Unintended Consequences of Utterances

duncan barlow


The philosopher sits with his child upon a knee. The baby is bouncing, blowing bubbles of spit from her mouth. She points to a squirrel outside the window. Smiles. Bursts the first bubble. It leaks down her chin. She squees and ahs at the brown pest with the bushy tail. Struggles against the philosopher's knee until he sets her down and she waddles over to the glass door and watches the squirrel hop and dash from view. Around she spins, her eyes wide with wonder, mouth seething with saliva. She stumbles forward to a full-length mirror, her finger pointed, "ug" and "oh." The philosopher watches her touch her reflection. Watches her touch her face. She smiles and laughs and pops another bubble. Touches the mirror for good measure and turns to the philosopher. "Dada," she says. He sees the word in the air, dripping and swirling around her. He sees the word "living room" and "mirror" and "child." The philosopher takes the girl into his arms and coos "not yet," then "not now" and wishes he had said nothing. That the world would fall silent and the child would not know her separation from those soft things around her.