“Little Sips” by Dan Fields

I’ve been asking for water ever since they brought me here. Nobody will give me any. I’m thirsty. The people here say that without any water I’ll die, but they bring me jugs and cups and bowls of cold dead awful stuff that’s not water. I’d spit in it, but I can’t make spit. When I told them I could go get water for myself, they kept me looped to the bed by my wrists, covered up in smushy blankets that would tangle up and smother me if I didn’t hold still. After a few days they figured I wasn’t going nowhere and unstrapped me, but they kept sharp hoses plugged into me. I can feel them turning me awful. They scrub my skin with poison, turning their heads and telling me I stink. They’re the ones who stink. They smell like ice and ammonia Maybe they think I’m too little and stupid to know about ammonia. Ammonia smells like the spare room. Poppa cleans it every week, twice a week since Momma went to stay in there. The rest of our house is nice, a gentle friendly smell like underneath a piece of wood in the garden.

The city and cars and the hospital all smell like they look, ice-cold and covered in light. At home we don’t garden after the sun comes up. We have water any time we’re thirsty, and plentygood meat. They brought me something they called meat, to see what I did with it. It was hot and salty and burnt to hell. I asked for plentygood meat and they said that was a rib-eye and was plentygood meat. I told them it was plentyshit and hurt my teeth. I had a tooth come out the day before they came and took us. I feel another one going soon.

Everything hurts. It’s the lights in here. I can’t smell nothing over all the shiny metal and ammonia. They say my knuckles and knees and gums are swole up like nothing they ever saw, and I don’t weigh near what I should. They say they got a paper that proves I’m nine years old. I don’t know how much nine years is supposed to be but if they’d lie about water they’d lie about anything. I may not look like much like to them but I’m the same as I ever was. I’m strong. I knocked a big full cup over with just one hand. If Poppa was here he’d holler Hooray to see I’m still growing, even when they tie me down and won’t feed me or give me water. I ask anytime I can, but nothing changes.

Poppa got blue when he and Momma quit talking, but he made up the spare room for her and let her be. It’s not much of a room, smells plentyfull of ammonia. It’s just big enough for one person to stay in if they don’t want to sit down. I wish Momma hadn’t quit talking to me too, but once she went to stay in there she’d only come out when Poppa brought her into the hall to wash her and clean the little room. We used to hang old coats in there til we started having company over regular, and Momma made them coats into a plentynice bed for me. Once Momma quit on Poppa, she quit helping us garden too. She quit bringing me water when I’d ask for it. I got plentysad and lonesome, but nothing like now.

Keeping house got too much for Poppa without Momma to help. He’d only go out to sign for the money our guests left us for letting them stay, and he started forgetting the right days to go and do that, I guess. People showed up, said me and him had to get in their cars and leave our home. They took us outside and in daytime it smelt like ice and itchy grass and burned my eyes. I tried running away but my legs let me down, all four. Poppa cried but didn’t say nothing except for me to be brave when they put us in cars. Momma didn’t say nothing and didn’t come with us.

All they do, the ones in dark clothes, is ask questions I don’t understand while the ones in white clothes fuss around and prick me. They’re too busy bringing things I don’t want to bring me the things I beg for. They think I don’t hear them talk about cutting me open when I act asleep. It’s dark now, quiet with everyone shut up and gone away for awhile. One comes in to look at me, a light one, and she can’t see I tipped my cup over. The poison I spilled has no color and no smell. You can see right through it. I figure there’ll be trouble if she slips in the puddle I made on the floor, but before she can tell on me her head cracks against the bed rail. I rock my body to flip and look over the side. My belly puckers up and I’d cry if I had tears. Finally somebody’s brought me water. Bubbling out from the split head, across the shiny ammonia-clean floor there’s water, water. I roll off the bed not minding if it hurts, and the water is a spreading pool around me and on me and I have all I want.

Dan Fields absconded with a film degree from Northwestern University in 2006. He has recently published fiction with Sanitarium Magazine, Tell-Tale Press, Chipper Press and Frontier Tales. He lives in Houston, Texas, with his wife and children.