AT COST • by saintsally

The baby was weak. Under-developed, born at five months with a hole in the heart and no kidneys, frail fingers and half-formed toes, its strange, strangled cry from unready vocal cords made the nurse tremble and cry as she brought it to surgery. The mother, seventeen and anxious, had not even seen it.

There were eighteen hours in the OR. There was a baboon heart; there were steel rods and kidneys grown in a petri dish, there were needles, there was thread. Halfway through, it was revealed that the left arm had no blood flow to it: the main artery was a knot in the mushy bicep. They ended up amputating.

The baby lived. In an incubator, with an IV, a respirator, and a pink fluffy bunny to keep it company. The mother, after class, would come in and cry; there was no father. After the first two weeks, there was a malfunction with its digestive situation; there was another agonizing night of surgery, another graft, more needles and thread and blood on the clean white operating table. The nurse checked in on the baby at midnight: the soft glow of the incubator complemented by the flashing lights on the respirator. The bunny looked at her reproachfully, peeking from behind the bandaged stump of the left shoulder.

It occurred to the nurse that the baby did not cry. Had not cried, since that first, desperately rushed run to the OR. She wondered if the baby knew what was happening. Would it remember? She watched it, trapped and given life by the machines around it. Did it even have a name?

It was after the third surgery this time on the lungs, in vain hopes of getting rid of the respirator that the nurse began to wonder how much of the original baby was left. Its ears and toes were tiny; would it walk out of there, one day? Could it hear its mother, choking back sobs as she read it a borrowed book from the library? The bunny regarded her with solemn black button eyes. The nurse felt a flash of pity for it. Maybe, maybe not.

saintsally can read and write, but tries not to be a snob about it.

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Every Day Fiction