Robert Pimm

Home » Fiction » Biotime. Excerpt 19: Sue Phu sells her baby boy

Biotime. Excerpt 19: Sue Phu sells her baby boy

Here is the nineteenth droplet of my novel Biotime.  Sue Phu, on the Mekong, waits to see whether the man in the boat will pass her baby fit for dollars.

‘Say goodbye?’ the man in the boat said.

Sue Phu shook her head.  She had no baby now.

Don’t forget the “story so far” page, bringing together the excerpts published up to now.

Scan 27_2

Santa Monica, California, 1979 – Photo Robert Pimm

Biotime.  The future, today.  Excerpt 19
 

[Chapter 4 continues]

Now the man had taken an envelope from one of his grim-faced crew and was tearing it open to extract a damp, filmy-thin white plastic sheet. He spread this on the cane matting in front of Sue Phu and knelt down next to her. The ritual was beginning.

‘May I see the baby, Sue Phu?’ the man in the boat asked.

The tiny boy began to cry. The man laid the infant gently on the white sheet. Sue Phu saw a fat tear well up on the baby’s cheek and trickle down onto the plastic. She longed to wipe it away. But instead she watched, expressionless, her hands folded in her lap, as the man tickled the baby’s toes, examined its eyes, and, using a disposable syringe, extracted a sample of blood, which he passed down to the boat. Sue Phu bit her lip as the crewman took the blood inside, slamming the door behind him.

Everyone said they tested the blood to check that the father was one of the stud-boys. If the results came out wrong, the man in the boat would still take the child but would pay nothing. Sue Phu could not remember this happening. How could it, with no other men in the village? But they always took blood into the boat before any baby was passed fit for dollars.

The door stayed closed for what seemed like hours. The man in the boat knelt next to Sue Phu, ignoring both her and the baby, contemplating the river. Nearby, Last Chance was staring at the door into which the crewman had disappeared. There was something painted on it, faded by rain and sunshine. It looked like a severed hand, transfixed by a knife. A lizard ran out from under the house onto the floor matting and stopped dead, its eyes rotating comically as it tried to decide whether to stay frozen or run away. Further down the riverbank, beneath the overhanging trees, something splashed into the water.

At last the boat door opened and the crewman emerged. His face revealed nothing. He said a few words in his guttural language. The man in the boat continued to gaze at the river. As if he had all the time in the world. Then he turned to Sue Phu and stretched out his hand.

‘Shake on it,’ he said.

Sue Phu blinked. Her eyes were filling with tears. Eight times before, the man had taken her baby. It never got any easier. The man’s hand was smooth and soft. Behind her she heard a whoop. Last Chance was jumping around and yelling. Two pregnant women peeked from the doorway of the hut next door.

‘You done it, new baby,’ shrieked Last Chance. ‘You done it.’

Ignored by everyone, the baby cried. Another man appeared from the boat, carrying a cot encased in a rectangular framework of grey metal. This he placed by the baby.

‘Say goodbye?’ the man in the boat said.

Sue Phu shook her head. She had no baby now.

The man watched her for a moment, then addressed the child. ‘Say goodbye to your momma, kid.’ He lifted the baby from the sheet and placed it in the cot, where it continued to sob. From within the metal frame the man lifted a package, tied with a blue ribbon. ‘This is for you, Sue Phu.’ He handed it to her. ‘May I say that we’re grateful for all your good work. If you’re thinking of having another child, I should remind you that with eight already in our care plus little number nine here, you only need one more to retire and receive a regular payment for the rest of your life. Then you can leave all the work to Last Chance.’

Sue Phu spoke quietly. ‘You bring the stud-boys. I will be waiting.’

‘We’ll be back. As soon as we think you’re ready.’ The man picked up the cot and clambered down onto the boat, which slipped its moorings and began to move out into the channel. Sue Phu could hear the baby crying as the man opened the door and went inside. Then the door closed, and the crying was gone.

*

[Excerpt ends][Next excerpt]

I hope you’ve enjoyed this excerpt from my novel “Biotime”.   If you’re interested in hearing about further episodes, follow this blog by e-mail (top right, “click here”); or follow me on Twitter @RobertPimm (left hand side).  I can promise you a fun ride.

If you’d like to read some complete fiction by me, see what you think of my “wonderful, feminist and dark” Hotel Stories.  

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