Fifty-two, the number of steps from the living room to the kitchen, to the main bedroom, to the baby’s room and back again. Twenty-four, the number of times she has walked it tonight. Seven hundred, the number of bounces on the yoga ball in the baby’s room. Sixty-seven, the number of times she’d rocked the baby on the same ball until he finally fell asleep.

To get him from the ball to the cot required getting up smoothly and laying him down, first his feet, then his body and finally, oh so gently, his head. Do it any other way and the startle reflex would wake him, and he’d be screaming bloody murder again before she managed to tip toe out of his room.

Tyra sat quietly holding him for another ten counts before rocking forward. Too hard. Instead of smoothly coming to stand, her momentum carries her forward and she somehow lands on her knees.

Oh crap.

Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, she repeats as she topples forward, choosing to lift her hands and baby Lenny above her head. The floor smacks her on the right cheek. It stings. It will probably turn blue. But Tyra doesn’t care, the baby hasn’t made a sound. Cautiously she lifts her head and looks at him. Still asleep. Thank you, Jesus.

On hands and knees as if in prayer, she weighs her options. Part of her just wants to stay in that position. Lenny would need a feed in three to four hours anyway and then she could just transfer him to the cot. Once the witching hour was over, he would sleep easily if you weren’t late with his feeds.

For someone who had clocked a whooping sixteen thousand steps – a personal best - with a screaming baby in her arms, staying on her knees with a sleeping Lenny for four hours, almost sounded like a vacation.

But no, she needed to do the washing, the house was a mess. Who knew just feeding, changing, and rocking a little person, would be this much work. Before going on maternity leave, she had envisioned days of deep cleaning the kitchen, unpacking the last of the boxes, and finally turning the small apartment into a home.

She wiggled her butt closer to her arms and looked up into a man’s face. Tyra nearly screamed. If she hadn’t met the monster that was colic, she would have too. Or passed out. As it was, she only peed herself. A little.

Then her over tired brain connected the dots, and she let go of the breath she was holding. Silently. It was only a picture. Why there would be a picture of some old white dude under the baby’s crib, she had no idea, maybe it came with the apartment or Leonard had picked it up and kept it for some reason.

She didn’t know and she didn’t care. It was going, the moment she was back on her feet. The thing nearly gave her a heart attack. But the baby was still asleep. She got back on her knees and carefully to her feet. She placed the baby down. Please and thank you Jesus, she prayed. He slept.

Once he was down, she swept up the picture and carefully retreated from the room. The baby didn’t wake. In the kitchen, Tyra looked at the picture. The guy was old. He had dark circles under his eyes. Pitch black eyes. She wasn’t superstitious, but he gave her the creeps.

She crumpled up the picture and pushed it into the garbage bin, before promptly forgetting about him as she started on the washing. She was two minutes into sorting baby clothes and underwear when she heard a wail.

Number of times she’d sworn silently tonight – she’d lost count. Number of times, she’d sworn silently since hearing the word colic for the first time – she was probably going to hell. In his room she picked Lenny up, the litany of swearwords in her head, not making a difference in her tone of voice as she gently shushed him.

She swayed, she rocked, she swaddled him. She did every one of those bloody five s’. Nothing worked. She started walking again. At twenty-four, she thought she detected a hitch in the crying, and she sat down on the ball.

Around bounce number two hundred and thirty-three her eye caught something, and her heart nearly stopped. Again. Something was sticking out behind the crib. She kept bouncing, never taking her eyes of the piece of paper. For the first time in weeks, she forgets to count.

When Lenny’s hands relaxed, just slightly, she started to rock. She picked up the count again, came to sixty-seven and he was asleep. She kept rocking and steadied herself carefully before attempting to stand. This time she did not loose her balance. She put the baby down, absently patting his bottom, until she was sure he was under and then she bends and pulls out the piece of paper.

She nearly screamed again. Same old guy. Same creepy eyes. And the paper was crumpled, like it had been thrown in the garbage and then smoothed out. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up. She was sleep deprived. She probably imagined throwing him out.

You are going outside, she told him silently as she opened the front door, walk the three steps to the big trashcan, tore the picture in two and dumped it. She was almost back inside when she heard the baby cry again. Shit. She laid him down too soon. Amateur mistake.

She didn’t bother with the swaying and the rocking. Tyra just went straight for walking. Twenty-four rounds. Seven hundred bounces. Sixty-seven rocks. Baby asleep. All the while her eyes searched around the crib. There was no picture. Just her imagination. She started to breath easier. Until she wanted to lay Lenny down.

The picture was on his blanket. The eyes boring into hers. This time she did scream. Just a short wheeze, though, not enough to wake up Lenny. She retreated with the baby in her arms, Leonard would have a fit tomorrow when he came in from night shift and found the kid in their bedroom, but she did not care.

She placed the sleeping baby down, even in her stressed state, she remembered feet first, then body, then head. He slept. She rested her hands lightly on his tiny body for exactly fifty counts. Her mind was strangely calm. When he was still asleep after fifty counts, she tuned on her heel and went into Lenny’s room.

A part of her though there would be nothing on the blankets. Maybe her tired brain had dreamt the whole thing up. But lo and behold, the creepy picture guy was there waiting for her. Now, she could see he had just the faintest hint of a smile on his lips. A cruel smile.

Tyra didn’t think, she picked up the picture and marched to the kitchen. There were matches in the cupboard. Not in my baby’s room, she silently told him as she took the picture outside and set it alight. It burnt quickly. She fetched the broom and swept the ashes into the street.

Lenny was crying when she reached the front door. She picked him up, cradling him close and started walking. More to sooth her own nerves than to calm him down now. She didn’t go into the nursery. She kept strictly to living room, the kitchen and the main bedroom.

This meant less steps, only forty-two and she had to do it thirty times. There was no ball to bounce on, so she continued walking. Another thirty rounds. Then she stood and swayed in the main bedroom. Eighty-five times. When she wanted to lay him down on her side of the bed, she nearly dropped him.

The picture was there. The ends scorched as if it had burned. The middle stuck together with a piece of sticky tape. Crumpled like it had been thrown in the trash. She turned on her heel, going into the baby’s room and placed Lenny in his crib. For once she didn’t care about feet first.

He did startle a little, but he was so tired, he didn’t wake, and she kept her hand on him for seven counts before quietly leaving the room. In her bedroom, he stared at the picture for a long time. The mouth really looked like it was smiling.

She picked the thing up by one scorched corner and walked decisively to the bathroom. She considered taking a dump on him. See how you liked that, mister smiley face, but Tyra knew her bowels would not work. So, she tore the picture in a ten even pieces. Then she threw it down the toilet.

She considered the bathroom, went into the bedroom and came out with her Bible and placed it on top of the toilet. Then she waited. And waited.

Ten minutes went by, Lenny did not wake up. Twenty minutes, no screams from the next room. Thirty minutes. She went out and checked on the baby. He really was still asleep. His little chest moved up and down, his rosebud mouth sucking in his sleep. Her heart melted.

She went back into the bathroom and lifted the toilet lid. The pieces of paper had become a mushy mess, yet somehow an eye still floated up and stared at her with malice. She had the Bible in her hand, just in case.

“You have a choice.” she whispered into the bowl. “You can go somewhere else, or you can come back and this time, I’ll tear you up, and put you in this Bible and bury you outside, where you will stay for the next thousand years or so.”

Tyra didn’t know if it would work. But she said it with conviction. Because if that didn’t work, she’d find something else. Or she’d move. But this thing, wasn’t staying under one roof with her baby for even a second more. In the toilet bowl, the eye seemed to blink.

She flushed it down and waited for a wail. Nothing happened. She went into the baby’s room and placed the Bible next to his crib. You could never be too cautious. Lenny slept on. He woke four hours later, ready to feed and after finishing his milk, she burped him, and he gave his first real smile before promptly going to sleep.


Nicola Lamprecht

I'm an aspiring author from sunny South Africa and  I completed the Randomhouse Struik creative writing course a few years ago. My short story, "My first non-date" was published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, Teens Talk Highschool. When I'm not writing, I'm a photographer, accountant and mom.


  1. Loved your story! Compelling, edgy, well written. So glad it had a happy ending!

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