Saturday, May 1, 2010


It would not be repectful to the reader's attention span to itemize the small

mountain of goods Maria had accumulated from her friends. The mass consisted

in part of disposable diapers, baby food, stuffed animals, rattles, bibs, sleepers,

blankets and party favor bags. The backyard was a sparkle of other props:

plates, cups, napkins, plastic forks and knives, a pinata, and a dozen sky-blue,

latex balloons proclaiming It's a Boy. The sun shot straight down on all of

this but left Maria and her friends unscathed as it were, hehind sunglasses

and beneath an umbrella jutting out of the center of a table. A newcommer

would have choked on sunscreen air, hand on knee until normal vision

was restored, but chatting comfortably after the moments required to

get on the inside and not to notice anything at all.

Chatting comfortably is almost what was going on: voices piped, yet

what was said could have been interchanged with any phrase earlier

or latter, or in another situation entirely; hands flowed and sprang,

but in the same instance one hand clenched a purse, a hand bag, or a cup.

One friend rubbed chapstic over and over upon her lip.

"This is exciting!" "Oh, I can't wait" "You must be ready for it to end as

well.""It isn't much longer." One friend would send up a phrase toward Maria,

and as it fell she would again stir her straw, check her cellphone, fix her

shades, or rub her napkin to ground the current that gives rise to such

expressions. "It went by quick though!""Yeah?""No?""Oh!""Aha, yeah."

Another bent her head to Maria's belly and rattled a party favor bag of blue

chocolate candy at it. "Oh, he can hear this!" The baby was kicking at the

commotion. "Oh yes," Maria said with half-closed lids, "the baby hears a

lot of things." Maria reclined further into her patio chair as another friend

finished a cupcake and was rubbing her hands on a napkin. "Oh, these

are cute," she sent out as one deducting a singular truth from where nothing

is more convincing. Nothing was more convincing, and it sent everyone

nodding and checking their hands again.

There's something about these paper napkins though. For one thing,

they're printed with lazer guided ink and several advances in high

resolution technology. So inexpensive has it become to manufature these

over the past few years that hundreds of square miles are churned out each day,

each with colorful paintings. An artist would dream of employment with such

machines and manufacturing processes, that shoot out one's imagination to the

world in the face of all equally. This, of course, after a board of directors determines

the image's suitability for common consumption.

"Precious, you'll soon see all of this stuff for yourself. Yes, you will!" Done with

her napkin, the friend lobbed it into a black trashbag that was reaching capacity. The

wadded paper hit the rim at such an angle that it unfolded on top of the heap.

Face in the sun, the crinkled mural was one of a baby boy in diapers smiling

with quite a bit of cupcake frosting on its mouth and bib. Above the baby was

a banner that read It's a Boy.

Sipping, munching, genuflecting, and chatting repeated and progressed. The

clanging stimulation of props declined towards the baby, and he settled his feet. The

ladies became further situated with the objects around

them and so drifted further apart, if only a little, from their own cellphones

and purses. As such they were also more at ease with one another, and the

need to fill the air with thoughts that weren't their own deminished. As a gathering

with even old, familiar friends clamors ungrounded until the prattle instills some footing,

so too another phase was beginning at Maria's babyshower. The ladies unfamiliar with the house no longer

built a facade behind every corner, but stretched out their area with a more

complete hold of the blue stucco walls and dark blue shingles surrounding

the mounds of stuff, and the dark green grass leading up to the table where they

sat. Individual items became more clear and each friend absorbed her own and played out several

ways she could use it. For the moment, conversation left. Each item made itself explicit

upon a background of sunshine, newborns, fields, and abundance, each reinforcing one another.

It was here that one friend was absorbing towards the deck, between a pile of

goodie bags and folded chairs. No context was in place to assimilate what what

becomming more and more apparent--a severed head.

Her eyes halted on it as her heart skipped and sped up. But a second later, it came to her.

"Oh my God, that is too funny!"

The other ladies darted away from their objects and followed her voice and

finger pointing to the middle of the deck, between two vague piles. There,

a severed head grew a smile, and then a cream-colored body with an arm,

leg and a diaper. Its eyes grew and stared fixedly away at nothing in

particular, facing ninety degrees left. Across its bib read Its a

Boy. For some it took longer to figure what it was, but as one got it,

influence spread through their shared atmosphere so that all got it. "What!" "No!"

"They make those?""Maria, did you get that?" "Where

did you get that!" Maria's smile grew as she nodded.

They strung the baby up on a low hanging branch from an ash tree. As one

lady walked over waving a stick, slanted rays poured over its face. The textured

paper mache illuminated and and the baby's eyes stared skyward at the source

of that light. As the lady drew nearer, a short burst of wind rattled through and

jolted the baby back as if flinching.

"So how does this work?" "Oh, it's cute though.""We gonna hit it? Ahaha."

"No, don't do that!""There's candy inside, I hear it!" Maria creaked up off her chair.

She grinned and, fatigued, said, "Oh no, don't hit it. I

thought about that but . . . I think I'll keep it. It's so cute." She pointed at

the numerous, multicolored strings hanging own from the baby's diaper. "See

those, each one take a turn and pull one--just one!""Oh, I see." I've heard

of these.""Me too, these are the new pinatas that you don't break.""Kids can

get hurt.""Strings, but that's no fun!""Yeah, but it is cute." They gathered

around. One studied the baby for a moment and, finding her string, took hold of it

and gave it a hard tug. Her fingers slipped through the strings to the gasps of

those around. "That must be the one!" Immediately, another took it upon herself

to reach it. She flung up her hands, got a firm grip, and pulled. Laughter exploded

as pale-blue packaged breathmints with It's a Boy witten on them came down by the hundreds.

The ladies screamed and giggled; the swirling things and packages and mounds also laughed,

and this shared abundance echoed far up the street.