Baby Calls
    Gayle Brandeis
Iíve offered to change our number. Iíve offered to answer the phone every time it rings. Iíve offered to dial Star 69 to give everyone a piece of my mind. My wife shakes her head, her eyes puffy and wet. No no no no no, she says. Itís okay itís okay itís okay. She holds her breath every time the phone rings. Sometimes she stifles a wail.

When the phone company first gave us this number, we thought it was so cool. Itís almost all sevensófive out of the seven digits!óplus, the other two are three and four which make seven if you add them up. Itís our lucky number, my wife said as she unzipped my jeans. This will be our lucky apartment. But we didnít get pregnant and we didnít get pregnant and we didnít get pregnant and the babies wouldnít stop calling.

We get a call every month or so. Itís a different baby every time, as far as we can tell from the Caller ID display. Sometimes itís a local baby. Sometimes itís a long distance baby. I guess babies like to push the same number over and over again while their mothers are watching tv or folding laundry or smoking crack or whatever it is they do while their babies are racking up the phone bill.

If we have a baby, I start to say to my wife.

WHEN we have a baby, she corrects me.

Okay, WHEN we have a baby, we would know if that baby was playing with the phone! We wouldnít leave that baby alone to call and torture random people, would we?

My wife stares off into space.

We have tons of books on our shelvesóKnow Your Reproductive System, Barren No More, Test Tube Cuties, Think Your Way to Conception. My wife buys them but doesnít open them. She thinks that if she reads them, sheís going to jinx herself. I tell her to throw them away, but she thinks that if she throws them away, sheíll jinx herself, too. She put a red scarf over the row of them so you canít read their spines. Now it looks like thereís some weird, bloody, ghost hovering on our shelves.

We can always change our number, I remind her again.

But how will our baby find us? she says.

One night, after my wife fell asleep, I pulled one of the books out from under the scarf. It was A Womb With a View. There were all sorts of pictures inside--placentas growing and cells dividing and embryos sucking their little thumbs. They were all pretty cool, but I kept going back to one pictureónot even a photo, a plain little drawing, one like youíd see in any biology class. It was of a womanís plumbingóher cervix and ovaries and the like, sliced in half so you can see inside them. And I thought wow, the uterus and the fallopian tubes look kind of like a phone, if you think about it--you could lift the fringy end of one fallopian tube to your ear and the other to your mouth and have a conversation, and then set them back down on top of the uterus like a cradle. And I thought maybe thatís the problem, maybe we have the wrong kind of phone.

Our phone was the long kind, where the cradle part is long and lean like the phone part, not like a uterus at all. I mean, itís more like a guyís anatomy, and thereís nothing wrong with my plumbingówe had it checked. So I drove out to the Target thatís open late, and I bought one of those old-fashioned style phones, the kind with a good broad, child-bearing, base. The kind that usually has a rotary dial, but this one has push-button numbers in a circle instead. And I brought it home and plugged it in and waited for the babies to start calling.

When my wife woke up, she noticed the phone but didnít say anything. I didnít say anything, eitheróI figured she would know why I got it. I had left the book out by accident, open to the page with the drawing. She glanced at it but as soon as she realized what it was, she closed her eyes and turned her head away. Iím sure the phone-shape of the organs got stuck inside her eyelids. I shut the book and slipped it back under the scarf.

Sometimes the babies donít say anything. Sometimes they just breathe. Itís not like an obscene phone caller kind of breath; their breath is cute, if you can call breath cuteóitís shallow and wet and open mouthed and sometimes has a little hum to it. Sometimes the babies giggle. Sometimes the do their googoo gaga thing, little coos and abbadabbadoodoos. Sometimes they know a word or two. Hi! they chirp. Hi! Hi! or No no no no no. Once one of them said Mama? Mama? and my wife fell to the floor, cradling the phone to her breast.

Itís our baby, she said. Itís our baby calling us to tell us itís coming. Itís calling to tell us not to worry, itís going to come some day. Tears were streaming down her face. She looked all lit up, like the top of a Christmas tree. Then a womanís voice came our of my wifeís breast. Hello? I heard. Hello? My wife looked stricken. She dropped the phone. I picked it up.

Yes? I said.

Iím so sorry, she told me. My baby must have called you. I turned my back for a second and she must have called you. Iíve told her not to play with the phone, butÖ

Itís okay, I said. Donít worry about it.

I heard the baby crying in the background as I hung up.

It wasnít our baby, I told my wife. It was someone elseís baby. That woman wasnít you--that would have been trippy, wouldnít it? If it was you calling us from the future with our baby? But it wasnít you, it was some other motheróher voice didnít sound anything like yours, unless your voice changed after we had a baby, and My wife wasnít listening. She took the phone off the receiver and pressed it against her nightgown, below her belly button. She closed her eyes. I could hear the dial tone buzz against the slippery nylon. I tried to touch my wifeís hand, but she pulled away, pressed the fallopian tube phone deeper into her belly. I thought for sure sheíd let go when the phone started to squawk its warning, its youíve left me off the hook too long sound, but even then she didnít move to hang it up.



Gayle Brandeis' work has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, and has received several awards, including the 1998 Quality Paperback Book Club/Story Magazine Short Story Award. Her book, FRUITFLESH: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write was just published by HarperSanFrancisco..
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
 

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