"Wonder if she'll sleep in the new car seat," Boobahs said.
"She'll sleep," said Dada. "Let's just hope we can get at least halfway to Detroit before she wakes up."
"What's that? Hour and a half?" Boobahs asked.
"A little less," Dada replied.
Dada strapped me in. I looked at the old guy who was waving at me outside the car. He played pots and pans with me last night. I smiled. This seat is new it faces ahead, so I didn't have to look at birdpoo on the back window the whole time, so the sun don't shine in my eyes and make me cry when they drive away from it. Dada played music, and sang. Boobahs handed me a cracker. Num num.
Dada wanted to take me down the tunnel but he didn't right away; he carried me over to the red dog on the wall and I breathed at it how he likes me to. "Is that a doggie, Junebug?" he asked, and I breathed like a dog again to show him what I knew. I should have been in bed long ago but I was still awake. Where does that tunnel go, I wondered. There was a loud wooshing noise as we got further and further down that tunnel. Boobahs smiled at me and she was wearing the swirly coat even though it wasn't cold. Dada put me down on my feet and I walked up and down the tunnel. We were the last ones. Dada lifted me under the arms. At the end of the tunnel was a room where a hundred people sat close together all facing the same way. We walked past them all and they smiled up at me, some of them made the silly face. Dada kissed me on my head and I didn't holler at all. Boobahs pulled out my toys and they let me sit in my own seat. It didn't smell like home but I liked the wooshing sound. "You gonna breastfeed her now?" asked Dada. "I'll wait till we take off," said Boobahs. I reached out for her and put my arm down her shirt and she and Dada both smiled and looked around to all the other people who were looking the other way. I wasn't crying, but the ground wasn't still, and then I was crying.
"She's awake," said Boobahs. Outside the world went by slow, all brown and empty. Everything was slow and there were other cars going slow alongside us. "How far are we now?"
"Twenty minutes, maybe," said Dada. "Depends on how far away this accident is." I hollered. Boobahs climbed into the backseat with me. I hushed.
"Oh honey, she's soooo sick," says Boobahs. "You can see it in her eyes, they're so red and wet."
Dada turned around to look at me. He smiled at me but I just looked at him. "Yeah," he said. "She looks like a total stoner."
Boobahs showed me the cards and tried to get me to say my words. "The cow goes 'mooooo'" she said. "Crab? Apple? Monkey? Flower? Fish?" I didn't say nothing. Boobahs showed me my doll and I held my doll. "She's falling asleep again," Boobahs told Dada.
"Good," he said back and then I did.
"Baby, why won't you sleep?" Dada said. He bounced me back where the light was on, where the ladies in hats were shoveling ice. Around the corner Boobahs put three little white pillows behind her head and closed her eyes. "I just want to sleep five minutes," she said. "Dada!" I said. None of the people turned around this time. "Dada!" I hollered, and a fat man turned and gave a mean look. Dada patted me on the back and bounced and then he sat back down. "Look Juniper," he said. "Look out the window. Hush now." Dada pointed through the glass and I saw pink and orange and all kinds of lights on the ground. "Sunrise," Dada said. "You see the sunrise?" Pretty soon everything was pointing down and my ears hurted. I didn't want to sleep so I didn't.
"So what did you think of that one?" asked Strange Lady after they strapped me back to the seat. I hollered. Strange Lady sat in the front seat next to Dada and Boobahs sat next to me. She was old like Naanaa; she smelled like wet soap. It was raining. I felt like crying so I did. I cried loud.
"Hush up now Juniper," said Dada.
"Turn left here, tight left," said the strange lady.
"What neighborhood are we going to now?" Dada asked.
"Lafayette Park," said Strange Lady. "So get on the Lodge. Straight through the light, then off to the left." Boobahs put the waa waa up to my lips. I drank some. It was cold. It was good. Outside the car everything was dirty and gray. I was scared and wanted my Boobahs. I didn't want to go into another house. The last one smelled like cats, and waa waa dripped from the ceiling. Dada liked it though.
"That's where Ty Cobb lived." he said. "I'd be afraid of Ty Cobb's ghost. He was one ruthless prick."
"The house next door was a bordello," said Strange Lady. "And not that long ago." Those houses were big and cold. Dada ran his hand along the wood. Boobahs touched the colored windows that looked like sunrise. In one house there was a doggie. Another was full of books. We were going to another house. "There's a great parking spot," Strange Lady said. "Can you parallel park?"
"I can parallel back uphill into a spot with six inches to spare," Dada said. Outside the car it was clean. There were trees. And swings. "Wow, " Dada said. "That infant swing is a tiny Eames shell." His voice was happy.
"Up," I said. "Up!" I wanted Dada to put me in the swing. This place smelled like the park. I reached out for the swings and hollered but Dada kept on walking. We went into a house that was made out of windows. Dada was excited, he was pointing his shiny black box but not at me. The black box flashed again and again.
"I love it," Dada said. "I love absolutely everything about it."
"If you know Mies van der Rohe, you know he believed that less is more," the Strange Lady who smelled like wet soap said. The house was very bright. You could see outside. There were trees. You could see the swings. And a slide. Dada gave me to Boobahs, she held me sideways and sang to me. "You could walk to work," Strange Lady said to her.
"This will be Juniper's room," said Boobahs.
It was loud. It smelled like the backside of a bus. "Why do we always end up in Soho?" Dada asked. "I hate Soho." We crossed a busy street. I smelled food. It was cold there. My cheeks hurt. Dada pointed to a doggie but I didn't see it. I was tired, so I cried. "Hush your bellering and moaning, now Juniper," Dada said, and patted me some, so I hushed like he said. Still I could hear all the loud noises and I did not like them. The shapes and colors changed. There were all kinds of people. "No Dutch, you're gonna embarrass me," Boobahs said. "Come on, just take the picture," Dada said, and stroked my cheek. His finger was cold. He pointed to a lady. She was dark and tall. "Boobies," he said. "Look at the boobies." The lady had lots of boobahs . More boobahs than I had ever seen. Dada lifted me up and let me look at them. They were hard, and cold like a spoon. Boobahs held up the shiny box. "A couple more," said Dada. Boobahs looked back and forth and then looked into the shiny box again. It flashed. She was mad at Dada. "I can't believe you made me do that," Boobahs said. "I can't believe you're teaching her that word." "Boobahs," I said, and reached out my arms to her. I had never seen so many.
I coughed some. "She's sooo sick," Boobahs said. "Her cough makes her sound like some kind of animal."
"Did she puke that time?" asked Dada.
"Not this time," said Boobahs.
Dada turned to look at me. "Her crying makes her cough worse and her cough makes her cry."
I couldn't say nothing so I just whimpered some. I kept tasting something on my lips. "So much snot it's dribbling down off her chin," said Dada. "At least she loves that frosty. It must feel good on her throat." Boobahs held out the spoon with the yum yum on it. It was cold and yum. I tapped my finger on the palm of my other hand.
"You want more Juniper? MORE? She's so sick and full of snot but she still wants more," Boobahs said. It was dark. We had been in the car all day. My tum tum hurt, and I coughed a lot, and I started hollering some. "She's so sick, Dutch," Boobahs said. "There are real tears there."
"Poor Juniper," said Dada, and he turned to look at me. I coughed again and there was a tickle in my throat, and then a gush sound.
"Puking! Puke!" said Boobahs. "Oh crap, she's puking it all up. Get me a rag quick." There was a warm feeling. It smelled like long ago times.
"You poor little sicky," said Dada. "You poor sick little baby." I hollered some when Boobahs tried to touch me with the scratchy thing she ran across my lips and neck. I hollered some more.
"It's all over the backseat. All over her carseat," said Boobahs. "How far are we from my mom's house?" Boobahs asked. She wiped the rag across everywhere. I watched her arms move, watched the rag. I was tired and I wanted to sleep some so I did.
Another tunnel. "Plane!" said Dada. "Pppp," I said. Dada's head almost hit the top when we walked in. Less people in this one. I looked back. A man was achooing right next to me. I looked at him, smiled and said "Hi!" I waved. He didn't say nothing. He didn't even look at me. He just kept achooing. His coat was yellow. He had a hairy face. Dada gave him the mean look. There was a lot of sounds. The wooshing sound again, and coughing.
"She's pensive now, for the first time ever she's real cuddly," said Dada.
"That's because she's sick," said Other Naanaa. "Let's take her to the emergency room."
Dada handed me over to Boobahs and went bye bye and then I hollered at him.
"Let's wait," said Boobahs. "Hopefully she won't puke all over me again tonight. Last night, even after she puked in the car in the middle of the night I woke up with puke all over my chest."
Dada came back and said, "That's nothing. She was sleeping on the couch with me this afternoon and she woke up coughing and gagging; she puked against my head and neck and when I saw the mirror it looked like someone had dumped a quart of large-curd cottage cheese over my face." Other Naanaa stuck her face up to me. She kissed me and made me holler. Then she had the sad look but I kept on hollering. Boobahs looked tired and she picked me up under the arms and put me in Dada's hands. "Hush Juney," he said so I did. I buried my face in him and whimpered some. "It'll be all night like this, with this one," said Dada. "No sleep."
"Are you sure you don't want to trade her in for another one, one that's not broken?" asked Boobahs. Dada laughed like he'd been tickled.
Sunrise. Cough. Cold. Cage. Cry. What room was this? Every time I get to know a place, they take me away. Didn't they know I just wanted to be with them, pressed up to their warmth? Dada was there in bed. He drooled and turned his head the other way, Boobahs opened her eyes to my bellowing, she came and I was coughing and crying. Her hands were soft and warm and she was not wearing a shirt and it was warm where she was in bed. I put my mouth on the num and closed my eyes. She smelled like home.
[with apologies to William Faulkner]
"Wonder if she'll sleep in the new car seat," Boobahs said.