FICTION – Baby Light and Spinning by Michael Jeffrey Lee

Baby Light

Baby Light visited me last night. Hanging, as was his wont, from the streetlight outside.

His friend Pie Face had died. This is the first thing he told me. He said that Pie Face had been killed. Murdered, it seemed, in his bed while he slept.

I asked him who had done it, but Baby Light did not know. He said that there were no suspects. Then he said that the mayor was set to speak tomorrow, about crime.

That particular crime? I asked.

All crime, said Baby Light. He asked if I planned on going, and I told him I wasn’t sure.   

Then he asked if I had seen his friend L.J. pass by earlier, but I said I hadn’t.

What about Miggy Concert? he wanted to know, had I seen Miggy Concert?

I admitted again that I hadn’t.  

Then he asked if I wanted to hear the story of his conception, and I said I wouldn’t mind.

His mother was a greasy sheet, he said, and his father a torn kite. One night they’d lain together, and in the morning there was Baby Light.

I asked if he had any siblings. He said he didn’t want to talk about that.

I asked if he had anything else to report and he said that he didn’t.


A girl sat in taffeta, spinning. On a convex bench, near a dirty river she sat spinning. Rats were in the shadows; from puddles she heard them drinking. Had she been drinking? What had she been drinking? Colored lights were on the bridge, candy-colored. Was somebody dying? Had somebody leapt? She was spinning and spinning and spinning. The city was lit behind her, winking.


Along some tracks a girl was walking. One tie at a time: old wood, dark wood. Head down—she was spinning. Soon she would reach the signal yard, where the train cars would be sleeping. Where had her bicycle gone? Where had the evening? And taffeta? Why not just simple silk? A horn sounded, far down: greeting or warning? She stepped sideways, still spinning.    


A girl crouched in a store, gazing at a stain. On her abdomen, on the taffeta. She was near refrigeration, gazing at the stain. Was she spinning? She was spinning. A hand handed her something; a hand put something in hers. Something cold, something itching. Friend or foe? She spun toward the door, the taffeta rasping.


Over a stove, a girl was drinking something and spinning. The kitchen was dark, dirty. She was thinking: is this where my love lives? Is this where my sweetheart stays? Nearby, something was breathing with difficulty. I’m in taffeta, she was thinking. I’m in taffeta and should be leaving.


In her bed, a girl was dreaming. She dreamt she was at the foot of the ramparts, spinning. Then a soldier came creeping. His finger on his trigger, his gun gleaming. He asked her: Was she spinning? She said that she was spinning. He said he too was spinning. But he wanted nothing—he kept creeping. He is gone now, around the wall.  

Michael Jeffrey Lee lives, writes and teaches in New Orleans, Louisiana. His collection of short stories, Something In My Eye, won the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction in 2012.


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