous – don’t like seeing me with you.”
The woman at the till called her forward and he glimpsed the bruise on her face, just below the eye. The girl held out a small box; he could read the word test on the side and there was a picture of a woman.
Back at home his mother asked him about the encounter; he had paid for the dummy and had watched the girl as she went out of the shop ahead of him to where the other boy was waiting. He told his mother about the bruise and the box and she turned away so that he could not see her tears.