by Martin Bolton
Tracy watched the dustman from her window, one hand caressing her swollen belly, the other holding a cigarette. Jason, his name was, she had told him she was on the pill, but she had lied. Jason ought to have been handsome – he was so good looking in school – but the years of fags, kebabs and lager had expanded him and stained his once perfect teeth. Jason was as oblivious to the tragic waste of his own life as he was to the life he had created inside Tracy’s womb on that rainy morning eight months previously.
She took another pull on the cigarette and inhaled deeply as he tossed another black bag of rubbish into the back of the truck. The bag split open, spilling beer bottles and shitty nappies onto the pavement. Jason ignored them as he banged his fat fist on the side of the truck and it moved on down the street, leaving a trail filth and detritus behind it. She watched him disappear up the street and wrinkled her nose up at the sight of what he had left behind. The man disgusted her, but it wasn’t the man she had desired, it was his seed.
She would love her baby of course, after all, it was the perfect accessory, and she was looking forward to the sky-birth. Sky-births were expensive but they were all the rage. The money had to cover the hire of parachutes, the photographers, the midairwife and the doctor, and of course the specially-made, tiny parachute for the baby. There was also the fee for the specialist Sky-Birth instructor and the equipment which would be thrown from the plane alongside them. She had had a chat with the Sky-Birth instructor, signed the papers, and now all she had to do was give them a call when her contractions started and she would be picked up by the special Sky-Birth Ambulance service and driven to the small private airfield for take-off.
Tracy had made a short list of names for the baby, but her plans had been scuppered when she found out she was having a boy. She had wanted a girl so she could dress it in pink velour and parade it around the estate like a noisy, puking doll. But now she was stuck with a boy. She had whittled down her new list of names to two, and she was struggling to decide between Daviator and Ryanair.
She turned from the window and laid down on the couch. Jeremy Kyle was on telly, he was talking to a greasy looking lump of gristle with a beard that looked like it had been drawn on with a biro and a pink, low cut, skin-tight t-shirt. His sleeves were rolled up to reveal a tattoo of a Golf GTI on his right arm. The footer at the bottom of the screen said CONNOR, 19: My out of control pitbull babysits my premature triplets.
Tracy stubbed out her cigarette and lit another. She liked his tattoo, maybe I’ll get one for the baby, she thought. Suddenly she felt a strange sensation in her stomach, her muscles involuntarily tensing, moving like a wave up her abdomen. She wondered if that was a contraction or just the result of last night’s Lambrini. Soon the feeling repeated itself, and continued to do so more frequently. It was time to call Sky-Birth.
* * * *
“Ok Tracy,” said the doctor, “try to relax, we’re going to get you into your parachute and we’ll be taking off shortly.”
Tracy lay on a stretcher in the back of the aeroplane. Her contractions were coming more frequently now and she knew it wouldn’t be long before the baby came. The midairwife held her hand and smiled reassuringly while the doctor strapped her in. All the time the two photographers moved around her, one filming, the other taking photos. As she had specified in her Sky-Birth plummet-package, the voices of Westlife sang Flying Without Wings on a permanent loop in the background as they took off.
“Now, let’s just go over the procedure one final time,” said the doctor, his voice raised over the drone of the engine and the drone of the boy band, “once the baby is out, the midairwife will hang on to it while I slip it into its parachute. Then I will cut the umbilical cord, as soon as I have done that, I will give you the signal to release your parachute. It is important not to get your parachute cord and your umbilical cord confused.”
Tracy nodded at the doctor, unable to speak due to her oxygen mask. The photographers continued filming and snapping. The next thing she knew she was hurled from he aircraft.
The air rushed past her as she fell through the sky from four thousand feet, her legs spread wide, the doctor holding up a card with the word PUSH written on it. She pushed with all her might, the force of the wind at her back seemed to help, and suddenly little Ryanair gazed at her with a bewildered expression.
The doctor cut the umbilical cord and gave her the thumbs up, and she pulled the cord on her harness.
“Bollocks,” she said aloud, as the baby, the doctor, the instructor, the midairwife and the photographers disappeared high above her, and she plummeted to her death.