Baby Albert reaches through the bars of his crib and grabs the remote control. Universal remote, it reads across the top in black letters. This makes him laugh. Baby Albert reaches through the crib bars again, turns off the volume on the Graco monitor. Why do they feel the need to listen to every breath of mine, every tiny fart? He settles into a pile of plush toys in the corner of his crib and hits the universal power button. Again, he laughs. As if the universe could be controlled. Everything pops on at once — TV, DVR, Bluetooth speakers. The baby sighs. Same goddamned DVD. Always Baby Einstein — classical music, bunnies, ballerinas. Disgusted, he drops the universal remote and stares as the crib’s mattress seems to bend and mold itself around the spot where the remote first hits, and then contracts back as if the ripple had never existed or the mattress hadn’t expanded for that fraction of a second. Had he really seen it? Heard it? Damn it! If he had left the Graco monitor on, maybe his parents would have heard it too. Perhaps they would have enough grey matter to understand what it is that he now understands — the fluidity of space, the way it can warp under the influence of gravity.
When his mother walks into the nursery, she is confused. She doesn’t remember turning on the DVD. She doesn’t understand how Albert could have gotten hold of the universal remote, or why he keeps dropping it and picking it back up. Drop. Pick up. Why he always looks at her as if he thinks she’s stupid.
The baby drops the remote one last time. She doesn’t get it, he thinks. I must explain. He cries out. He is surprised at his lack of words, his inability to do anything but wail.
Michele Finn Johnson’s stories and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Colorado Review, Mid-American Review, DIAGRAM, The Adroit Journal, SmokeLong Quarterly, Split Lip Magazine, and elsewhere. Her nonfiction won an AWP Intro Journals Project Award. Her work was twice nominated for the 2016 Best of the Net. Michele lives in Tucson and is working on a creative nonfiction collection. More at michelefinnjohnson.com; @m_finn_johnson.
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