“I had that dream again where your name was George,” she offered at the breakfast table. Toasty-O’s this time. New shape: hexagons. And licorice flavored, yum. Something different, something to spice up the palate. Last night it was fried red tomatoes. Night before — he couldn’t recall. Something with spaghetti and yogurt. Afterwards: salmon flavored ice cream. A lot of times it was all about color, warm mixed with cool. Just like (orange toned) Julius. He gurgled and spat out more milk — happened a lot these days as well. “We’ll have to ween him off the stuff soon,” she said, looking over at the white stain enlarging on his baby blue bib. Because of course Shelley knew now as well. This was a boy. She just didn’t realize when it happened. Like unwanted pregnancies this was an unwanted sex. But it was too late to abort (the name). Julius it is, although Shelley would have preferred a Julia. Sometimes the man still rules the house. Especially with a wife so vain she stares a little too often in the mirror. He can trick her, he can distract. Now what *next*, he ponders from his side of the breakfast table, staring over as she picks up another magazine. He’s planted them all around the house and beyond. Henrietta had taught him well, ha ha. Hehe. Ho.
“Who?” he asked innocently, knowing exactly what his real name was, one he hadn’t revealed to Shelley except in the deepest depths of night.
I looked down then and there. “Julius,” I decided. “Your name is Julius.”
“What was that?” Shelley was still reading the magazine featuring the chair she was rocking in, a kind of mirror world. Now was the time.
“Nothing dear. Just the baby burping.”
She didn’t even reply this time so distracted she was. She was putting herself in that place.
By the next spring’s fall we were married, Shelley and me, and even had a realistic looking baby to tote around by then. It was 2 months old and we still couldn’t decide on a name. We didn’t even have a sex for the kid, since those kind of things could also be chosen back in the days before severe power outages ended all that. Afterwards it was deemed best to select before birth, whilst the child was tucked safe in the womb. Sex Stealers didn’t exist then — hard to imagine now since they seem to be around every street corner, peddling their ware. Apples and bananas, that’s all it is these days. The Orangemen some called them, because that’s what each and every one of us had in common and they couldn’t touch, not even on the navel. That was our saving grace all along, although we didn’t realize it before the Big Change.
We were able to acquire a full time, realistic looking chef as well, although he had nothing to cook at the moment. I made good money at the cotton mill, since I owned it now. Part time owner. Along with Peter Cotton himself, the inventor of the world changing cottonpicker by then. Some say we worked our laborers too hard, but his likewise-wife-by-then Henrietta “Hatti” Wilson wanted it that way, said that made them sweat and glisten to her liking. She often sat outside in disguise on a bench at the front door watching them leave the mill after their shift was over and get in their cars to go home to their mostly indifferent wives. Indifference, she sometimes ponders as they all motor away from her, leaving her alone again. It will eventually destroy the Earth and perhaps its Moon along with it. But maybe at least the Moon can be saved — she’s working on it. Malyshkin. The rebirth of Crabwoo.
“Dear, dear, you’re spacing out again. That’s enough milk for today.” Indeed, as I focused and looked down, the toddler’s navel was white with overflow. Better drain a little out before bedtime or else we’ll be up all night again. Oranges and milk: who knew they were the perfect pairing. If only it would have remained that simple.