Short Story : Toes / by Heather Taylor

Photo by Sarah Taylor; Fiction by Heather Taylor

Photo by Sarah Taylor; Fiction by Heather Taylor

“..five, thix, theven..”

Rebecca counted the toes over and over just like her Daddy told her to. 10 fingers and 10 toes meant he was OK. And OK meant he could come home soon. Yet still, every morning since the day they took her Mommy into the hospital, Rebecca played by herself in the playroom.

“Don’t put anything in your mouth. It’s dirty,” her Daddy warned her when he dropped her off in the mornings. “You don’t want to get sick do you?”

Rebecca didn’t want to do that. If she got sick then she couldn’t see Baby Jack and that was her favoritist thing to do. On bad days, they only gave her enough time to count his fingers and toes before she got sent back to the playroom. She hated it there, the place where she was scared to touch anything. Every where Rebecca looked must be full of germs. It was dirty just like her Daddy said, she thought, even though it smelt like the floor cleaner Mommy liked to use.

Even though she saw her every day, Rebecca missed her mommy. She never hugged her or gave her tickles or butterfly kisses anymore. She smiled even though Rebecca knew she must have been crying cause Mommy’s nose was all red and her eyes watery. And Daddy wasn’t right either. He never smelled nice like he used to – all spicy and lemony and crisp – and his clothes were all wrinkly instead of smooth and fresh. He almost didn’t look like her Daddy anymore and it scared her. Why was everyone so different? If they all went home, they could have spaghetti and a big bubble bath and then Mommy and Daddy and Baby Jack could all get in the big double bed with her and they’d all read stories. Then no one would talk in whispers or have their foreheads wrinkle up or their mouths go in funny straight lines.

So she kept counting – fingers and toes – and drew pictures for Baby Jack’s walls and told him stories about what their house was like and how much he’d love it. Rebecca talked about the moon and stars she helped put on the walls with Daddy, the ones that glowed in the dark. And she made all the animal noises of all the animals in the mobile that was above the crib she slept in before she got a big girl bed. The one that he’d sleep in now. She kept counting day after day until her Mommy’s nose lost the red and Daddy made a smile that showed teeth and Baby Jack came out of his little glass box and they told her they were all leaving. Baby Jack was going to be all right.

“Of courth he ith,” she said. “He’th got all the fingerth and all the toeth. He’th perfect.”

Her Mommy and Daddy laughed for the first time since they rushed to the hospital that day 3 months too early for labour and motherhood. And as their laughter rained down around her, Rebecca smiled and did a little dance. They were going home at last.