Grace Hertenstein is a recent graduate of the New School in New York City. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Sleet Magazine, Midway Journal, Ozone Park, The Wayfarer, and in the anthology The Gothic Blue Book (the Haunted Issue). She is currently at work on a novel.

The New Arrival

Grace Hertenstein

The “new arrival” appeared quite suddenly.

Edmund supposed that if he thought very hard about it he would be able to follow the chain of events precisely.

First, Mummy and Daddy became happier. It was clear to Edmund that he was scolded considerably less and referred to often as a “big boy” and also “brother.” After all that lovely attention, he promptly lost his playroom. Half of his toys that used to live in the playroom were moved into his bedroom and the other half disappeared into a giant black bag. He had thought they were playing some sort of game, picking out the toys that would go to “charity.” It had been so fun that he hadn’t even bothered to ask who Charity was.

Then he had started to notice that his parents began to look different. Mummy suddenly was very large. Edmund wondered if perhaps Mummy had accidentally eaten the giant black bag that was meant for “charity,” but then he remembered that he had seen her mark it and put it outside.

As Mummy grew larger, it became harder and harder for her to run after Edmund. He used this to his advantage by slipping out of his chair at breakfast every now and then and running upstairs to his old playroom. Each time he checked there had been some new development: the walls were painted a dreadful shade of pink, then there was a frilly white contraption where his toy box used to be, and then there were lots of new toys, none of which particularly interested Edmund. He could only wonder what on earth his parents were thinking. Edmund had entirely no use for dolls with frivolous bows or teacups too small to drink out of. The worst part was that when he had sneaked back downstairs to the breakfast table, Mummy and Daddy were completely oblivious to his disappearance and reappearance. They were too busy talking about some friends of theirs that Edmund didn’t know. He wasn’t sure they knew who they were talking about either because they kept changing their minds, “Matilda?” “Alice?” “How about Daisy?”

Then came the “new arrival.”

Edmund had been woken one morning by his Nana Eloise, who was in an extraordinary mood, and who let Edmund have extra sugar in his morning tea and a chocolate biscuit.

“Today’s a special day,” Nana Eloise said with an overwhelming smile and Edmund nodded, thinking that perhaps Nana Eloise had gone a bit barmy. Today was no different than yesterday really, except that Mummy and Daddy were very late for breakfast. Mummy had been tired lately; Edmund supposed she could do with a lie-in. But they didn’t show up until the next afternoon and Edmund was most glad of it. Nana Eloise had been a bit exhausting, always following him around, trying to read to him or get him to play a game with her. She seemed to think he was much younger than his four years.

The moment Mummy and Daddy came through the door Nana Eloise completely abandoned the building blocks she had been trying to amuse Edmund with. Nana Eloise seemed to know nothing about the architecture of a good building block house, but Edmund was quite shocked when, as soon as the front door opened, Nana Eloise jumped up with a shriek and bounded away from him. Edmund had followed curiously and been met with the smiling faces of Mummy and Daddy and the frilly white contraption from before was thrust into Edmund’s face. What he found inside of it was something he knew right away was called a “baby,” though Mummy and Daddy called it Emma. He knew this because George across the street had gotten one only a month earlier. George said he hated it.

Nana Eloise was in hysterics over what she kept referring to as the “new arrival.” Edmund thought she might just faint from all the excitement. Emma was less than thrilled at Nana Eloise’s shrieks of what Edmund supposed was delight; her eyes opened wide and she began to scream. It sounded much like the neighbor’s cat when Edmund pulled her tail.

Edmund was less than thrilled as well. He could have counted on his one hand the number of times Mummy and Daddy played with him in the days that followed Emma. There was always some sort of commotion over her tiny dresses or her dainty shoes or the pink bow that often graced Emma’s head. Edmund wasn’t impressed. Emma slightly resembled a squashed potato and most of the time she smelled horrendous. He couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. He was smarter than Emma, definitely more handsome, and he could do a lot more things, like stand on his head and brush his own teeth. Emma didn’t even have teeth.

It was quite clear to Edmund. Emma would have to go.

It was later, when Mummy and Daddy were busy overreacting to the disappearance of their beloved “new arrival,” that Edmund began to push his toy box along the corridor and back into his old playroom. Emma had gone the way of all of Edmund’s old toys, she had been sent to charity, which George across the street explained was a place you could take your old, unwanted things. Emma was definitely unwanted, at least by Edmund, but he felt Mummy and Daddy would warm up to the idea. It had always been better before when it was just the three of them, they had to know that.

So as Mummy and Daddy scurried about the house looking for Emma, Edmund helped himself to a chocolate biscuit. It was better now, they would see. Edmund pulled out the kitchen stool as he ate his biscuit and stood on it to get a good look out the window as the dustmen pulled alongside his house in their large blue lorry.

“Oh dear,” Edmund muttered to himself.

It was only then he remembered he had forgotten to ask Mummy or Daddy to write the word “charity” on the large black bag which the dustmen were now throwing into the back of their lorry.

Edmund climbed off the stool and finished his biscuit. He wiped the crumbs from his shirt and then headed toward the staircase. It was time to unpack his toy box.