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Baby's Hand: A Halloween Story
A story passed from generation to generation.
The mourners processed one by one by the coffin. Such a young girl; not even five years old. Immediately their attention would be torn by the wails from the grieving mother sitting in the foyer.
"Susie, she's inconsolable." The friend tried to explain, "Adelaide, you can't blame her, she was her Baby. They took the mother out of here about an hour ago in the hopes that if she didn't see the body she would regain some peace." Susie had her hand on the edge of the coffin and as she finished talking she felt a little hand touch her own.
"Adelaide..." she whispered to her friend. "Adelaide, did you put her hand on the edge of the coffin?" Adelaide had seen how the hand went up all by itself to rest next to Susie's hand. "No. She did that," pointing to the dead body. Both women stepped back quickly and trying to keep the sacred silence undisturbed rushed to their respective husbands and whispered the event to them.
Ted, Susie's husband, advanced and felt the little girl's wrist looking for a pulse. He could not find one. He searched around her neck for a stronger sign and again found none. The body was cold and stiff. He could not explain how her hand was so flexible. He gently placed it back over the little girl's other hand. Her mother had kept the dead body with her two days before the father arrived from a business trip to witness the horror of his insane wife and dead child. Ted knew the child could not still be alive.
As Ted turned away from the coffin he met Susie's paled stare at something behind him. She couldn't speak. Ted once again turned to find Baby's hand had left its assigned position to rest on the coffin's side.
Adelaide rushed to the little girl's side as if she were her own and in tears spoke, "Oh my pumpkin, are you alive?" Susie jumped and hushed Adelaide's strange plea, "Adelaide, the child is dead. We don't want to cause more pain to her mother. She'll never regain her sanity!"
This time Ted was not so willing to touch the child's body, but he knew he had to try and verify if she was indeed dead. He once again placed the tiny hand over the other. "Get my stethoscope from the trunk of the car, Susie." "Yes, dear." He sternly emphasized to Susie, "But do it quietly." As she left she enunciated her mantra, "Yes, dear" hoping to find some courage there. Ted was an emergency medical technician and had witnessed many strange accidents and improvements, but three days post mortem was not in the books.
"Ted?" Adelaide was staring at the body once again. "Adelaide, please, don't tell me..." Slowly she responded, "The hand, Ted. It's out again."
"Excuse me, excuse me." Susie made her way through the crowd into the foyer and only inches from the door the mother of the little girl called out in sobs and grabbed her by the arm, "Susie, my darling. You came! I didn't see you before. I haven't seen you since my Baby played with your little Charles. Remember? Where are you going?" Susie nearly broke free, but the grip was too strong. "Sweetie, I'm stepping out just for a moment. I'll be back..."
"Did you know that my Baby had a heart condition the doctors didn't diagnose? They said it was a heart attack that killed her." Susie couldn't take all this emotion so she saw a way out, "Ted asked me to get his stethoscope. I must go. I'll be back."
"What does Ted need his stethoscope for, Susie? Is someone ill? I must see to it." Susie realized her excuse to escape caused precisely what Ted asked her not to do.
"Sweetie, come back!" It was too late. The mother entered the viewing room to find the hand, once more, resting on the coffin's edge. "Is this some sick joke?" she said loudly attracting a crowd.
Ted approached her, "No. We don't understand, but the hand keeps coming... out." The mother returned his comment with a blank stare for a few seconds. "This is what they taught you in school? 'I don't know, so I make up stories?'"
She turned to the little girl and held her hand between hers. She kissed it and returned it inside the coffin. Her mind was suddenly transported to two days past when her joyful little Baby had wanted to help her do laundry and while the mother was not looking Baby placed one deep dark blue towel in the washer filled with the best white linen they owned. She didn't scold the child. Instead, she controlled her anger and told her to go to a corner. But, Baby had other plans and she yelled back, "No!" and slapped her mom across the face. Again, Baby was not corrected and the mother locked herself in her room crying tears of anger and confusion. It was at this instant that her child's heart gave out.
The viewing room now filled to capacity as those who followed the mother in passed the news to others that she was talking to the body. "Baby, keep your little hand in for mommy." The child's hand then repeated its previous action and hung by the coffin's side.
As if someone had whispered the solution in the mother's ear she said, "Oh, I understand." The mother then stood over the coffin and slapped her Baby's hand, at which time the hand returned on its own to rest atop the other little hand, becoming cold and stiff.