Welcome to the July edition of First Monday Free Fiction. To recap, inspired by Kristine Kathryn Rusch who posts a free short story every week on her blog, I’ll post a free story on every first Monday of the month. It will remain free to read on this blog for one month, then I’ll take it down and post another story.
This month’s free story is Boardwalk Baby, a fantasy novelette set on the Jersey Shore that’s perfect for summer.
There are two things about herself that Izzy has always known with absolute certainty: One, that she was adopted and two, that she has an affinity for the sea. For from her earliest memories on, the ocean has always called out to Izzy. But her adoptive parents thwart her attempts to get closer to the sea at every turn.
When Izzy turns eighteen, she goes in search of her past and her birth family. It’s a quest that will take her to the boardwalk of Ocean City, New Jersey, and to a mysterious fur coat that might hold all the answers to Izzy’s questions.
Izzy had always known two things about herself with absolute certainty: One, that she was adopted and two, that she had an affinity for the sea.
She’d learned about the first from a book her parents, her adoptive parents, had always read to her at bedtime when she was little. The book was called The Greatest Gift. It told the story of a big house, drawn in bright, cheerful colours. Women who were too poor or too sick or just had too many children already could put the babies they couldn’t keep into the mailbox of the house. The women, called “birth mothers” in adoption agency jargon, were rendered in washed-out, grey hues, fading from the page as they faded from the lives of their children. The babies, in the other hand, were little bundles of joy with ruddy cheeks and round smiling faces in pink, a yellowish beige and various shades of brown.
Inside the big house, the babies were taken out of the mailbox by roly-poly jolly teddy bears and put into little beds. There was a long row of little beds with babies of all shapes, colours and sizes, cared for by the roly-poly jolly teddy bears and kept behind glass, as if they were dolls in the display windows of Macy’s at Christmas time.
Then a couple came to the house, a couple who were so very sad, because they would love to have children, but couldn’t have any. The jolly teddy bears asked them in and took them to the big room with the long row of little beds behind glass. And the couple walked along the display windows like shoppers walked past Macy’s at Christmas time. Finally, they picked the perfect baby from the many, many babies in the long row of little beds. And then the couple went home with the perfect baby and they all lived happily ever after. The end.
Over the years, Izzy had come to hate that book. Oh, it was all right at first. After all, it was a bedtime story and all kids loved bedtime stories, didn’t they? But when her parents kept reading that stupid book to her again and again — never Grimm’s Fairy Tales or Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales or Where the Wild Things Are or Pippi Longstocking or Horton Hears a Who! or The Rainbow Fish, but always that same bloody book — Izzy had gradually come to hate it. For who wanted to hear the same stupid bedtime story over and over again every single night? Even if, so her parents had insisted, it was Izzy’s own story.
Years later, Izzy had learned that her parents had been given the book by the adoption agency to take home and read to their perfect child to accustom the child to the idea that he or she was adopted. She’d also learned that there were different versions of the book, featuring different coloured parents and babies.
The book was one of the reasons why Izzy hated the adoption agency. Because they honestly thought that such a stupid, silly picture book was all the explanation an adopted kid would ever need or want.
This story was available for free on this blog for one month only, but you can still read it in Boardwalk Baby. And if you click on the First Monday Free Fiction tag, you can read this month’s free story.
Check back next month, when there will be a new story available.