Joel Shoemaker is a librarian and a magician. He has a husband, two frogs, and a dog. His novel, bacon grief, is available on Amazon. "motherese" is in Short Circuit #11, Short Édition's quarterly review.

Image of Short Circuit - Short Circuit #11
The brand-new baby is screaming. In French.
In German.
No, in French. It's definitely in French.
It isn't obvious, at first. It's not like she's screaming for a Weiner schnitzel or demanding a baguette or something. She didn't come out of the womb in lederhosen. Is that even German? I don't know. The point is you really have to listen.
She's screaming in French.
It is a scientific fact. In a 2009 study, thirty German cries were analyzed against thirty French cries and there was a statistical similarity between the thirty within each group and major statistical differences between each group. The French produced, quote end quote, rising melody contours. Germans produced, again I quote, falling contours.
Whatever the heck that means.
Listen, the point is, the baby is screaming.
They're supposed to scream, aren't they?
If they don't, they're dead.
Right? Something like that.
Listen, I'm no expert, I just got here. I've only been reporting to duty in Labor & Delivery for three months.
This is what I prepared for. All those years in school.
Who cares that I just barely passed?
The letters after my name are the same as all of the other nurses on this floor, in this hospital. D stands for degree.
Isn't that what they say?

Another study would go on to confirm that approximately 1 in 2,000 babies is born with natal teeth. They aren't rooted very well and are often discolored and just pop right out. Neonatal teeth are three times rarer. They emerge within the first month of birth, apparently.
In 23 BCE, Gaius Plinius Secundus (say that one three times fast), supposed that boys with natal teeth would be blessed with a magnificent future. In other cultures, however, the child is believed to be some kind of cursed monstrosity, a bearer of misfortune. Quote, end quote.
In China, natal teeth are bad luck for girls.
In China, isn't everything bad luck for girls?
In China, isn't being a girl bad luck?
Of course, I don't suppose I tell the new family any of this. It isn't any better, but I just say, no problem, this little wiggly guy is gonna come out real soon and when he does, put a dollar under the baby's pillow and the breastfeeding should become a much more comfortable exercise.
They just stare. I shrug. Uh, I'm new here, I add.
But that is what the study says.

In France, la petite souris enters the bedroom in the dark of night to exchange the tooth for coins.
La petite souris literally translates to the small mouse. This is similar to some Spanish and Latin American cultures. El Ratoncito Perez.
And I quote.

This baby, the one with the tooth, the one screaming for an éclair, this baby has the most beautiful green eyes.
Her mother is so happy.
Her father hasn't said a word.
Having a baby is exhausting. Sure. But for the dude, too? What did he even do today?
What's her name? I ask.
He extends his index finger to the woman. The woman that's happy. The woman that's exhausted. The woman that did all the work. The mother, he points. Her eyes the color of the clearest sky on the sunniest day, the mother smiles and says, "Puff." But she says it like, poof.
But I swear. Hand to God. I saw the birth certificate with my own eyes.
P. U. F. F.
Like, as in puff pastry.
The man leaves abruptly, without a word.
The strong, quiet type, I suppose.

He comes back with coffee, just for him. Hospital coffee. Essentially hot, brown water. Thin. Sure, it's gross, but enough cream and sugar and anything's tasty.
Sure, I haven't been delivering babies all that long. Still, it's never not been interesting. My second delivery was en caul. That's where the water never breaks. The baby comes out in the amniotic sac, a jelly-like bubble.
The doctor cut the baby out of the balloon. Water went everywhere. It wasn't as dramatic as it sounds. The baby was fine, perfectly normal. That's a direct quote. I don't think it's exactly true. I don't think an en caul birth is normal, per se, but listen, I'm not the doctor.
It's just, 1 in 80,000 births isn't, quote, perfectly normal. Is it?
But the baby was totally fine!
That baby, the natal teeth baby. They're both unique. That's what I'd call them.
So that's what I told the dad. I said, your girl is so lucky. The tooth makes her special. Crying about croissants is cute, too, ya know? I actually said it. I even said it like that: QUAH-SAHNTS. You know. Committed to the bit. I was being funny. Or at least, I was trying to be. Humorous. Relaxing. Comforting.
Laughter is good medicine, isn't that what they say?
He said nothing.
Didn't roll his eyes. Didn't smile. Definitely didn't laugh.
Didn't walk away from me.
Didn't walk toward her.
Just stood there drinking his coffee.

Doch-an-dorris, I say.
It's not French, I admit. Gaelic or Irish. Something. Anyway, I think it is more typically alcohol, bu, whatever. Either way, it means "farewell drink." Literally, a drink at the doorway.
I say coffee probably works just the same.
He takes another drink.
Going someplace? I say.

Even his sips are silent.

By the way, PUFF, or POOF (POUFFE, perhaps?) passed all of her tests. Appearance, pulse, grimace, activity, respiration. All 1s and 2s. Mostly 2s. Each and every time.
Textbook, really.

Curiosity finally gets the best of me. A novice move, I admit. It's absolutely none of my business. I say to the father of the baby, I say, aren't you happy? I say, she's very healthy. I say, I assure you, I'm told the tooth falls out pretty quickly. It isn't all that weird. The doctor said so himself.
Quote end quote.
The man blinks, his blue eyes a different kind of sky, cloudy perhaps. A chance of rain. He picks at his teeth. Flicks at the ground.
It isn't mine, he says.
Quote end quote.
And he sits.

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