It sure has been awhile since I've written a #fridayflash. Jon Strother inspired me this week, by including a previous flash piece of mine in the next BOFF. Since my last time here, I've had a couple more published pieces. Check out Dead Calm: Best New England Crime Stories, a yearly anthology published by Level Best Books, and Uncle John's Bathroom Reader presents Flush Fiction, which includes a story that originally appeared on this blog as a #fridayflash. I'll be seeing you around, as I try to catch up on some flash reading.
Midwife Sarah deftly cleaned, swaddled and then laid the newborn on the new mom's chest. The new dad sniffled and wiped his eyes. Sarah loved those first moments of a new family; the expressions of sheer joy and wonder. She'd be attending to another birth when the expression of oh-shit-what-do-we-do-now paralyzed the new parents smiles.
"She's here now," Sarah said. "Do you have a name?"
The new father smiled at his wife. "Whatever you decide, Laurel. Isn't she beautiful?"
"You've got to be kidding." Sarah slapped both hands over her mouth, embarrassed she'd blurted out her first thought.
said. "She can be whomever she wants to be, without any prejudice. She'll
stand out from the Courtneys and Kaitlyns and Brittanys and Megs.
"Huh. Original," Sarah said.
"We think so." The new dad kissed the newborn's head. "Welcome to the world, Little Jane Doe."
Both parents "aww"-ed at the infant's first cries.
Baby Jane Doe was inconsolable for two full days.
# # #
Kevin didn't know how to get rid of the young mother and her shrieking daughter. He felt for the woman—she had steamer trunks under her eyes. Lack of sleep messed with people. That probably explained her blouse—inside out and buttoned wrong. He didn't know if he should point that out or let her next encounter with a mirror show her. Hell, between finals and this morgue internship, he was surprised he found the right buttonholes.
The tyke hit that pitch that made Kevin's toes curl. One more Tigger, god help him, he'd spank the brat. "Mrs. Doe, I can't let your daughter near the bodies."
"I don't want her in there either. But I don't know what else to do! She's not going to stop until we figure out who your Jane Doe is. I know you think we're crazy, but...but, my Jane...."
Laurel stopped and swiped
her cheek. "Jane! Stop screeching."
"Lady, the body is naked. And she's not in, how shall I say, viewing condition."
"Something. Anything. Please."
Kevin shook his head.
"Do you want to find out who that woman is or not? Someone is missing their daughter, or sister, or, or...."
Laurel stopped. "Something
to do with Tigger is on that body. My daughter has done this before."
"Really." Kevin couldn't help the sarcasm. A two-year-old identified Jane Does. Next, someone would tell him beer regenerated brain cells.
"Jane Doe was brought here with nothing. A permanent retainer on her bottom teeth, a callus on her lip, and that's it." He stared pointedly at Mrs. Doe. "We'll get an orthodontist's opinion, not a child's."
The little Jane screeched louder and hopped. "Tigger! Shirt!"
"Go home, get some sleep." Kevin picked up the phone. "Or I'm calling security."
The child stilled. She pointed at Kevin's hand. "School," she said.
Kevin looked at his class ring. "Yes, school."
"No, Cornell." Kevin dialed.
said to Kevin. "She means your Jane Doe. Tigger school...wait." Laurel tapped her lower
lip. "Why would someone have a lip callus? Kissing...biting...come on. You
help with autopsies and such, right?"
"Never mind," Kevin said into the mouthpiece, then hung up the phone. The woman was right—it was a clue. "Musician. Some trumpet players get lip calluses."
"Could your Jane Doe be a musician? In college?"
Little Jane yawned, then said, "Tigger shirt. Tigger school." She put her thumb in her mouth, then blew.
Kevin snapped his fingers. "
They're the Tigers, orange and black. Do you think...."
asked, then yawned.
Kevin dug in his pocket for his phone. He searched for
Princeton images, showed them to Mrs. Doe. She picked up
her daughter. "Jane? Is this right?"
Little Jane shook her head. Kevin scrolled, waited for Jane's reaction, scrolled again. She touched the screen when he stopped on a picture of the marching band wearing rugby shirts.
"Call the University,"
Laurel said. "See if their band is
missing a trumpet player."
She picked up her daughter. Jane laid her head on her mother's shoulder, almost immediately fell asleep.
"Where are you going?" Kevin asked. "We have to call the authorities, report this...."
"You report it. No one will believe a two-year-old identified a body,"
said, then stifled a yawn. "Let's get you home, sweet Jane."
"Mrs. Doe?" Kevin held the door open. "How?"
"Because I named her Jane Doe."
"No, really, how did this happen?"
Kevin scratched his head. "I don't get it."
"So my little girl becomes Jane Doe. Every nameless one."