(Note: This piece does not appear in the novel. I wrote it to provide a little further glimpse into Charlinder’s family.)
Madness O’Clock AM
The surprise to Roy was not when his mother woke him up at some absurd hour of the early morning that day in February. It was that he had managed to fall asleep that night at all.
His sister, Lydia, had awoken the previous day at nine months pregnant and complaining of abdominal pains. Their mother, Letitia, had shooed Roy off and insisted that he go about his day as usual and that his uncle, Terrence, needed him much more than Lydia did. He’d spent a mostly normal, chilly day cutting wood and letting his uncle assist, except for the part in the afternoon when his friend’s aunt Eleanor came to the woodyard to tell him that Lydia had wrapped up her chores for the day and Letitia was taking her to the infirmary. He’d run out of the yard and found his sister accompanied by their mother and halfway to meet the midwife, looking mostly in control aside from the obvious wetness in her skirts.
“You’ll be an uncle in a few hours and I’ll come to get you then,” Letitia had assured him. “Now give your sister and nice hug and let me take it from here. Trust me, it’ll get scary in there and you don’t want to see her like that.”
Roy was something less than satisfied, but there was no arguing with his mother, so he went back to work while Lydia ducked into the man-free zone of the midwife’s room. He’d spent the rest of the day in a haze, his uncle having to make sure he walked in the right direction. Their cabin was half-empty when he went to sleep that night. The bed where his mother and sister slept was conspicuously vacant, and the cabin was accordingly quiet.
Therefore it was a relief to wake up at Madness O’Clock AM to his mother nudging him out of bed while trying not to wake Terrence.
“Come on, Roy, wake up, wake up!”
“What happened?!” was the first thing out of his mouth.
“It’s a boy!” Letitia whispered frantically. “Now get up and come see him!”
“Alright, Tish, we’re coming,” Terrence muttered while pulling himself out from under the blankets.
“No, no, Terrence, you go back to sleep, Lydia understands,” she fussed.
“Like hell am I sleeping through this,” Terrence grumbled. Roy threw on his shoes and jacket and helped his uncle to his feet. Terrence followed them out of the cabin.
“Mom, is Lydia okay?” Roy asked outside.
“She’s fine, darling, your sister’s doing just fine, and she can’t wait to see you.”
They opened the back door of the infirmary to a burst of warmth and light. There were candles burning all around the room, and a vigorous fire crackled in the hearth where Sarah, the midwife, stirred a pot full of what Roy guessed were soiled sheets. Opposite the door sat Lydia in bed, wrapped firmly in blankets and leaning against the wall with a tiny, pinkish body curled up to her bosom. She looked up and smiled joyously when her family came inside.
“Come see your nephew!” she said to Roy.
He sat down next to her on the bed and wrapped his arms around her, taking care not to surprise the baby at her breast. “Is he eating?”
“Yes he is!” she squealed down at the chubby, squirmy newborn in her arms. “He’s sucking on his mommy like a good boy!”
Roy took one arm away from Lydia and turned to his mother, who had deposited his uncle in the chair next to the fire. “Mom,” he complained, “your grandkid’s turning my sister’s brain to cheese.”
Lydia and Sarah burst out laughing while Terrence chuckled quietly, but Letitia was not so amused.
“Your uncle is so silly!” Lydia cooed to her son.
“Roy, you are twenty-three years old and you need to set an example for your nephew, now stop acting like a child!”
“Tish, let him have his joke,” Sarah chuckled. “Roy’s been waiting all day and night to find out his sister’s okay.”
“Uncle, we did it!” Lydia said to Terrence. “The baby and I, we did it, and he’s perfect!”
“Lydia was a wonderful primipara,” Sarah announced to Terrence and Roy. “She was on top of those contractions like it was her job.”
“It was my job,” Lydia pointed out. Suddenly Terrence had a nasty coughing fit. He’d been sick and getting worse for months, though no one else had caught what he had.
“Uncle, are you sure you want to be up?” Lydia asked. “Mom, shouldn’t he be in bed?”
“I thought so, too, but…”
“No, Lydia, a few hours of missed sleep isn’t going to make a difference,” said Terrence as he regained control. “This part of your son’s life is never going to happen again.”
“I know, but…” Lydia trailed off.
“Hey, Lyds, it’s warmer in here than anywhere else,” Roy pointed out. “He’s in the right place.”
“This is about you and your baby,” Terrence reminded her. “Do you have a name for your new little boy?”
“Are we still going with…?” Roy began. Lydia nodded. “His name is Charlinder,” he said to the room.
“What kind of name is that?” Letitia questioned.
“It’s the one Roy and I chose,” Lydia answered. “Now, I think my little guy has had enough to eat, and he wants to meet his uncle.” She placed the baby in Roy’s arms. Letitia immediately produced a small blanket from somewhere and stuffed it around the baby, as if Roy might not keep him warm enough.
“He’s so soft,” Roy muttered to no one in particular. His nephew glared curiously up at him with his squinched little face. “I think he looks kind of angry,” he thought out loud.
That got a chuckle out of Terrence. “If he were angry, he’d be making a lot more noise.”
Roy stood up and brought the baby over to his uncle. “Here, do you think he looks like Lydia?”
“You know, I can’t really tell yet,” answered Terrence. “He looks like a new baby. His face’ll be clearer in a few more months.”
“And he is just the sweetest little thing, yes he is!” Letitia cooed.
“Mom, have you held him?”
“Yes, I have!”
“Why don’t you tell us,” Sarah asked, “how you chose the name Charlinder?”
“We wanted our kid to have a name that no one else had,” said Lydia. “So Roy and I bounced some ideas off each other for a few months and we decided Charlinder was good for a boy.”
“If that’s too much of a mouthful,” Roy suggested, “I think it would be fine if we called him Char.”
“And when you have a girl, what’ll you name her?” Letitia asked Lydia.
“Shit, Mom! I just had him! I’m not ready to talk about doing this again!”
In fact, I loved this book. I wanted it to go on. And that’s saying a lot considering it was over 400 pages long. I was drawn in from the first chapter and Miers had me hooked. I love a good dystopian story, and hers was believable and relate-able. And because of that somewhat scary in its plausibility.
–Becca Boucher at My Life With Boys and Books