The only good thing about Radin County is the bus out of here. But that only comes every other day. And it costs six quid just to get to the nearest anywhere anyway. That’s two hours wages, and then two more home again to make it back to work. I bloody hate working in the post office. All those letters coming and going. There are bits of paper with more exciting lives, better travelled, seen more than me. I heard the prime minister on the radio the other day, she was talking about something or other, and all I could think was outside of Radin, people DO things. Women DO things. And I shut off my radio because it made me bitter. But then it’s always so bloody quiet around here.
I was sitting there staring at the birthday cards on the stand, when Jonah, (Radin’s answer to a village idiot) stomps his muddy boots right up to my till and tells me I’ve got to come outside Right Now. Knowing Jonah it’s probably some baby bird fell out of its nest, or some dead hedgehog. He’s always creeping about with things like that. But he seems like this is urgent so considering nothing much at all is happening in here, (it never is), I go out after him. I get out there and I can’t see what he’s looking at. “What, Jonah?” I ask him.
“Look” he says, pointing at the passenger seat of his land rover. It’s a picnic basket. “I’m working,” I say, even though there’s been no one in all day. I’m just glad to see a moving thing, even if it is Jonah. “Look inside!” he says. I’m not sure I want to. I mean, it’s Jonah; he once brought a dead dog for my Dad to look at. It had been dead three days. I tread forward carefully.
“What’s in there I ask?” he doesn’t say anything, he just keeps looking at the basket, but I’m no coward, so I edge forward and open the car door. I hear a little noise come from the basket and whatever it is, it’s still breathing. I open the lid and there’s a curled up little baby in there, all shut up in the dark. It looks up at me like I’m someone it knows, and I shut the lid again. Because I don’t actually believe that Jonah just brought me a baby.
I open the lid again and take out the baby so it can get some clean air and a stretch. I lift the baby up onto my hip and sooth it.
I ask Jonah, “where did the baby come from”.
“It was in the basket” he says like that explains it.
“Where did you get the basket?” I try.
“It’s my mother’s” he says. Jonah’s mother has been dead years. Everybody knows he lives out on Bander Farm with his dad; it’s just the two of them and the cattle out there.
“Who’s baby is this?” I try again. I shift the weight of the baby onto my other hip, (it’s a fat, healthy one) and try looking at Jonah to extract some kind of helpful answer from him. But this has stumped him and he’s taking his time, so I look to the baby and try to think.
It’s one of those really, really, bald babies. It’s got big green eyes. I peer into it’s nappy. That’s got to come off regardless. I don’t know how the baby isn’t howling; he’s carrying all that shit around. I carry it into the post office and strip off the nappy right there in the little toilet out the back. So the ‘it’ is a ‘he’. I have to tip the nappy out over the toilet, wipe him off, and put the nappy back on, it’s not like there’s much else to put round him. Nothing about this convinces me that I’m suddenly the maternal type. Well I got him back to all right, but who in the hells baby is he?
I look round and Jonah hasn’t followed me in. Once I’ve got the baby cleaned up, I pop him back on my hip, and take him outside, but Jonah is half way down the road now, just walking along. His land rover is still parked outside; the door is still open onto the picnic basket. He’s always wandering off.
I’m standing there holding the baby but I’m not sure what to do with him. I don’t know what to do with babies at all. He seems content, probably just glad for some attention by now I guess, and I’m just thinking what to do with him when Terry comes in. He’s Radin’s postman. Terry is round, and has a moustache. He’s a nice guy, in his forties, and I just know there’s some joke working its way through his head right now about some delivery he didn’t expect, or some shit about the fastest arrival he’s ever heard of.
He looks at me and opens his mouth “DONT” I say, and he raises his eyebrows like he wasn’t going to say a thing. “Jonah’s just been by” I sigh, “who the hell’s baby is this he’s left me with? I think Jonah must have found it somewhere.”
“It?” exclaims Terry. “Poor baby, Nanette doesn’t love you, does she? Poor baby. Come to me then. You’re a handsome little lad aren’t you? There we go.” I don’t even know how he can tell it’s a boy. Babies look mostly the same, right?
I’ve never seen anything that made Terry go so soft. I look at him questioningly.
“We’ll it doesn’t matter where he came from does it? Everybody just wants a little love”
“It kind of does matter a little bit, Terry. What in shitting hell are we supposed to do with him?” He must sense my weariness.
“I’ll go take him home if you want, Jane can sort it all out. You don’t seem the maternal type, if you don’t mind me saying.”
“I’m only nineteen; I haven’t even been to London yet. I’m not supposed to be maternal!” I must sound a bit irritable but I hate being reminded that I’m expected to stay here and become my parents and raise another dead-end girl. I want to go to Seattle and smoke with Kurt Cobain. No one in this time-forsaken town has even heard of them. It’s 1989! There’s a whole world, and the person who seems to know exactly how I feel is far away on the other side of it. I would take a dead-end job anywhere else in the world; I’m just scared I’ll be stuck in Radin County till I die. The baby looks at me like he knows I’m desperate. I guess even he pities me. Fuck man. I look away, I don’t need a baby feeling sorry for me.
No one else will come in this afternoon, I know every face in Radin, and their daily routines, hell I know their family trees. I close up early, non one else will come in by today. Terry takes the baby home to his wife, and I go home to pack a bag and get the hell onto the next bus out. I don’t even mind where it’s going to take me- out of Radin is good enough for me.