She Had Three Babies

The woman known as Jewel, or Jaden’s wife, gave birth to three babies. Two were fat sleek boys who could walk within days. The third people often forgot about because the babe was a scrawny girl, a wild howling thing that disappeared inside cubicles and cylindricals unknown to even her mother. The wild child loved geometry and the way it allowed for three dimensions. Flat spaces were much more difficult to crawl inside, or this is what she claimed when search parties discovered her. Friends and family tried to protect Jewel from the wild girl, and this was difficult, as the child held a fascination for her complacent mother, but only when her mother wasn’t looking for her.

“I have three babies,” Jewel often whispered, over and over, while lounging on her sofa.

“You have two,” Jaden corrected her because even he forgot about the geometry of the living room, how it created rectangulars and polyhedra. “If you have a third, where is she?”

Jaden thought he was so smart, but most males did, especially those who believed themselves to be born teachers, full of all manner of things they had to inform her of. Her sons were the same as their father. Good God were those fat, sleek boys full of themselves and things to know.

“She’s in my hat,” Jewel said. But Jewel’s sarcasm blew right over the top of her husband’s head.

“Why don’t you wave a magic wand over it?”

Jaden’s sarcasm didn’t wash over Jewel’s head. She knew when he mocked her, when they all mocked her.

“She doesn’t want to go to school, so she hides.”

“Maybe she would come out if you were a better mother.”

“I’m perfect. I’m everything she wants. It’s you she doesn’t want. She hates you and school and all the teachers at the school.”

“Hire a governess to teach her at home, then.”

“I won’t fall for that, Jaden. You can’t fool me. She’ll go to the family school.”

Jaden didn’t threaten to have her locked up as he usually did. Why did they all have to lie to her about her daughter? Why did they have to protect her from the best part of her life? If only Jewel could drag herself from the couch, lower her limp white legs to the Turkish carpet and step lightly, her anklets jangling. She couldn’t go anywhere without anybody within hearing distance knowing about it. For years, she’d thought about finding a pair of clippers and cutting through the jangling things, but she had yet to find the motivation. Instead, she imagined herself dancing on the carpet as she had done more than five years ago when her parents had sent her to seduce wealthy Jaden who lived on the hill above town. In her fantasy, her thin white feet lightly touched down, and her delicate ankles made music, just as they had done for Jaden. Jaden had found her enchanting, carrying her off to his chamber that night.

Less than a year later, the three babies arrived–the two fat boys, and their scrawny sister with her red face and cloud of angel white hair. Jewel was virtually a child, herself, and carrying three babies had nearly killed her. She’d never been the same, had turned into this complacent wretch, never knowing where her daughter was.

She had three babies. And where was the scrawny girl?

“Where are you, my third child?” Jewel called out.

She sighed. There were too many hiding places, too many crawl spaces. The little clown was her favorite, yet she drove her to distraction. She thought of dancing. She closed her eyes with a cool cloth dripping down the sides of her face. She removed the cloth and poured wine into a glass from a silly crystal decanter. The decanter didn’t change the nature of the wine, which was like currants and blackberries and cinnamon and all kinds of heaven. With a deep breath, she held the fragrance inside her nose and mouth. Then she drank it down in a few gulps.

“My scrawny child, don’t play the clown with me! Come out, come out, wherever you are!”

From some distant place, Jewel heard a howling, giggling echo. Was the child outside? She took down another measured portion of wine, which slipped like a warm spirit down her throat and into her stomach. It wasn’t like a warm spirit, but was one.

“Put your feet down,” it told her. “Your child’s in the cylinder of the well. She’ll never be able to climb out if you don’t help her.”

The spirit strong in her belly, she set one foot, then another to the carpet. If she stepped very carefully, her bells would barely toll her plight. So she minced her steps. She minced toward the balcony door, through the breezeway, around the lattices, to the courtyard. From deep within the well, she heard the giggling echo.

“You won’t find me!” the little voice howled.

“I’ve already found you, my little girl,” Jewel said as she leaned over the opening and looked down.

Darkness confronted her. She picked up a pebble and threw it in and heard it splash down deep below.

“That’s not nice,” the little girl shouted. “Don’t throw stones at me.”

“Why don’t you come out of there, and I won’t throw anything at you any longer?”

“No, Mama! You have to come get me.”

Jewel looked back at the house. She thought of Jaden, who was, no doubt, in his office conducting dictation and business–a flat, two-dimensional world of meaningless figures on paper. She imagined dancing for him, his carrying her into his chamber. She always did what she was told. She jumped to her parents’ commands, to Jaden’s. Why shouldn’t she also obey the little girl, who giggled and called to her Come get me; come get me!

And so she jumped, and when she splashed down, her weightless figure sounded as a pebble would, a plink, and then she descended into the cool ripples of water to meet her scrawny child with her damp white cloud of hair.

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10 comments

    1. Dan, there is an outer story that’s fairly obvious, and then there is an inner psychological story. All stories work in both ways. The inner symbolism is pretty overt and gut level (I wrote it in about an hour and didn’t edit). So consider what a wild and primitive, yet hidden, child would mean to you. And consider what wells generally represent. The most immediate explanation is probably correct.

  1. The symbolism inherent to a deep well and a primitive child is, well… Wells! And children falling into them!

    This whole tragic tale could have been avoided if some simple precautions had been taken to keep small children from falling down the well… Tragic!

  2. I’ve been ruminating on this a little. It has a constricted feel, which I thought at first might have been a failure of imagination. Anna and the Dragon doesn’t have that constrictedness, though, so I think it serves the conceit. I don’t think the most immediate explanation is sufficient, at least my most immediate explanation. Did she throw herself in the well because she resented being controlled her whole life, or because she resented her new autonomy now that Jaden is off conducting business instead of having her dance for him and carrying her off? There’s some tension there.

    1. It’s also possible the story above just isn’t a successful story. I spent about 4 years writing and editing Anna and the Dragon, but this story was written in an hour and left unedited. But, yeah, it has a different conceit.

      Out of curiosity, are you the person over at VD’s who said you read my book? If so, thanks. I like to have advertisement!

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