Your father’s face has new fat at the jowls. Your mother looks up from a newspaper clipping.
“Do you remember this at all?”
There’s a picture of your baby self face in black and white. You were a fat baby.
You don’t remember anything. But your mother and headlines tell it to you.
“A crazy woman stole you in a K-mart.”
Baby fat you is clipped into a square shape and crying in a picture. The newspapers wrote it: LOCAL BABY STOLEN, THEN FOUND. These are your roots. Here’s where you came from.
“I was looking at a rack of sale jeans.”
What was fat you doing? Rolling crumbs in fingers in a stroller thinking simple baby thoughts. What was skinny mother doing? Thumbing denim. You were lost over that.
“The crazy woman stole the stroller. They locked down the whole store and every cop came from every town nearby.”
Stolen celebrity fat baby, making a splash. Your name was up in lights once. It meant something to nearby people.
“The crazy woman took you into the back of the store and hid with you behind stacks of diapers. The police took you back with guns.”
Gun barrels poking plastic diaper packages, that’s how it must’ve been. You picture it in black and white motion newspaper. What was your baby brain thinking then?
“When they brought you to me, I cried all over you and you got upset. Then you cried too.”
Did you smell the other woman and know she was not your mother? Did you try to suckle milk from an insane breast? It is possible. Your lips never knew any better.
“Afterwards the whole town celebrated.”
Did they whisper your mother unfit? Did they wonder about the price of the jeans? You do now. You want to know.
“It was harrowing.”
Where was your temporary other mother now? Does she think about how fat you were and how you smelled that day?
“We got you back, that’s what mattered.”
What is your worth versus the worth of sale jeans? Picture yourself and denim jeans measured out into gold bars and placed on scales. The heaviest weight takes your mother’s gaze. Which thing matters the most?
“No other baby was stolen like you were.”
Your fat father shakes his head, moves the new jowls.
“Not that year,” he says.
Sarah Rose Etter’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Flatmancrooked, The Collagist, PANK Magazine, elimae and others. Her chapbook, Tongue Party, will be published by Caketrain Press in Summer 2011.