"Rivers of life divine I see, And trees of paradise, I see a world of spirits bright, Who taste the pleasures there."
She spends the night with Dad, but where's the crime in that?
They snatched the baby early one morning.
At five the baby fell asleep having cried the night through, teething and an ear infection its issues.
If its parents had then dropped into exhausted slumber nothing would have happened.
But outside lay a beautiful crisp late spring morning, the sun had just risen behind their house and clean new light bathed the street. The couple needed to get out and be together and enjoy the stillness. Together they walked the dog around the block. They were gone no more than 10 minutes.
As time is infinitely divisible, 10 minutes to them is as long as ten days. They counted the infant abandoned. Further, they reckoned they had cause. If both conditions not been met, they would not have taken her.
The consequences for the parents were grim. Given their evident grief, no one, not police, investigators, reporters or social workers, thought them guilty of more than irresponsibility and horrible bad luck, still they barely escaped a charge of criminal neglect. The loss of their child destroyed them.
Often she would slide along her life. Her life, thanks to them, was like a video and she both player and viewer. And like a video, when viewing, it was look but not touch, experience but not change.
Sometimes she would settle into the happy times not long after her taking. When she lay with a toddler's scant self-centered awareness crowded amongst their own offspring.
Sometimes, though not often, she would skip earlier and be again the baby crawling across the carpet in a world of fractured shapes and sounds and textures. She would strain to sort out from the baby's unformed vision what the couple who owned the feet she'd targeted looked like, but all she ever knew was the sound of their encouraging laughing voices.
Sometimes, like a child picking at a scab, she'd visit her death. The ambulance would collect her, derelict and drunk, from the steps of the Boston Public Library. Her body a husk, dirty, her clothes indescribable rags. She would lie in the crowded intensive care, gasping, filled with drugs, surrounded by noise, aware only of their quiet calm eyes.
Sometimes she would shift to the time in her 40s when she worked as a waitress in a bar. As any who took food or drink from her were hers, those she fancied she took home and they'd wake the next day dazed and drained, the others she'd ply with drink they couldn't refuse and she'd make bets with herself (or one of them) as to whether her toy'd make it home, or wreck, or get arrested. It was more fun than keeno.
Sometimes she'd live the time when on her 18th year birthday, their richest prince (the word is not quite right) took her from the crowded dorm which was all she'd ever known, took her and her friend Chrysanthemum and two other friends as well which showed how he valued her, and made her his consort and the pleasure of their union lasted and stretched till when she looked at the world outside, it lay barren and airless, blasted by a swollen red sun.
Sometimes she'd visit the horrible moment, when she'd turned 28, when she was at the apex of her beauty and pride. She stood before them restrained, regarded and ruined. She stood while their calm voices explained the consequences of her crime. Her transgression, what it was they never said, could've occurred anytime in her life. For they, like us, punish to please the punisher, not to warn or correct the punished.
Sometimes she'd revisit the Christmas of her 19th year, when she and her companions descended upon a busy mall. Laughing they'd zeroed in on a pod of teenagers going to the movies. The film filled just before the kids got to the ticket counter and they wandered through the stores to kill time before the next showing. Every motion of their hands looked like shoplifting and they were repeatedly searched. Every mall guard thought them loitering and chivied them along. In front of Targets they happened upon similarly harassed kids from the next town over, loud and furious fighting erupted.
Early on she'd cut out the top boy, a senior, football captain and class president. He bought her a slice of pizza, and though he'd paid for it, he ate a bite from her fingers and that was that.
When his girlfriend of two years escaped the mall, talking loudly and distressedly with her friends about their horrible afternoon, wondering repeatedly about what could've happened to her Stevey. Why hadn't he been there to defend her when she was scratched, slugged and nearly stomped? Oh my god, there he was, in broad daylight, a girl bent under him on the hood of his car, he more dog than man.
The experience wouldn't leave the boy. He became haunted. He hunted for the girl and not finding her, gave himself to drugs.
"Heather, yours is the one to the side of the group over there," Chris told her, "The old guy. Mine's the big guy in the middle."
Heather'd just come off the stage and was catching her breath from dancing before moving out into the crowd to mingle. She squinted across the dim space and picked out her guy. He looked to be in his late forties, hair graying, face tired.
"Swap?" she asked hopefully.
She sighed. Her friend was the same height as she, but rounder with the short copper colored hair appropriate for a girl named Chrysanthemum. Heather frowned. She'd rather have the big guy. She had a mental image of being fucked by him. Her eyes'd be looking up at his nipples. Oh well. She'd just have to get what fun she could out of her old guy.
"Oh Heather, maybe yours won't be so bad. Maybe he'll be like sweet and considerate. And you got the stud last time, right?
His phone vibrated in his pocket. He glanced at the picture then answered, turning away slightly from Tod, the guy next to him, and bending over to shield the phone.
"Hey Tom, how's it going?" Joan's voice asked. She was the only member of their team not out with the bachelor party crowd. This being the twenty-first century, she'd been asked but'd turned it down, as Roy'd hoped no doubt. She was the smartest member the team and the hardest working and the only woman. She was recently divorced with a grade school aged son. Even when young, she'd been attractive by way of her personality and her brains and her health so now in her thirties she'd lost nothing.
"Oh it's just swell," he said without enthusiasm. He hadn't been to such a place in 20 years at least. In fact, not since the guys at his job of the time'd dragged him out prior to his own marriage. The girl up there now was a redhead with large breasts that seemed to be doing their own dance unconnected to the music. He'd watched the one who'd just finished, a slim taut thing, with idle pleasure. She'd known how to dance, she'd seemed to bind and mold the awful music into something exciting and live.
He added, "I've been thinking a bit about why the databases are blocking under load. Maybe the indices on the video rights table could use some looking into."
"Oh Tom," she laughed, "I bet you're the life of that party. Has our bachelor boy been behaving himself?"
"He's telling Chuck about the Red Sox game he and Linda went to last night."
"What was that? It's too noisy there. Talk to you tomorrow," she said and was gone.
Roy was a large man who was beginning to go to fat. He was noisily and publicly happy with his fiance, a woman named Linda who worked in sales support. His conversation consisted solely of either sports or what he and Linda'd done the night before and since they often went to Fenway Park or Foxboro or in to the Garden, his two subjects were often indistinguishable. Actually he really had three subjects because he liked to talk about eating and diets.
His happiness annoyed Joan and when she and Tom had lunch together, she could be merciless. Mimicking Roy's somewhat high pitched ultra sincere voice she'd say, "Dude, after mass yesterday, me and Linda went to this little barbecue place. I had the pulled pork in blueberry sauce, Linda the blackened catfish, Dude, both were excellent and we both had cheesecake for desert. And neither of us will gain a pound because Dude, we've started this new diet. You drink 3 glasses of water before each meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner and it fills you right up and Dude, water has no calories! I only had 3 orders and normally I'd've had 4!"
Joan also pilloried Linda's tweets. Joan followed Linda solely for the purpose of ridiculing her to Tom. "Made Lasagna! Made Brownies! Made Nachos! Made water! Roy's coming to watch the Sox! Not gonna leave my sweety even for a pee!"
Tom actually liked Roy's enthusiasm for Linda. He didn't know exactly why.
If Joan was smartest of their group, Roy was definitely not. Joan was infinitely patient in trying to help him understand the delicate dance performed in a modern ajax driven website, by the browser, the webserver and the database engine. When she was done, Roy would have at least enough of the puzzle under control that he could fix the bug he was assigned.
.... There is more of this story ...