|Kerri Lynn Shaffer|
Jack's Accidental Protest
The doors of the Volvo slammed one by one as everyone got out to stretch their legs and see the baby. Jack opted to stay in the car, not based on his indifference to the baby, though that existed, but because this was a nicer car than he was used to and he was comfortable. Plus, he was belted in and the thought of untangling himself seemed like too much effort.
"I'm just going to hang out here," Jack called to his roommate. She looked at him puzzled for a moment, then closed her door, leaving Jack alone in the quiet hum of the recently running car. He contemplated the dashboard with a sigh of contentment, but his calm evaporated in the dry warmth of the backseat as he caught a glimpse of what was going on outside. Turned in his direction were his roommate, his roommate's sister, her husband, and in the middle of them all, looking at him with scary-genius contempt, was The Baby.
Jack waved weakly at them before realizing the windows were tinted and they couldn't see him. He felt briefly relieved before the fear set in that he was witness to something he wasn't supposed to be seeing. He was seeing people talk about him, people he trusted, people he was sure thought he was highly creative and intellectual. He couldn't read their words but he felt certain that each nod toward the Volvo, each squint into the sun expressed their distaste for him.
Jack started to sweat in the calm interior of the Volvo. Suddenly it was too quiet in the plush seats, the sun beating relentlessly through the windows despite the tint.
Was I supposed to go look at the baby? he thought wildly. Is it really that big of a deal? The others turned occasionally to glance at each other, but the baby kept his gaze locked onto Jack's. "Damn baby," Jack muttered, but he didn't really feel angry with the baby. Jack was feeling intimidated. He contemplated stepping out onto the sidewalk, sauntering up to the porch, and grabbing the baby as his brother might, strongly, interestedly, saying something like, "Hey there, who's this big fella?" He considered mentioning that he'd had to call his boss, but now could focus on the real man of the hour, this fantastic baby!
But too many minutes had passed and Jack knew any show of enthusiasm would be seen through. His friends hated him. He was misanthropic, deviant, a baby-hater. He probably hated animals, too. And art. Jack found himself getting defensive. Fuck the baby. Fuck the yards and the barbeques. This wasn't his scene. These weren't his people. He just needed to get back to the city. Back to the people who understood him.
His friends exchanged kisses and hugs as some were left and some returned to the Volvo. Jack set his mouth and turned to the window, pretending to watch the scenery but staring at his reflection instead.
Kerri Lynn Shaffer is a native Californian who has lived all over the country before returning home to reside in San Francisco, which she considers the best of all possible worlds. E-mail: kshaffer[at]academyart.edu.