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Oh, My Babies: Short, Short Fiction by cam

Chris has written more than 200 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

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Author's Note: My Favorite Story That I Have Written


As of 11/15/2019, this story several years old. I've written scores more since this story came into being. I was contemplating this morning, What is my favorite story that I have written? I looked through the cataloged titles and stopped dead still at only one. This little story is my favorite. Every time I read it I still get the strange combination of a chill and a tear.

Oh, My Babies

The old woman pushed her grocery cart down the alley, one front wheel rattling back and forth, the other squealing once every turn. She held tight to the handle, for without the cart, the woman would not have been able to walk. She spoke to her dolls as she searched the dregs of the city.

“Oh,my babies. Oh, my babies.” She stopped and reached into the basket for the rotting corpse of one of the dolls, not a beautiful Barbie, but an ugly rag. A leg was missing, and the face had been eaten away by rats looking for something to line their nest. The old woman had rescued the doll’s remains from the oily pavement of an alley where garbage was piled in heaps awaiting a collection day that would likely never come. She imagined the doll drop from the hands of a little girl who played at a window and a mother too drunk to care and too worn out from her miserable life to get off the couch and retrieve her little girl’s only friend.

“Oh, my babies. Oh, my babies.” She traded the ragdoll for a Beanie Baby bunny with one floppy ear. She smoothed a crumpled whisker and fancied it had been part of an Easter basket for some little boy who threw it out his window and watched it bounce down the metal fire escape steps. He hoped that its absence would somehow conjure the appearance of the real bunny he longed for.

“Oh, my babies. “Oh, my babies.” The basket was full of her babies, plucked from dumpsters, gutters, and alleys as she passed by, wheels rattling and squealing.


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That night she pushed the cart into the trees along the river toward her home. One side of the scrapped utility trailer stood a little higher than the other on a tire that still held air. She pushed the cart up a warped plywood ramp and parked it inside. The door had fallen off the year before, victim of rusty hinges that finally broke loose under its weight. But she didn’t mind. Spring peepers played evening music for her each night before she settled down onto the malodorous mattress she had dragged from a nearby street where someone had left it on the curb for the trash man. That had been many years ago when she could still walk without the grocery cart.

“Oh, my babies, it’s bedtime now, and time for our story.” She leaned the dolls against the wall on the lower side of the trailer.

“There once was a beautiful young maiden, with hair the color of the sun and eyes the blue of the clear summer sky. She was a very happy girl. The boys would come calling, asking her to go for walks along the river or to the amusement park to ride the ferris wheel where they would try to steal a kiss, and sometimes, depending on the boy, she would let them.

One day, when she had grown to be less a girl and more a young woman, came one who had grown to be more man than boy and asked her to go dancing with him for the evening. They danced all night and kept on dancing day after day, year after year until the war called him away. She cried herself to sleep every night, praying between the sobs for her love to come back to her.”

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Before she went on with the story, the old woman, teetering forward with a twisted walker scavenged from a dumpster behind the hospital, stopped at the doorway of her utility trailer house, lowered herself to the floor where she dangled her feet outside and listened to the music for a moment before continuing.

“The young woman was with child, but neither she nor her man had known before he left. When the baby came, he was not well. She nursed him and kept him warm and safe, but there was no money for the doctor nor for medicine, and when the tiny infant died, there was no money for a funeral nor a grave. No one had money in those days, and her aged parents could not help. She carried her dead child to the church and lay him on the steps where the nuns would find him in the morning. The young woman walked away crying, Oh, my baby. Oh, my baby. She waited for her man to come home, but when he did, he also was dead. But at least he had a funeral and a grave.”

The old woman turned back to her babies, tears following the deep creases and folds in her face. "Oh, my babies, each one of you is the baby I lost, and I gave you life after you were left on the streets and in the alleys and in trash cans. I did give you life again, didn’t I?"

There was a stirring in the trailer behind her, but the old woman was not alarmed, rather, she was comforted when one by one, the faceless rag doll, the bunny with one floppy ear and all the other filthy and disfigured moppets limped and dragged themselves to her, crying mama, mama, mama. They sat with her at the back of the trailer and listened to the evening music.

Comments

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on August 30, 2016:

Thank you, Audry. I'm glad you found this little story and enjoyed it.

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on August 24, 2016:

Such a heart-wrenching story. So vivid and very touching. Poor soul. I feel her pain and her loss. Very well done!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 14, 2016:

Shauna, I was part of a startup of another writing site. I have since decided to remain only on HP so I am bringing all my stories back here. As I move the stories back, I am rewriting everything to reflect the growth of my writing ability. In the next few months I'll be publishing a collection of short stories and short short stories (aka flash fiction). So yes, this is a slightly updated version of the original. And it really isn't very old. Just a few months.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on July 14, 2016:

Chris, I swear I've read this before and commented, but I don't see my comment. Have you rewritten a previous version?

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on June 28, 2016:

Deb, yes, I put it here first, then took it to another site. Now it is here to stay while I prepare for publishing some of my short stories.

Deb Hirt on June 26, 2016:

I recall reading this one before.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on June 18, 2016:

MizBejabbers, Thank you for reading my story. Your comment is a appreciated

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on June 18, 2016:

Great piece of flash fiction. Loved the magical ending.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on June 18, 2016:

manatita, Thank you for the Fathers' Day wishes. Little ones? No, they are grown now and are the pride of my life. Thank you for reading and for commenting on this story. I'll take a look at that poetry if you have some here.

manatita44 from london on June 18, 2016:

A work of genius, Bro. I did not see the ending coming. So Beautiful! Funny it reminded me of my poems ...that ability to give life to things; to make them real somehow ...much Kudos to you, Bro. Higher blessings and should you have young 'uns, a great Father's Day Tomorrow!

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on June 18, 2016:

thanks that was genuine and kind...

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on June 18, 2016:

Frank, I appreciate you taking time to read the story and for your very, very kind comment. Let's keep filling this site with good fiction. It's still the best venue I have found. Your stories have gained what appears to be a sizable and loyal audience, and my hat is off to you as a writer of high quality fiction on the web.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on June 18, 2016:

Cam.. wow.. you just blew me away.. your level of writing is beyond just story telling. it is remarkable

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on June 17, 2016:

Larry, I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on June 17, 2016:

Bill, I like to work in the chill factor whenever possible. Thanks for the comment.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on June 17, 2016:

Ruby, yes, it was here for a while. I moved it elsewhere and brought it back. Glad you liked it the second time around.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on June 17, 2016:

Great read!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 17, 2016:

A little chilling at the end but I happen to like chilling. You told this well but that's no surprise.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on June 17, 2016:

You had this story on HP before. I loved it....

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on June 17, 2016:

Venkatachari M, I moved this story to another site for a while. Now I want to bring it back to hp. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 17, 2016:

Well that was extremely well done. But it was kind of like a car wreck that you drive by and cannot help but look at the tragedy. The writing alluring but the message depressing.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on June 17, 2016:

Very interesting story with some excitement. But, it seems I have read it already on your pages many months back. I don't remember exactly.