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Warning for those of you who get quesy at reading about birthings, don't go any further.
I re-edited the ending to the one I wanted to put it.

Thank you kinetickyle for your help.

Paper Bag Boy

A gas street lamp cast its eerie glow on the cobble street and all its occupants below. Rats scurried along the gutters; their red eyes glowed and darted frantically about in search of food, as their noses picked out the aroma of food droppings from human waste. A lone woman hid in the shadows, preparing a makeshift bed on the cold stones for her newborn that would be arriving at any moment. She placed some newspaper onto the stones for warmth, then some newly stolen linen on top for softness.

The baby was pushing hard on her abdomen, stretching her walls, determined to enter the cold dirty life its young mother only knew. Water gushed out suddenly from between her legs, a silent warning to the mother to prepare herself. The woman keened low in pain, then lifted her tattered dress and squatted. She placed her hands between her legs, and with clenched teeth, screamed as the child forced its way out. The need to grab something for support was overwhelming, but she refused to lose her position, knowing that the child’s safety was more important than her pain.

She caught the mucusy baby, as it slipped into her world and brought it forward to view it in wonder. Many times she had helped with other birthings, but none had made her feel quite so alive and afraid as her own now did to her. She had a healthy baby boy. But there was no time to admire him, because no sounds could yet be heard from his tiny throat. She gently turned and laid the infant onto its stomach, resting him carefully on her outstretched arm and stuck her smallest finger into his mouth to clear an air passage. The baby suddenly crunched up its tiny naked body and screamed its first breath of life. The woman smiled in relief, and then turned the newborn over to view its form in leisure.

She had given birth to a healthy baby boy in the Year of Our Lord 1843, in the back streets of London, England. She kissed the child in a sudden rush of motherhood before placing him on the clean soft bed to finish her labor of the afterbirth that needed to come out. Ignoring the membrane sack full of blood and gel that had come out just as painfully as the child, she bent over her infant son and bit the umbilical cord off. She spat out the taste of blood, and smiled fondly again one last time at her child before she wrapped him up tight and placed him in a hemp bag.

The baby feeling secure once again, in a dark warm place, soon stopped whimpering. And the young mother sang a quiet Irish lullaby, as she took her baby away from the dark cobblestone gin soaked streets of London. The rats, that had waited so patiently hidden in the dark, now scurried to the birthing spot and devoured any evidence of the new life.

The Paper Bag Boy, the only nickname and clue young Henry had of his origins, besides the original carrying bag and newspaper that he came with when he was dropped off at the orphanage. At an early age, Henry was determined to find his mother. He believed the best way to do this was to read the newspaper that may lend a clue into his plight. Thanks to the generosity of a retired gentleman who taught Henry how to read in exchange for keeping the gentleman’s home and small enclosed courtyard in shape, he soon became an avid reader.

Reading the date had at least given him his day and year of birth, but no other clues did it hold. Because Henry couldn’t afford to buy a weekly newspaper, he soon got a job as a newspaper boy at the age of fourteen, anything to find his origins, his mother. Again, he could not escape his nickname at the orphanage, but he ignored the taunts as he diligently read the headlines and gossip columns. Eventually, as he grew older, hope began to fade, and he soon gave up his search. Orphans were many on the streets of London. Gin drunken whores had no time for children.

Henry decided it was time for a change in jobs, something with better pay. He found it at the very factory where he worked as a newspaper boy. His new job consisted of filling in the block letter print slabs with ink, which permanently left his hands black. He also had to make sure the factory was clean before the workers went home and to stack the unsold papers in the boiler room for burning in the furnace.

Many of the workers were women who worked fourteen-hour days for mere pittance. As the boss said to him once, “It was this job or onto the streets for them where most didn’t last for more than a year.” They were disposable, the women knew it, and so did Henry who after a while became cynical and cruel toward the women. To him, they all represented the hate he felt for his mother that was slowly festering as the years went by.

The women soon learned to cower and cringe when Henry walked by, because one of them was usually picked weekly for his cruel amusements, which could be anything from rape to brutal beatings. But at night, away from his job, Henry would smooth out his worn out birthing paper and cry for the mother he so desperately needed in his life.

One night before closing, Henry had entered the boiler room and became angry when he saw the large stack of neglected newspaper. Nobody had disposed of the paper for quite sometime, and it wasn’t his job to do it. Needing someone to vent his anger out on, he walked the factory floor of women. They suddenly became quiet when they heard his footsteps. He loved the feeling of intimidation he exuded when he walked there. It made him feel special, masculine and powerful.

Ah yes, he found the perfect woman, a timid ugly mouse of a woman. Her wrinkled hands and sunken eyes looked like she was on her last legs. It would be fun to watch her work. He wondered how long it would take before she dropped from exhaustion.

This was a betting game that he and his boss enjoyed playing. As he ordered this woman to her new assignment, he ran up the stairs to get his boss. Both of them had to witness the event in order for the bets to become legitimate. When Henry and his boss entered the boiler room, the worn out woman was already hard at work tossing the bundles into the fired furnace.

“Fifty quids says she won’t last more than an hour,” says the boss.

Henry looked at her objectively. “I would say longer, two hours.”

She lasted two and a half hours before she collapsed in a dead heap on a pile of newspaper. For all Henry’s cruelty, this was the first time he had witnessed a death, and it bothered him. He felt repulsed and a sense of guilt stab at his heart, as he stared down at the pain filled tired face. “Does she have family?” he found himself asking.

The boss shrugged, unconcerned or affected by the senseless death. He stared down at the lifeless body with cynical eyes. "No family that I remember. She had the nerve one time to accuse me of planting a seed in her belly. She wanted money, would you believe it! But when I didn't fall for her little scheme, she told me she had given birth to it on the streets, stuffed the baby in a bag, and dropped it off at an orphanage. It would be my curse, she said. I would have gotten rid of her a long time ago, but I found it amusing to watch her struggle. I give these women just enough money to live daily; anything more and they would buy gin with it. That’s all they are good for those dirty women.”

Kimberly Bird

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The following comments are for "Paper Bag Boy"
by Kimberly Bird

"She caught the mucus, wet child . . . "
Mucus-y perhaps? I dunno.

Also, though I understand Henry must have felt a lot of frustration at the fact that he couldn't find his mother, why the hell would he just give up in his teens and become so cynical? The transition from unflaggable hope to bitter hatred was too harsh and fast for me.

( Posted by: Washer [Member] On: August 20, 2003 )

Also, though it's a necessary plot device, it seems implausible that the manager remember any details from the women's lives, due to his chauvinistic tendencies.

( Posted by: Washer [Member] On: August 20, 2003 )

Paper Bag Boy
Washer, someohow I sent in the wrong version. The one I meant to send in explains that the boss is the father, which would account for his rememberance of this particular woman. Now, I just hope I can find it on my hard drive. I suppose I could always just edit it here.
Thanks for your comments.


( Posted by: kimberly bird [Member] On: August 20, 2003 )

paper bag boy
Thank you rcallaci, you always make me feel good about my stories.


( Posted by: kimberly bird [Member] On: August 21, 2003 )

my opinion...
Personally I though that you did a pretty good job here *thumbs up*

( Posted by: strangedaze [Member] On: August 24, 2003 )

though = thought
I hate public displays of error...

( Posted by: strangedaze [Member] On: August 24, 2003 )

paper bag boy
Thank you strangedaze & Penelope for your encouragement. I will correct the errors on my website instead of here, because it takes a while for it to go through. I know some people are perfectionists and have the need to point out others flaws, but I will take it with a grain of salt and know that I cannot please everyone.
I thought of this story originally because of my cat. This little kitten no more than 2 days old was abandoned by its mother close to the river's edge. When I came upon him, he was lying on some old newspaper crying so hard. I took him home and bottle fed it. Now I have a big tom cat that still loves the feel of newspaper.


( Posted by: kimberly bird [Member] On: August 24, 2003 )

Took a peek
I can see why you enjoyed my story, our choice of plot twist is similar. I liked this story, ironic twist, what comes around goes around...always a winner. As for Washers comment, editing and re-editing can always take care of any minor flaws...but plot twist and reader engagement is always top on my list! great job.

( Posted by: scryer [Member] On: September 4, 2003 )

Paper Bag Boy
It is one of the best stories that I have read to date.Keep up the good work. If u continue writing like this then one fine day you could be one of the best story tellers of our time.

( Posted by: g.s.vasukumar [Member] On: October 6, 2003 )

Paper Bag Boy
Thank you both scryer & g.s.vasukumar. I'm glad you liked the story. It's fun to delve into history a bit to see what you can come up with.


( Posted by: kimberly bird [Member] On: October 8, 2003 )

A good title is cruicial with a database this vast. Nice title and a very well crafted story. Good imagry and a clever ending.

( Posted by: cybele [Member] On: March 23, 2004 )

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