by Trasie Sands

The cockroaches scattered whenever we turned on a light, but they couldn’t hide fast enough; there were too many. It was a stampede as they crawled over one another. I could hear them moving, little legs scuffling about as I lay sleepless, listening to the baby upstairs crying through most of the first night in my new home. The baby’s father was nineteen, the baby’s mother, fifteen. At fifteen I had my first job in a doughnut shop, and I babysat. Motherhood at that age—well it just didn’t come up except as a niggling thought in the prefrontal cortex that maybe I didn’t want to be a mother if the hellions I sat for were examples of what that might be like.

At seventeen, I thought I might be pregnant. I’d had a boyfriend less than a year. I was being careful, but these things happen, my mother said. She bought me a pregnancy test. It was positive so she took me to the doctor, and she insisted she’d be there no matter what decision I might have to make, but it hadn’t occurred to me to marry the father. I doubt it occurred to her unless as an unspoken fear of something regretful that I might do. Thank goodness for false positives.

The teen mother’s blue eyes contrasted with every new bruise around her eyes, covered with the wrong shade of concealer. She held the baby on her hip opposite to her smoking hand. She bounced to quiet him and waited for the rest of her laundry to finish spinning. She looked tired—like an old little girl. Her dryer spun down. She dropped her smoke on the floor, putting it out with her foot and swung open the dryer door. She pulled clothes out in a heap while balancing the child and I asked her if she wanted me to hold her baby. I can do it, she shot back like an insolent freshman. The baby cried while she shoved the clothes into a basket that she would next have to carry up the stairs, baby in tow.

When the teen parents were on the news, I hadn’t heard the baby in a while, just their yelling and the ever-present scattering bugs. They were devastated. Someone had taken their baby right from his crib. She cried. He did the talking. John looked over my shoulder and said they’re lying. I told him he was awful, but as it happens, he was right. They found the baby in the river, in a cooler, along with half dozen roaches.

It took more than a week to pack everything before leaving Peter Street. Each box had to be sealed on the bottom, sprayed, packed and then sealed on the top. In our new apartment downtown, we started unpacking. A cockroach crawled out of the box and over the flap. I sat frozen and watched its bold escape.

Only a baby.

Trasie Sands is a writer and editor of The Blake-Jones Review. Her publications include The Antigonish Review, Fictive Dream, 101 Words, and Project Calm Magazine. Trasie has also been long-listed for a Bath Short Story Award. She has studied under Dr. Alistair MacLeod, Dr. Bruce Meyer, and Adele Wiseman while obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in Drama from the University of Windsor.

Photograph by Jared Belson.