One of Barrington Stoke’s excellent series for dyslexic teens, Moose Baby is a surreal story about a girl who gives birth to a moose. It’s like a curious take on Metamorphosis but with laughs.”
—Dinah Hall, The Telegraph
The midwife was giving me the evil eye.
‘Mothers your age often have trouble bonding,’ she said, and then added grudgingly, ‘but it will come.’
My age? Jeez. It’s not like I was twelve or something.
We’d spent the last ten minutes glaring at each other, but I couldn’t help admiring the way she cradled my baby, holding him close up against her great big bazooms and looking into his big velvety eyes. Also, her smile (at him) appeared to be genuine. Which was a plus.
‘Who’s a dear little sweet thing?’ she cooed. ‘Who’s a beautiful big moosie boy?’ My baby held her gaze adoringly, eyes unblinking. ‘Look at those eyelashes!’ She turned to me. ‘Well, he may not be what you expected, but he is a beauty.’
‘I wish you’d tell that to my mum.’ Squinting, I searched for the beauty in the curve of his nose, his little baby nostrils. ‘She refuses to look at him. I guess she has a point. He is kind of hairy.’
‘Don’t you mind about that, now. Just look at his lovely wee hooves.’
The midwife held out one tiny foot, shiny and ebony black. It was cute. I closed my eyes, still pretty numb and queasy from the Caesarean. And a little dizzy from getting used to things. I mean, how exactly had this happened? The twenty-week scan was perfectly normal.
‘It’s a late development in some pregnancies,’ the consultant said in his I’m-SO-much-more-important-than-you voice, slithering out of any and all blame at the same time. ‘We often fail to pick it up on the blood test.’ He paused. ‘They’re not common, but we’ve had a small cluster of Non Homo-Sapien Births this year. Mainly moose. No one knows why.’
I squeezed my eyes into slits and suddenly realized that he wasn’t a doctor at all, he was a zombie! Heh heh. Of course he hadn’t looked so superior when Mum threatened to sue the hospital over my Non Homo-Sapien Birth. He’d looked even queasier than I felt.
‘Something to help you sleep?’ A slightly elevated eyebrow suggested that he’d accept if it were his child. ‘We’ll send the social worker round first thing in the morning. In the meantime, try to get some rest. It won’t look so bleak in daylight.’
Was he referring to the situation or my baby? I didn’t think either was going to look a whole lot better in the clear light of day.
* * * *
‘Well, I guess we can’t call him Imogen.’ Nick stared at the furry creature in the cot. I could understand his disappointment. We’d both been convinced we were having a girl. And a human being.
‘What do you suggest? We have to call him something. Lucien doesn’t seem right either.’
But when I turned back to him, he looked glum. ‘What on earth am I going to tell my parents?’
‘Yeah, that’s our biggest worry. Gimme the phone, I’ll break the news. “Hello, Anthony? Camille? Your son’s girlfriend’s given birth to a bouncing baby moose. Ten point two kilos – by Caesarean section, in case you were wondering, and yeah, that’s why I got so fat. Big floppy ears and lots of hair. Mother and son doing well. Boyfriend not so good.”’
I don’t know what I expected, but he seemed really stricken. I sighed. ‘Look, Nick, they’ll cope. It’s us I’m worried about.’ I reached over and took his hand, it seemed only kind. In the plastic cot beside me, Baby Moose Pearson slept wrapped up in a pale blue hospital blanket. None of the cute Babygros I’d bought fitted. He muttered and squeaked in his sleep, his floppy nose wrinkling and unwrinkling.
Tears filled Nick’s eyes. ‘My son.’
‘What about Moe?’
‘Moe Moose?’ Nick stared at me. ‘Have you ever been to a playground?’
‘Moe Pearson, actually.’ But I took his point.
My phone rang and Nick answered. ‘It’s your mum.’
I shook my head.
‘She’s asleep,’ he lied, then listened for a minute. ‘OK, I’ll tell her.’ He rang off and handed back my phone. ‘She says she loves you no matter what, but that you’re really pushing it this time.’
‘Did you mention that it wasn’t my idea to give birth to a moose?’
Nick shrugged. ‘She probably knows that.’
Suddenly Nick seemed to remember that this hadn’t been a great day for me either. ‘My poor Jess.’ He sat on the edge of the bed and hugged me clumsily, avoiding the drip. ‘What a time you’ve had.’
Too right. My eyes drooped as a new nurse swept through the door, a large woman in a striped pinafore. ‘Baby Boy Pearson? I’ve got him on my list for a special feed.’ Her accent was Irish. She peered into the plastic cot and her face split into a huge grin. ‘Well, well, well. Will you look at that little thing.’ She lifted him out of the cot with a comedy groan, and laid him expertly in the curve of her arm. ‘Excuse me, not so little. Who’s a sweet boy then? Who’s the sweetest handsomest boy?’
I tried to see him through her eyes. He was cute. He looked like one of those oversized cuddly toys you might buy at Hamley’s. To stick at the end of a proper baby’s cot. I closed my eyes.
‘Look, Jess, I think I’d better get going.’
I nodded. So tired.
‘Night, night.’ Nick seemed reluctant to let go of my hand. ‘I’ll be back first thing.’
Seventeen. Pregnant. And now this. Oblivion was definitely my best option.