Shoot the Baby, a Toby Moment

"There is no happiness that is not idleness and only what is useless is pleasurable."—Anton Chekhov
The baby cried and cried and cried. And cried. 

What I like to do is sleep. I’m a ten-hour man. I can go twelve. Plus my afternoon nap.

Activity? Sports? Racing cars? I think those are admirable things, and I’m certainly willing to watch. But for me, sleep. Gluttony, drunkenness, and sleep. Sex. I’m lying here beside Marcie. So convenient. And afterwards? Sleep.

But I couldn’t sleep. The baby was crying. And crying. And crying.

It wasn’t my baby. It was on the ground floor of the hotel. It’s mommy had left it out on the terrace. I got up and went to the balcony. Dawn. No time to be awake. The sea, the beach, the baby. I watched it cry.

A knock at the door. “Toby?” Marcie shifted in her sleep. I put on a robe and unlocked for Toad, a mean-faced little guy and my occasional sidekick. I need someone like him around to make me look even taller, even handsomer, if such a thing can be imagined. 

He barged past me to the balcony and looked down at the baby. Real rich. I don’t know who’s richer, him or Marcie. The question doesn’t much occupy me. Used to be a ladies man until he got sucker-punched and married a teenager who despises him. Locks her legs against him, the very legs that had drawn him in. Says things like “Just, go crazy and die, Toad.” 

He couldn’t sleep either. Waaaaaaaaa! Waaaaaaaaa! Waaaaaaaaa! “I’m gonna kill it.”

“What, drop something on it?”

He took out a gun. “I’m gonna shoot it.”

“Shoot it?”

“I’m gonna shoot the fuckin’ thing.”

“It’ll make a noise, Toad.”

He screwed on a silencer and pointed it at the baby. 

“Not from my balcony, Toad, they trace that kind of thing.”

He turned and went out. In the hall he picked up a suitcase.

“What’s that for, Toad?”

“The body.” He hurried to the stairs and I, intrigued, followed. I mean the idea had a certain merit, when you thought about it.

“I don’t see how I can do this in good conscience, Toad.” I don’t see how I can do anything in good conscience.

We came out of the hotel and confronted the baby. It was in a hooded cradle. Waaaaaaaaa!

No mommy, no daddy, nobody else was up. Toad opened the suitcase, then picked up the baby with that cowardly delicacy, that trembling fear with which one handles a baby, if at all. Supporting its head with one hand as if holding a bomb he conveyed it into the suitcase, closed it and locked it with solid snaps. A muffled waaaaaaaaa reached us, as from a ventriloquist’s dummy. 

“What now, Toad? Gonna throw it off a bridge? There are no bridges around here, Toad.”

He looked around and his eye fell on a beach toy, sort of a mini surfboard. “Grab that,” he said.

“Fuck off, Toad. I’m not carrying any murder weapons for you. This was your idea!” The rich. They think everybody’s their staff.

He picked up the suitcase and hefted it—Waaaaaaaa!—managed to get the board under his other arm and set off across the sand toward the shore, I behind him at a detached distance.

When he got there he put everything down, arranged the surfboard so it could be launched with a kick, opened the suitcase—the baby had become interested in this and had ceased, for the moment, to scream—lifted it out and placed it on the board.

“I’ve heard this story, Toad. Someone will find it, and it will grow up and lead a religious revolution.”

He nudged it out to sea a little but the waves were of a strength that the thing almost tipped, which would have left the little corpse too close to home.

He dragged it ashore and started digging in the sand with his hands. “I’m gonna bury it.”

The baby now opened its mouth, displaying the tender vulnerability of its pink palate, by which, however, we were entirely unmoved.

“Just shoot it, Toad. That’s what we’re here for, to shoot the baby. Shoot the fuckin’ baby!”

But no, Toad kept digging. “This way it looks like an accident.”

“What are you going to do with the blanket?”

“Put it in the garbage.”

“The police will find it. I’m going back to bed, Toad. I can’t be a witness.”

He stood up, exhausted by his efforts. “OK, we’ll put it back in the cradle and smother it with the blanket. No one will know.”

“‘We’ are not doing anything, Toad. I’m just here to give evidence.”

He looked at life. “Fuck,” he said. He stepped out of the hole, picked up the baby, picked up the suitcase, abandoned the surfboard and trudged back toward the hotel, I faithfully at his side.

“I’m just going to film you with my phone, Toad.” He paid no attention. “Is it a girl child or a boy child, Toad?”

“It’s a blue blanket, you idiot, it’s a boy!”

“I just wanted to know.”

“Fuck off.”

Across the sand a woman hurried anxiously toward us. The mother. One sees these things. She held her arms out and Toad delivered into them the stolen baby.

“You were sleeping,” he said.

“We love the baby,” I said.

“We were trying to get him calmed down,” he said.

“Her,” she said. 

“Yeah, whatever.”

“I’m afraid she’s very noisy,” she said.

“It’s all right,” I said. I looked at Toad. We had failed.

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