I hear it, faintly, while I’m rinsing the shampoo out of my hair. I can’t believe the sound of the shower doesn’t drown it out completely. Once again, I wonder why my neighbor can’t shut that kid up.
I finish showering and dress, then peer out my window at the house next door. There’s no car in the driveway, and the curtains are pulled shut. She’s in there alone with the baby, and its shrieks are getting louder.
I wonder if I should do anything. Go over there, offer some advice. I had a colicky baby once, too. I know how hard it can be, how the sound of it pierces your brain and shakes you to the bone.
I turn away from the window. I don’t even know her. We’re not that kind of neighborhood. We barely nod in passing, let alone wave and say hi. We’ve never exchanged pleasantries. I don’t even know her name.
I’m sure she has this under control.
I sit down at the computer, hoping to get some work done. I block out the sound the best I can. An hour passes, then two, then three. Yet, the baby keeps crying, it’s screaming now.
Surely it should have stopped, at least long enough to eat. Babies can’t cry and eat at the same time.
This isn’t right, this isn’t natural. Something must be wrong. Suddenly, I hear a blood-curdling scream, I hear the sounds of excruciating pain and terror. With shaking hands, I call 911 and tell them that something terrible is happening next door.
Fifteen minutes pass, fifteen creeping minutes, and then I hear my doorbell ring. I open the door to see a police officer and an orderly in white scrubs. An ambulance pulls up to the curb.
Just like that night.
I remember the paramedics pushing past me, racing upstairs to the bathroom. The cop taking me by the arm, leading me to the couch, asking me to please explain again exactly what happened.
I lied, of course. I told him I had only left for a minute, that I thought the baby would be OK, he knew how to sit up, I don’t know how he fell over. I didn’t tell him how I had held him under water, until his angry red face finally turned blue.
They ruled the cause of death accidental.
“Mrs. Aimes?” The police officer is speaking to me.
“Mrs. Aimes, we’ve warned you about making false reports. It’s going to be more than a ticket this time.”
I nodded. He led me to the car, told me to watch my head as I got in.
I thought I could stop the screaming, you see. I thought I could stop the screaming.
* * *
by Shelli Proffitt Howells
The prompt is one of the five senses, Sound. If you enjoyed this story, please consider sharing it with the share buttons below.