Fiction: Baby A

February 16, 2018 Fiction , POETRY / FICTION

Benji Aird photo



M. M. Kaufman




When the mother became pregnant, the father refused to choose a name.

“You can’t name a fetus,” he said. “You don’t know it yet.”

She was disappointed, but recorded potential names in a notebook she kept tucked away.

Soon after giving birth, she turned to her husband and asked if he was ready to name their son now.

The father asked the nurse if they could take their baby home before deciding. “We don’t really know him yet,” he said. “What’s the rush?”

On the birth certificate, the nurse wrote Baby A.

Whenever the father looked at the tiny wrinkles on his son’s fingers or studied the length of his toes, he wondered how they would change if this baby was named Gabriel or Gus. When he thought of this baby as having a name, he saw him as having a future shaped by that name. In his unnamed son’s eyes, he saw that anything was possible. But when he looked into those eyes as the eyes of Jamal or Dominic, or any name his wife suggested, he saw doors closing. He heard cruel nicknames on the playground, saw resumés get passed over, and even imagined the name said by a future lover in bed. He felt all of the names they considered would close off a bit of life for this baby.

The mother couldn’t wait to introduce Baby A to her family and friends. She would announce it online and use his name in a hashtag. She imagined what he might do, whom he might become, and what name would suit his pursuits best. She made lists of good names for doctors, actors, professors, engineers and artists. But her husband didn’t like any of the names she suggested. For each one he had a reason why it wouldn’t work. The mother wanted to stop imagining and making lists, and start living her son’s life with him. And that started with his name.




Six weeks passed and Baby A was nameless. His mother and father fought every day. His mother read names from her notebook and his father nixed each one. He finally hid the notebook, just to get some peace he argued. The father could only see how each name would limit the baby’s future.

But he knew his son would have to be named eventually, so he strapped Baby A into his car seat, pulled the notebook from the icebox, and drove the family to the hospital.

In the car the mother read out names without taking a breath.

The father didn’t say a word.

“You’re being impossible,” she said. “There’s no magic name out there. We have to call him something.”

The father remained silent, and so when they were almost to the hospital, the mother shouted the names of anything she saw as suggestions for Baby A. “How about Tree? Or let’s name him Mailbox. Or Sidewalk!”

The father banged his fists on the steering wheel and groaned. “You’re not taking this seriously—”

“Trashcan?! Or—red light!”

Baby A sucked on his toes as the car flew through the intersection and was T-boned by a concrete mixer truck. He didn’t even cry until he heard the loud scream of the ambulance siren.

Baby A’s mother and father would never know what his adopted parents named him.






M. M. Kaufman

I currently live in New Orleans, where I am pursuing a MFA in the University of New Orleans’ Creative Writing Workshop. I have taught English as a Fulbright Scholar in Indonesia and have fiction published with Slush Pile Magazine.

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