is an online magazine of the literary arts.

2 March 2002 | Vol. 2, No. 1

The Party

The party ended when someone threw the baby in through the window. Drinks were spilled, and there was shouting. My wife let slip a tray of garlic mushroom caps that plopped wetly, like dark sponges, and got away across the dining room's hardwood floor. The voice of Nat King Cole was playing on the stereo. We were startled by the blunt clap of the impact and the tinkling rain of glass. Because the object was wrapped in a cocoon of blanket, we didn't know what it was. It had landed without a distinct sound of its own on the living-room carpet.

No one knew what to think. There was a silence as we stared at the bundle, as still as a pillow and surrounded by glinting shards. Someone had the presence of mind to make a familiar accusation, that neighborhood kids had simply played a holiday prank and that the oblong missile was a football or several stones or—someone then said—a bomb. Vicki Pisarek, our neighbor, shrieked at the suggestion and, by example, led other guests in a charge into the kitchen. Someone turned off the stereo. I set my wine on the upright piano. Grinding bits of glass into the carpet as we went, Carl McNitt, Guy Gladych, Stephen Iafano, and I walked over to it.

Carl suddenly dashed to the dining room, grabbed a serving tray off the buffet table, and tracked stepped-on mushrooms back into the living room.

Guy had gone to the broken window. It had been snowing lightly but wasn't any longer. Cold wind laced with car exhaust rushed in through the hole. It was an older house, and we'd never added screens. Our neighborhood in Hamtramck, Michigan, was tightly packed, surrounded by Detroit, modest, historic, wary of change because change had so often been a euphemism for the economic and social decline that urban immigrant neighborhoods tended to suffer. Only four or five families on our street had made the effort to string holiday lights on their trees and shrubs. "I don't see anyone," Guy said. "But it's dark. They're probably long gone."

Carl dropped the serving tray on the carpet, and I knelt on it and peeled away the layers of blue blanket. Some layers were pinned with safety pins, and I had to work at pressing and releasing the little jaws, which slipped under my fingers. I pricked myself, drawing blood, and I thought I heard the baby whimper.

"Goddamn it," said Stephen, gripping my shoulder and peering into the child's face. His breath smelled of white wine. "It's a baby. Shit."

"A baby?" Carl ran to the front door and, hesitating for only a moment, ran outside.

We waited. I checked the baby's face, the skull, but I wasn't a doctor, and I didn't want to risk unwrapping the baby completely. I kept looking toward the front door.

"Alive?" Stephen asked.

"Oh. Yeah," I said. "Well." I opened the vent of the blanket wider so Stephen could see for himself. "I guess. I mean, there's no blood. That's mine. The only blood is mine. But we should call a doctor. I don't want to move the baby too much. You never know."

"I'm going to check on Carl," Guy said. Guy let the storm door bang shut, its panes shaking in the aluminum frame.

"You'd have to throw a baby pretty hard to get it through a double-paned window," said Stephen.

"People leave babies on doorsteps," I said.

"Somebody had to get up close to the house," said Stephen. "Somebody had to wind up and fucking throw as hard as they-Christ. What the fuck is going on?"