Before the break I read an article in the Times about how early modern French peasants would sleep for five or six months out of the year. They wouldn’t exactly hibernate, but when winter hit, everyone would hit the hay. It was literal hay-hitting, too, because they’d pack their farm animals in with them for warmth.
Sleep is one of the great passions of my life, so I decided to spend my winter break as an 18th century French peasant. I put on a magenta peasant blouse I used to wear in middle school, tried and failed to acquire a live pig to sleep with, and demanded that my parents call me “Gaston” and leave little servings of Vichyssoise and ratatouille outside my room. Then Gaston went to sleep for three weeks.
They tried to wake me up for Christmas, but I screamed “Le chat a mangé le Moulin Rouge!”, and they didn’t know what to say to that. My mother came in to plead with me, my father to harass me. My brother woke me up long enough to call me a repressed seventh-grade queen. I told him to go blow it out his Versailles.
Sloth is one of the seven deadly sins, and for at least a solid week I wallowed in it. It turns out I didn’t need an additional pig for the room: I soon added on a layer of blubber from all the Vichyssoise and all by myself smeared my sheets with Christmas chocolates and drool. Whenever my body tried to wake itself up, I forced myself to think of my recently completed final exams and papers, as well as my long days of toil under the crushing oppression of the landed class in the vineyards of Burgundy.
I was very happy until the Baby came. I don’t know how he got in, and I don’t know where he learned French, but one time when I rolled over to use my pee-can, I heard someone whisper “cochon.” I was sure I was alone in the room, so I assumed I was still dreaming and willed myself back to sleep. But after that, whenever I changed position or crawled over to slurp up my Vichyssoise, I had the creeping sensation that I was being watched.
Two days later I awoke to the sound of someone unwrapping Christmas candies. I stuck my hand out and felt for them on my bedside table, but my whole stash was gone. I sat up and saw the Baby sitting at the foot of my bed, carefully unwrapping my chocolates, devouring them, and folding the wrappers into a neat pile next to his chubby little feet.
“Good morning, cochon”, he said. He flicked one of the folded wrappers at my face.
“Stop that. Who are you? Why is there a baby in my room?”
The Baby coughed loudly, crawled up the length of the bed and planted himself on my chest. He was hideously fat and weighed far more than I had ever imagined a baby could weigh.
He hit me, open-handed, across my face. I started to cry.
“Why are you crying, cochon?”
“I’ve never been hit by a baby before. I feel small.”
“Good. Now get up and clean your room. Wash your sheets. Empty your pee-can. And then go downstairs and clean the kitchen.”
“Who are you?”
“Read the ribbon, shithead.”
He was wearing a ribbon across his torso. I looked at it and groaned.
“Does that mean…?”
“Yep.” He started to sing in a gruesome baby falsetto, “Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes / How do you measure, measure a —“
“Oh God, Baby, please don’t sing Rent at me.”
I hoped that after I did the things he demanded, the Baby would leave. But he didn’t. He demanded that I make my mother dinner for the rest of the break to compensate for turning her into a Vichyssoise slave. I shoveled snow for my father. The Baby forced me to burn what he called “that nauseating early-warning sign.” I’d always thought the magenta on the peasant blouse was a lovely color.
Of course I assumed that I would leave the Baby behind when I went back to school. But when I unzipped my bag, he was there, nestled into one of my sweaters, staring at me with his ornery little eyes. He’s been accompanying me to classes, riding on my shoulders and pulling my hair when he wants me to do things.
“Hold the door for that person. No, pull hard. You’re such a weakling.”
“Of course you can handle five and a half classes. What are you, retarded?”
“There’s a sale at Toys’R’Us! Hi-ho and run like the wind, my steed-bitch.”
I have to feed him in the evenings. He eats mostly nails and the packets of cream sauce from Velveeta Shells & Cheese. He goes to bed early. The other night my roommate came in drunk, and I had to tell him to be quiet, the Baby was sleeping.
Steven Kochevar n’est plus dégueulasse.