Monday, November 12, 2007

Red Mask in the Mailbox

Red Mask in the Mailbox
by Chris Griffith

Chapter 6, Exclamation Point

Joe and Margie Trimpton lived in a duplex in Vinton, Virginia the year Thomas was born. Joe had been working for Norfolk and Western Railway. They had moved into the small yellow apartment with brown trim two years before Thomas was born.

Thomas was born on a cold night in November. There was an early snow, about a half inch deep, enough to stick to the roads and make them slick.

After dinner, Margie drifted off to sleep with Walter Kronkite on the tube. She thought of the baby she carried and prayed the war would end.

Joe stood on the back porch and watched snowflakes. A few flurries sputtered but accumulation was minimal.

He heard his wife call for help. He pulled the sliding glass door, but it was stuck. “Good gravy…” Joe peered in through the foggy glass and saw the green vinyl couch. On television, Archie Bunker sat in his favorite chair and clicked his remote control.

“Joe…Help!” She yelled. “I think it’s time for the baby!”

He ran around the house, slipped and fell on the ice. His teeth connected with the frozen front porch steps and pain shot through his mouth. Fresh blood spilled on the snow.

He tried the front door. It was locked.

“Joe…what in the world are you doing?” She cried from inside the house.

“I’m coming Honey,” he said. “Just hold on!”

He jumped through the holly bush, placed both hands flat onto the window, and pushed up.

The window slipped open and he slid inside. He glided across the television set and heard Archie yell at “Meathead.”

Margie looked at the blood on Joe’s faced and screamed. “It’s all right Honey,” he said, as blood sprayed between his teeth.

He ran over to the front door, flung it open, and cool air rushed inside.

He slipped Margie’s shoes on, lifted her off the couch, grabbed her robe, and put it around her.

He led her out to the car and almost fell again. He helped her into the car, shut the door, skidded to the other side, and got in.

The front door stood wide open. Inside he heard Archie and Edith on television yelling at one another. “Boy…I hope I don’t turn out like that when I get old,” he muttered to himself, as he skidded up the slick sidewalk.

He grabbed Margie’s suitcase and a small teddy bear that sat on the mantle. A few weeks before, Joe had been at Kmart and saw the teddy-bear. He bought it and planned to give it to the baby on the night of its birth. He had almost forgotten it. He stuffed the bear into his back pocket and locked the door.

The baby was born at 11:47PM on November 8, 1970.

“I want to see him,” Joe said, unable to contain a grin.

“Joe the first thing that I want to tell you is that the baby is healthy,” the doctor said.

“Well you’ve already told me that, Doc,” Joe said. “Now can I go see him?”

“Joe, listen,” the doctor said. He put a hand on Joe’s shoulder. “I told you the baby was healthy, but there’s something else...”

“What is it?” Joe asked, as he looked the doctor.

“Joe…the baby has a…well…he has a birthmark.”


“Let’s just go see him, okay?” The doctor asked.

Joe looked into a window and saw twenty little beds, all full of babies. A name tag with blue writing hung on each one. He scanned each bed until he found the name Trimpton. He stared at the baby for a long time and tears welled in his eyes. “I don’t care,” he said. “I love him, and he’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”

At first glance, the baby looked normal to Joe, but as he looked closer, he saw the child’s face. It was a scarlet birthmark; a port wine stain, some folks called it. It stretched diagonally from above his left eyebrow to the bottom right of his mouth. Below his bottom right lip there was a single red blot. It looked like an exclamation point.

Joe reached into his back pocket and pulled out the Teddy Bear. He placed it against the cold glass and wiggled it back and forth.

“He’s looking at me Doc, do you see that? He’s looking at me! Oh man, ain’t life great?”
The doctor saw tears run down Joe Trimpton’s face. The tears had been no different than other fathers’ when they looked into the eyes of their own flesh and blood for the first time.

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