Your Baby, My Baby

Matthew Medwecky

 

“So,” she began, “you don’t want to hold your baby?”
“God dammit, Jenelle,” Matt said, “we had an agreement. That is not my baby. You can call it my burden, my mistake, my hidden financial responsibility or what-have-you, but you will not call it my baby under this roof. I only let you in here so we can finish off the fucking paperwork. Plus, Reuben will be home any minute and I have to---”
“Reuben?” Jenelle raised her eyebrows and smiled. “I heard you two were finito?” She was holding the baby, gently rocking back and forth on the couch. “He was that spicy Cuban boy, right?”
Matt sighed, shaking his head.“Well, you heard wrong, okay? And yes, he is Cuban, but that doesn’t really matter right now. We have to finish the paperwork before he comes---”
“Why didn’t you tell me that you and Reuben were back together? Will you finally introduce him to me?” The baby stirred from its sleep, spitting up on Jenelle’s shoulder. She kept rocking as though nothing had happened. “Now we can change his name to Ricky Ricardo Junior! Or Lil’ Cesar. Cesar’s a Cuban name, right? Let’s change his name to Lil’ Cesar!” She motioned towards the stack of papers sitting on the coffee table. “It’s not too late, right?”
“I don’t know, Jenelle. But I am not introducing you to Reuben. I’m only in this mess because you practically raped me nine months ago while I was passed out. The least you could do is not fuck up what I have now.” Matt put on his glasses as he started to look over the papers. “And why does it matter to me what its name is, anyway?”
Jenelle stopped swaying and held the baby out in front of her face. “Because now when Mommy brings Lil’ Cesar to see Daddies,” she paused to look at Matt endearingly, “Reuben will feel a more instinctive connection towards him.”
Matt stood up at this. “That’s it,” he said. “Get out. You’re being really offensive and Reuben will have absolutely nothing to do with that baby!” He walked to the door and opened it halfway. “Just, please, get out.”
“But what about the paperwork? I can’t leave until you finish,” Jenelle said as she tapped on the stack of papers. Matt exhaled and shut the door.
“Fine,” he said. He rummaged through the hallway closet and reached into one of his coat pockets. Pulling out a small glass pipe, he blew at it from all directions and rubbed the mouthpiece on his shirt. “But I need to smoke first.”
“Not in front of the baby!” Jenelle said. She placed him in his stroller and joined Matt in the entranceway. She reached for the pipe, closing her hand around his. “Let’s go to your room.”
------
When Reuben came home he was greeted with a mess of sound and odors. The crying baby in his living room needed a change and a looming stink was emanating from Matt’s room, along with the theme music for Xena: Warrior Princess. “Hey baby,” he yelled cautiously towards the bedroom, “why is there a---a baby in our living room?”
“Cuban Reuben!” Jenelle yelled, barely controlling the laughter that followed. “Did you see Lil’ Cesar!”
Reuben pushed the bedroom door open. Jenelle was laying on the bed, Matt was face up on the floor, a mound of Cheetos sat between them as they laughed chaotically. “Matt? Who’s watching that baby out there? Who is this girl?”
It looked as tho Matt was going to respond, but he remained supine, mouth slightly ajar and smiling. “Our baby!” Jenelle yelled.
“Excuse me?” said Reuben.
My baby!” Matt said as he attempted to get up.
Your baby!” Jenelle burst into tears of laughter. “And your baby!” she pointed to Reuben.
Our baby! Our baby! Our baby!” Matt began to chant, pounding his fists into the pile of Cheetos. Jenelle joined him as soon she caught her breath.
Reuben backed out of the room. He checked on the screaming baby as he put on his coat, picking it up slowly. He stepped out of the apartment and sat on the stoop, resting the baby on his thigh. He fumbled for a cigarette with one arm, lighting it with cautious difficulty over the baby’s head. He pulled out his cell phone, contemplating whom to call first. He could still hear Matt and Jenelle chanting, broken up only by their gasps of laughter.
Our baby! Our baby! Our baby!”

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