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Illustration by Rowan Ford

Published Thursday, February 20th, 2014

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Baby Shoes

My husband Gerald used to utter prophecies over my belly. "He's going to be a soccer star, and win Singapore the World Cup," he'd proclaim, nuzzling his cheek against my rounded navel. Or: "She's going to be a prima ballerina." "He'll be an F1 race car driver." "She'll be a Shaolin kung fu master."

My husband Gerald used to utter prophecies over my belly. “He’s going to be a soccer star, and win Singapore the World Cup,” he’d proclaim, nuzzling his cheek against my rounded navel. Or: “She’s going to be a prima ballerina.” “He’ll be an F1 race car driver.” “She’ll be a Shaolin kung fu master.”
 

As a result, he was pretty upset when the doctor examined my ultrasound and said, “Congratulations, Mrs Tan. You’re going to have a healthy baby boy. But he won’t have any feet.”
 

I was secretly a little pleased by this announcement. I’d always known my child would be special. This was partly a mother’s intuition, and partly because I’d been cursed by a bomoh at the age of five, when I’d poked by bum out my seventh floor window and urinated on his laundry line.
 

Gerald, of course, was moaning and beating his breast and rending his clothes at this point, so I had to hold him and feign a few crocodile tears. “Be strong,” I told him. Meanwhile, all I could think of was how much easier parenting would be, now that it was physically impossible for my kid to run away. Putting on diapers might also be less tricky, I mused to myself. No worries about teaching him how to walk, either. Likewise, not much chance of him falling down and breaking his nose. I might even be able to pop him into a pouch and carry him everywhere I went, just like a kangaroo.
 

The next few days at home were pretty horrendous, until I had the bright idea of encouraging Gerald to drink away his problems. He’d always been a lightweight, so after a bit of yelling and spilling and smashing of cups and plates, he was flat on the sofa, snoring like a buzzsaw, and I could focus on my Excel spreadsheets and Korean teledramas.
 

The beer, however, had the unfortunate side effect of giving him visions. He’d get up in the middle of the night and in the morning I’d discover reams and reams of blueprints all over the living room floor. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction, but eventually my curiosity got the better of me. “What the hell are you making?” I asked him sweetly one morning over our usual coffee and kaya toast.
 

“Accessibility track,” he answered, grinning from ear to ear. The effect was so disturbing that my water broke, right there and then, frightening the cat.
 

It was actually a pretty easy birth, which I personally found disappointing after all the hype. But perhaps it was to be expected, since I was all drugged up, and my son had such a spectacularly streamlined shape anyway, his hips ending in a lovely long tail like a merman, or maybe a teardrop, or maybe Casper the Friendly Ghost.
 

He really was a very sweet baby, with his father’s eyes and his grandmother’s nose and my lips, or maybe they were my cousin’s, I couldn’t tell. And he did tend to gurgle and smile rather more than the other wailing little monsters in the maternity ward. Still, I was pretty relieved when Gerald stepped in and volunteered to take him off my hands.
 

“Let’s call him Casper,” I said, trying not to smirk.
 

“Hello little Casper,” my husband said, all teary-eyed, and I decided to leave it at that. I’d booked a special spa in Bintan for my one-month confinement period, all lemongrass baths and Javanese massages, and it’d be good to have him coddling my kid while I explored the joys of the hot tub facilities. The nurses showed Gerald how to bottle-feed the baby, and he acted all offended when they screamed at his fleshy tail, curling and uncurling around their wrists.
 

Then he drove me to the jetty, and I waved goodbye from the ferry. At the time I didn’t think it was at all strange that he wanted to play Mr Mum while I had all sorts of delicious herbal things done to my body. We’d save money on nurses, after all, if little Casper (the name still cracks me up) didn’t follow me on my vacation.
 

The spa resort was marvellous, as anticipated. It also had excellent wi-fi, so I could actually telecommute in between my reiki sessions and feasts on pork trotters braised in ginger and XO sauce. I Skyped Gerald a lot, naturally, and he showed me how fast little Casper was growing. His top half, anyhow. For some reason, he wasn’t showing off his bottom much. Nappy rash?
 

Then those thirty days passed, and it was time for him to fetch me. But instead I got a Whatsapp from him: “Can’t leave! Come over NOWWWW!!!” So I took the ferry myself, called a cab and rode the lift up to my apartment. Weird zipping noises were coming from inside. Pissed off, I turned my key in the lock.
 

The inside of my flat had been turned into a mess of roller-coaster tracks, rails looping and lurching all over the house from bedroom to bathroom to kitchen to balcony. “What the fudge,” I said, catching myself in time for the sake of the baby. Then I saw little Casper coming over on the tracks, arms pumping, looking thrilled as all hell, and a nanosecond later he’d shot past me and he was gone.
 

“Wheels!” cried Gerald, happily. “Wheels! I gave our baby boy wheels!”
 

“Holy shitake mushroom,” I moaned, slumping against the TV. My head was pounding. One month of aromatic oil rubs, gone, just like that.
 

“Nappies are on top of the washing machine,” he added. “You’ll need to do the next one. I’ve gotta complete a sale.”
 

“Huh?”
 

“Getting rid of a coupla things we don’t need.”
 

The door banged shut behind him. Little Casper was shrieking in delight as I stumbled over to the bedroom. There, on my makeup table, I saw Gerald’s laptop open on eBay, his auction ad reading:
 

“For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.”
 

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