Why Mothers Let Their Babies Watch Television

A Just So Halloween Story

Happy Halloween!  I've been reading Rudyard Kipling's Just So stories to my daughter, and ending up writing this rather twisted parody.  In real life, it is a bad idea to shake your baby.   


This, O my Best Beloved, is a story—a new story, a terrible, terrible story, of a mother’s love for her baby. 

This baby was cruel, O my Best Beloved, always hungry, always crying.

Back when the world was wild, in 2001, in a house in Spokane, Washington, the mother, kind, tired mother, wanted some peace and quiet. 

“Please go to sleep, baby,” the mother said.

“I will not!” shouted the baby--always hungry, always pooping--and then the baby began to scream.  The scream was so loud that it frightened the salmon who all swam back to the ocean, and startled the eagles who fell from the sky.  So the mother--always giving, always changing diapers--shook the baby, she shook and shook her until the baby’s head was loose--her bad baby--always hungry, always yelling. 

And after ever so many shakes, the baby was dead.

Off ran Mother, kind, frantic mother—always giving, always making dinner—she buried the baby in the backyard under the apple tree.  

She had to!

Then the mother slept.  She was so tired she slept for three days and three nights.  And the salmon returned and the eagles flew in the sky. 

But after three days and nights, that baby--that bad baby, always hungry, always spitting up--was hungrier still.      

Up jumped Baby from her shallow grave, her skin pearly and bruised, sloughing off, revealing rotting muscle meat underneath, maggots and beetles in her eyes.  Fast ran Baby--still hungry, still crying--into the house, flies following her.  She ran to her mother’s room. 

“Feed me!” the baby howled. 

The baby was already gnawing at the cat, holding it by the neck, its throat torn open, blood and cat hair around the baby’s mouth. 

O my Best Beloved, imagine the mother’s surprise. 

Up jumped Mother—always anxious, always vacuuming--from the bed.  She caught the baby and wrapped her in a garbage bag and tied the garbage bag with rope and then she drove down the cul-de-sac, down the highway, past the big box stores, to the bridge and she tossed that bad baby overboard into the river. 

She had to!

              Off drove mother--kind, loving mother--over the bridge, past the big box stores, down the highway, up the cul-de-sac, all the way home, where she took a Valium and turned on daytime television until her head stopped pounding.

            Then she rested.

            Law & Order was on.

            She watched ever so many episodes.

            Night came.

            Up jumped Baby – hungrier still, always with a diaper rash, never satisfied, never happy--from her watery grave.  Her flesh half-eaten by fish, eels in her eyes, she ran up the riverbank, over the bridge, past the big box stores, down the highway, up the cul-de-sac, flies following her.

            “Feed me!” she yelled.  She had no manners then, and she has no manners now, and she never will have any manners.

            Up jumped mother, halfway to the kitchen, halfway to the butcher knife, but then she paused. 

            Something was different. 

            Baby was quiet.  Baby—hungry baby, always kicking, always clawing--was still.  Baby was watching the TV set.  Baby was good. 

            Mother--always singing, always reading Goodnight Moon, never complaining--patted Baby’s slimy fontanelle.

            The house was quiet. 

And that, O my Best Beloved, is why mothers let their babies watch television to this day.    


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