Tata is the first of the four short stories I will publish during November.
With this, I want to start a sequence of four stories I will publish every Friday for the whole November – consider it my present to you for NaNoWriMo. Every story is an extract from a contest I was part of last year and that I’ve just got translated (thanks to Ellen Prior’s awesome work). In every “episode” I have a set of constraints to respect.
In this one, in roughly one thousand words I had to write a story that included a parental figure explaining how babies are born to a kid. I had to write it from the point of view of the kid.
Hope you enjoy it!
September 2nd, 1939
I’m so excited! Alexei has given me a diary.
He says I’m to write down everything that happens to me, what other people say and what I think and do. Every single thing. Then, when he comes back, he can read all my adventures.
It’s so sad that Alexei isn’t here. My big brother is strong and handsome – also, he can fly!
Right now he’s away, protecting us from the bad planes, and when he comes back he’ll give me a ride. Unfortunately, I can’t marry him, because he’s my brother, but one day I’ll marry somebody just like him and we’ll have a beautiful baby.
Talking of which! This baby business. If Alexei were here, he’d explain it all to me. He knows everything and always answers all my questions. But now that he’s away, and with Mummy gone too, I only have Tata. And Tata never has any time.
But, time or not, this is something I’ve got to know. Alicja, that meanie, told me that all I had to do was put seeds on my tummy for a few hours. But then, after I kept some there for a whole afternoon, she and her stupid friends laughed at me.
“How can someone your age not know how babies are made?” they said.
How hateful of them! I must ask Tata.
September 4th, 1939
Tata was rushing around the house today. Up and down, up and down. He looked just like Emil when he needs the toilet and the teacher won’t let him go to the bathroom. Poor Tata, perhaps the bathroom door was broken and he couldn’t get in. I feel a bit sorry for him, but, he is a boy, after all. He could have done it in the garden!
Just when I was about to ask him how babies are made, Kuba and Tomek, two friends of Alexei’s, came to see Tata. I like them. They can fly too, and they wear the same clothes as Alexei. “Polish pride”, they say.
They all shut themselves away in Tata’s study and at first, I couldn’t make out what they were saying, but then Tata started yelling and both Kuba and Tomek kept saying they were sorry.
“We’re sorry, sir!” they kept on saying. Tata’s scolds are really awful and those two boys must have done something very bad!
I waited outside the door the whole time so I could speak to Tata as soon as our guests left. When they came out, Kuba patted me on the head and said, “Be sure to look after your father. He’s a good man.” I don’t know what he meant by “a good man”.
Kuba and Tomek both looked very sad as they left. Tata’s scolds really are awful!
Right away, I ran into Tata’s study. Maybe my question would take his mind off whatever it was those two had done wrong.
Tata was staring at the ceiling and massaging his eyes and temples.
“Tata,” I began. “I have a very important question!”
“I don’t have time for your questions now, Julia!” He carried on staring at the ceiling.
“But it’s really important, Tata!” I insisted, before adding shyly, “How are babies made, Tata?”
Tata looked at me – he seemed very, very angry. Without getting up or saying a word, he turned towards the bookshelf and pulled out a book. He slammed it down on the desk so loudly I jumped in fright. Trembling with rage, he opened the book and pointed out a passage with his finger, saying: “Read it!” So I began, fearfully:
“Mating is an endeavour between organisms, essential for reproduction and for the ontogenetic development of the same and the phylogenetic development of the species.”
“But I don’t know what that means, Tata…” I said, my voice wobbling with fear.
“Go to your room, then! These are not the kind of questions a young lady should be asking!” he shouted, dismissing me.
Back in my own room, I burst into tears. Tata is so mean. He’s a doctor, he treated soldiers when he was young, so he reads difficult books, but making babies can’t be such a difficult thing or there wouldn’t be so many children around.
Tata really is awful when it comes to scolding!
September 5th, 1939
There was thunder this morning, even though the sky was perfectly clear. Strange. On the bright side, I stayed home from school – I think Tata was worried it might rain.
Grandpa and Tata were in the study for hours. I eavesdropped. Tata wanted to call a priest, but Grandpa explained that would be complicated – perhaps he doesn’t know Father Adrian spends his afternoons napping in the sacristy.
Then Grandpa said: “I think you should talk to your daughter about it.” – Well done, Grandpa! A young lady should know how babies are born!
Tata came out of the study.
“Were you eavesdropping?” He gave me an irritated glance. I lowered my eyes.
“Come into the kitchen with me.”
He looked very serious. He sat down at the table while I stood there looking at the floor, waiting for him to explain. I was very excited. At last, I was going to find out!
Tata was still silent. All of a sudden, he looked sad. I couldn’t wait any longer:
“How are babies born, Tata?”
His laughter was loud enough to leave me mortified.
“You know it takes a man and a woman, don’t you?” So that had been my mistake! The seeds had to come from a boy!
“Of course,” I lied.
“And you know boys have a penis?”
“A willy? They’re so lucky! When they need to go, they can just do it in the garden!”
Tata kept on laughing.
“When a man and a woman love each other, the man produces seeds and leaves them in the woman’s body through the vagina, using his penis.”
“Through the wee-wee? Yuck! Doesn’t it hurt?”
“Not too much, I shouldn’t think.”
“So all I need to do is find someone who’ll do it to me!” It sounded a lot easier than I’d thought!
Tata seemed amused by my answers. Good – lately, he was always sad.
“For it to work, the eggs inside you must be mature enough to receive the seeds. I don’t think you’ll be ready for quite some time yet!”
“How long will it be?” I inquired anxiously.
“I’d say at least another five or six years. You’ll know when you’re ready, at which point we’ll have to have a serious, medical discussion.”
It sounded boring. “I think I’ll pass!” I don’t want to wait six years and then have a serious, medical discussion.
“Are you crying, Tata?”
“Daddies don’t cry,” he answered with a smile, getting to his feet and coming over to hug me.
I’m such an idiot! I should have held my tongue. Of course, daddies don’t cry!
I’m so very happy. Tata is such a good man!
Thanks to Ellen Prior for the translation.
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