“Boomer,” by Lewis Braham

Aug 20th, 2022 | By | Category: Prose

The baby was loud and stupid, and a baby. River didn’t know what to do. He’d never had a baby before. One day he looked in the toilet and there it was.

River tugged on the crown until the toilet swirled and roared and there was a loud pop as the mucked-up baby emerged, like a baptism, only in reverse. It proceeded to crawl everywhere, leaving a trail of malodorous brown slime on his Grund driftwood-colored organic cotton bath mat, soiling the porcelain rim of his bathtub, and then clambering up to the sink and onto the bristles of his Preserve Recycled Toothbrush where it lingered with a self-satisfied smile and stared at him with its big stupid baby eyes.

Since it was surprisingly strong and didn’t come with a manual, River bought a carriage—the sturdiest one he could find with a seatbelt built in. Then, he went to the playground with his weird baby to talk to parents. He couldn’t say “other parents” as his was toilet-born and he wasn’t sure if technically he was one.

There were some trees, a ballpark with a chain-link fence and a small area with a rubber mat, swings and benches for the parents. On one, hunched a blind woman with a carriage who thought his baby was cute. Seizing the opportunity, he asked, “So, what do you do with yours?”

She straightened, immediately: “What do you mean?”

“Your baby—do you just like feed it and stuff? Is that it?”

She moved her stroller to the next bench.

Another woman unbuttoned her blouse and offered a nipple to her baby. Why not try that? Even though he was almost flat chested and produced no milk, the baby immediately latched onto his right nipple and started not to suckle but to clamp down until it drew blood.

By this point, the playground had cleared and a police car parked at its entrance with its siren light whirling. A police emerged and said, “Sir, is everything OK? We’ve had some complaints.”

River covered his bloody nipple. The baby, having broken free of its seat belt, had crawled over to the monkey bars, gnawed off one of the bottom rungs and was in the process of bending it between its palms.

“Oh, I’m just caring for this baby.”

“Is he yours?”

“Well… I suppose, yes. I mean, no one else seems to want him.”

“Oh, your baby, your baby,” The police suddenly became deferential regarding River’s little miracle. He almost genuflected. “So sorry.”

River then had the park to himself.

The baby got tired of crawling and started toddling like a bear around the deserted baseball diamond, chewed on the rubber pitcher’s mound, ate some grass, then, having thrown this matter up, ate it again.

Over the coming weeks, the baby grew rapidly, but never matured, still had soft baby hands, soft baby lips and round innocent baby eyes, but somehow teeth, all molars that could brecciate obsidian and gnaw at the substrate of your life. It ate everything, didn’t discriminate and was soon as big almost as River’s living room.

When people asked River about it, he was tempted to say “I’ve got baby” like lice, not “a baby,” or “my baby.” Was it his baby? It came out of the toilet which was the place people evacuated themselves of the stuff they least wanted. Was he really responsible for Boomer? And right then, right there, thinking this unseemly thought when a woman in the park with bulging eyes asked him, he named his baby.

One day River came home from a café meeting with a client and as he walked towards his front porch, saw a giant doughy pale pink arm with stubby fingers and filthy fingernails reaching for a lamp. Half an eye, an immense left one, glimpsed through the window. It was blue, crystalline, without hate, love, or empathy. Then a toothsome smile. The elephant lamp, which River had bought at an Ikea closeout sale, was hoisted, suckled, then dropped from near the ceiling to crash at the epicenter of a puddle of urine on his hardwood floor.

“OK, Boomer,” he said. “What did you do?”

“Personal responsibility,” the baby said. Its first words. Boomer pointed at the TV, balled his fist and smashed the puddle of urine—”Personal responsibility!”—so it splashed River’s face and the TV, which was on, tuned to a Chivas Regal ad. To get the screaming to stop, River had to order a case.

Soon, the baby no longer drank milk but Chivas Regal all day. It also insisted River buy La Gloria Cubana cigars, the largest 70-ring gauge, and Golden Eagle coins, which River had to bury in the backyard, or it would wail so loud the entire house shook.

The baby had grown so big and noisy River often went to a coffee shop to work if he could avoid the neighbors calling social services for leaving it alone. Or, just to take a break, he tried gardening, which he’d always found a relaxing activity. Some months ago, he’d sprinkled Evergro plant food on his roses, basil and aubergines. He regretted growing the aubergines as he hated their taste but had planted them anyway because he liked saying the word “aubergines.” He’d also thought they might make good gifts to bond with his neighbors, yet his neighbors—a flute player on one side and an old man who chain smoked on his porch all day on the other—never seemed interested, which was too bad as the aubergines were doing tremendously, larger and shinier than any at the supermarket, so well in fact, perhaps he could grow some more and enter them in a contest?

So, he decided to get the old hoe and shovel out and plant the same kind of aubergines he hated, the seeds for which he’d purchased from an ancient street vendor with a glass eye in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. As he started digging, he would occasionally see the cloth selvage of a tiny frontier style dress fly through the air in the front window. He’d purchased Boomer an American Girl doll, which Boomer liked but mainly to toss like a football across the living room. The windows periodically rattled as the baby scampered after it or, occasionally, crushed the doll’s half-gnawed face against the glass.

The hoe hit something soft and River heard a high-pitched screech. He raised the blade. Brown withered moss stuck to its edge, dripping what on closer inspection he realized was blood. Kneeling, he swept off the dirt with his hands to reveal the fuzzy back of someone’s skull. He vomited—and this regurgitation the earth strangely absorbed with a shudder. He exposed a cheek—gaunt, but expanding and contracting rapidly, then slower, still. From the crack in the parietal orb where his hoe had struck brains oozed. The face familiar.

“Everything OK down there?” his neighbor asked—the chain-smoking retiree who up until this point had barely said two words to River.

Gasping, River pointed to the porch window so his neighbor could see Boomer’s palm smooshing the American Girl’s ravaged face against the glass. His neighbor retreated and slammed the door.

The dirt hissed as he uncovered—his Amazon deliveryman whom he hadn’t seen in a few days—a young guy with sinewy legs in khaki shorts and his name Malcolm stitched into his delivery jacket. Malcolm had a soul patch, his teeth now gritted in agony. There was squirming beneath him, the soil undulating like a rattler winding through the sand.

River cautiously used his shovel and unearthed a writhing mass of larvae with worm-like bodies but baby heads. They’d suckled on the still living but paralyzed deliveryman like a litter of piglets on a sow, having injected him with a paralytic neurotoxin with their baby mandibles that kept him alive and fresh while they feasted. Their larvae trails, now exposed in the soil, were bioluminescent and shown so bright they nearly blinded River but because it was daylight no one else noticed.

Now they were wailing because River had ruined their meal. “Shut up! Shut up!” he whispered. Their cries, like an eagle’s descending, didn’t draw much attention thankfully as the neighbors were used to Boomer’s and he was peering now out the window at them with his giant eye, then screeching in response until they stopped and started instead to coo. As River covered them, one of the larvae, the largest, repositioned itself to suckle on the leaky cranium, gazing upward at River with wide-eyed baby bliss. Since Malcolm was still alive when they’d paralyzed him, River was guilty of, at least, manslaughter by cleaving his skull.

“Personal responsibility,” Boomer said as soon as River entered the house.

River rushed to the sink to vomit some more.

“Personal responsibility,” Boomer towered over him as he washed his face and hands.

“Leave me alone!”

The hipster delivery guy fed the grubs outside for a couple of weeks until River ordered another package of toner, which he hadn’t replaced in several months as he rarely printed anything anymore. This deliveryman from Amazon was even younger than the first and when River asked from the doorstep if he wouldn’t mind leaving the package right over—*[1]


“Over there by the aubergines.”

“The what?”

“The eggplants.”

Then the ground rippled and before the deliveryman knew it, he’d been injected with the babies’ neurotoxin, couldn’t speak and was pulled underground to much chortling.

Boomer watched the whole event through the window with a serious expression. “Personal responsibility.” He nodded as River walked in the door.

No matter how many delivery men Amazon sent, the company never seemed to miss them. River debated whether he should turn himself in. Unlike Malcom, the other delivery guys didn’t have their names stitched in cursive on their jackets, only that creepy Amazon smile, and the babies ate everything anyway, stitches and bones. Amazon didn’t seem to care that they’d disappeared. In fact, disappearance was a common “Con” on Glass Door reviews of the company online.

Boomer looked over River’s shoulder at the DuckDuckGo search he did for “manslaughter and should you turn yourself in.” Boomer raised his chubby palms in the air and see-sawed them as he squinted and twisted his nose and lips upward into a quizzical expression: “Personal responsibility?”

Babies after all need to be fed.


One day, as River tiptoed outside to take a break, he saw his neighbor Jeb. The silent chain-smoking one whose name River only recently learned because Jeb’s Bits and Pieces jigsaw catalog had been mistakenly delivered to River’s house. Jeb was watching him, squinting with one eye as he dragged on his unfiltered Camels. He spat some brown juice into his ashtray and stubbed the butt. “I had babies once.” He pointed at the rustling aubergine patch. “Whole nest of ’em in Okinawa. Couldn’t get rid of ’em. Shacked up with some Kabuki chick outside of base. We were happy as clams until the place became infested.”

There was a loud crash as a Vishnu statue River had purchased on eBay flew through his upstairs window and landed in Jeb’s yard. Three of its arms broke off.  Gasping, Jeb clutched the rusty railing to his porch with both hands and hobbled down the stairs to pick up the pieces and hand them over their shared hedge.

As the ground under the aubergines rippled and cried, Jeb raised his eyebrows and whispered: “They like trash.”

It was hard to tell how old Jeb was. He wore bowling shirts unironically. He was frail, sharp nosed, ashen, lungs and chest caved in like he’d inhaled himself one day and forgotten to exhale. He’d seen action in the second Greatest War.

Sighing, River dumped the shards of Vishnu in the trash. He was exhausted. Stayed up till 1 reading the tax code for a story about the stepped-up cost basis for heirs’ retirement plans. Instead of driving to Giant Eagle as he’d planned, he ordered some groceries from Whole Foods. Boomer spied as he clicked the mouse.

When the bags came, the delivery guy retreated before River could check their contents. He waived with what River assumed was a smile behind his black mask and glanced at the aubergine patch. Boomer was excited. He pawed at the bags as River went through the receipt. Oat milk—check, Organic black beans—check, 7-grain Ezekiel Bread—check, non-fat Greek yogurt—check, soy nuggets—check, etc. etc. His head pressed against the kitchen’s ceiling, Boomer chortled at each item. But suddenly he was enraged, spying the avocados in a clear spidery elastic sack. He grabbed the sack and swung it around his head like a mace, ultimately slamming it against River’s side so hard he collapsed. “Personal responsibility!” he screamed and hurled the avocados through the window.

Soon, Boomer insisted River buy him a computer to make his own purchases. Yet he constantly needed help with it, so that River would shout “Pull down menu! Pull down menu!” and “Control Alt Delete!” over and over again. Boxes started arriving at the house, monthly subscriptions to cigar and whiskey club sites. One day Boomer looked sad as he canceled his Mash & Grape delivery and ordered Chivas Regal instead. “Personal responsibility,” Boomer sighed.

Then there was the day the back door was open and a piglet in the living room snorting on the splintered shambles of the 19th century wedding chest River had salvaged from a flea market, stripped with methylene chloride, sanded, painted periwinkle and repurposed as a coffee table. The babies whose slimy bioluminescent tails had reached an intermediate stage so that there were two stubby feet embedded in them waddled upright now out of the house in single file like dwarves, trailing their slime back into their nest beneath the aubergine patch. The pig an offering River presumed to Boomer.

Boomer had long since outgrown his carriage so River put him on a toy tow truck, then a dolly, then a rickshaw with the top removed. Because Boomer was a baby and everybody loves babies, the neighbors sometimes pitched in and helped River drag Boomer around like they were draft horses.

But even when no one could help, Boomer still insisted River pull the rickshaw around town. Once, they went by the pet store and Boomer pointed at the window and started wailing until River went inside and bought him a baby python to play with. Boomer would order groats for his pig, which they kept in the backyard, and rodents for his python from Mice Direct.

The python grew faster than the pig and soon swallowed it so there was a big undigested bolus in its esophagus. Instead of being upset, Boomer laughed and laughed, then grabbed the unhappy python by the tail and swung it around like a club. Using the pig’s bulge as the business end, Boomer would smash holes in the walls with it. It now replaced the avocado sack he previously used to beat River.

The day came when Boomer was so big, River could no longer pull him in the rickshaw and the python whip no longer worked as River just curled up fetally on the sidewalk and refused to move, no matter how many times Boomer thrashed him and screamed.

“Papa,” River cried from the sidewalk at passersby. “Papa!”

“What a cute baby,” they cooed.

Eventually, Jeb who was at the bodega buying smokes spied River and helped him pull Boomer the rest of the way with his gimpy leg. Finished, Jeb wiped his brow.

“You ain’t keepin this baby,” Jeb said.

Soon a neighbor, an engineer who had falsies but didn’t want the hormones—Amir, Amira now, but sometimes when he had to go to the office, still Amir—took pity on River. They designed a much larger wagon for Boomer on a 3D printer from super sturdy plastic that, when it hardened, was as durable as steel.

The resulting contraption filled the side street River lived on like a parade float and needed River’s, Amir/Amira’s, Jeb’s, the flautist’s Morissa’s and several other neighbors’ efforts to pull. It was like something from a Cecille B. De Mille film watching them tug Boomer up Whitney Avenue as he lashed them with his pig infused python and whenever they paused from exhaustion, would screech at the top of his lungs “Personal Responsibility!” so loud the windows rattled and the terracotta pots undergirding daisies, mustard greens and wheat grass shattered.

One evening as Boomer was sleeping with his neck cricked against the ceiling of River’s living room, someone slipped a note under the door. Boomer snored in front of an infomercial with a cigar butt clenched between his molars, the remote in his right hand and a Chivas Regal bottle in his left.

“Meet at the park in five minutes,” the note read. Through the window, River spied a woman in a black veil wheeling a black carriage towards the park. When he arrived, there was a circle of veiled women with black baby carriages, all empty and turned inward toward something lit like a stage by the playground’s arc lamps. At the center was a giant structure he couldn’t at first discern until the circle broke and their leader approached him.

“You have to get rid of this baby,” she said.

She pointed: They had fashioned a giant bottle filled with all their husbands’ whiskey and their prescriptions of Xanax in it.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“We are the Women Against the Generative Superstructure.”

The next day, River gave Boomer the bottle and while it didn’t knock him out, it placated him as they led him to the cart Amir/a had constructed. There they belted him in with hemp ropes and each woman of WAGS cut one of their deliveryman’s ears off, put it on a hook and lured the larvae babies from their underground lair. Attached by recycled nylon fishing line and the hooks, the larvae slithered in the back of the cart like wedding streamers as Boomer slurped on his bottle, and belched, “ers-onal tonsility.”

The ladies had bought Boomer a paper crown from Burger King which he donned readily so he resembled a larger less adorable Max from Where the Wild Things Are.

When Boomer saw Jeb marching before the cart, he started reaching his blurry fingers towards him and burbling “—ility! —ility!” as the entire neighborhood walked the miles to the Westmoreland Sanitary Landfill in Rostraver. What began with River pulling the bulk of the load, soon became a neighborhood effort, then an Allegheny County one, as mothers everywhere emerged from behind their baby carriages to help.

Jeb kept muttering at first, but then louder to egg Boomer on, “Such a baby! Such a big fuck-in’ baby!” The larvae hissed in the back of the cart every time they heard these words

Finally, they reached the landfill in Rostraver. The Rostraver-ians were less than pleased, even though, like everyone, they adored babies. But somehow this giant inebriated one coupled with the pervasive stench of shale gas, raw sewage, burning plastic and methane leachate in their atmosphere, made them irritable.

Yet River, Jeb and the Women against the Generative Superstructure would not be deterred. They burst through the landfill’s security gates, then tried to tilt the wagon onto the heap like a dump truck, but Boomer was too heavy and the stench broke his stupor.

Boomer now bawled at the massive heap of trash before him. A wavering tremulous retch-inducing cairn of oozing offal and plastic, with the handles of shopping bags undulating like tentacles. So many wrappers, chicken cutlet and hamburger meat Styrofoam bottoms red and runny with blood. Diapers, tons of diapers, child and adult sized, a mycelial fungal network grown partially by accident, partially by mad scientist design, three cheese tortellini packages, 280 calories per one-cup serving, 4 sat fat, crushed egg shells, wrung tea bags, coffee grounds, Southern Grove Deluxe Mixed nuts, Aldi’s dirty paper towels, condom wrappers, shotgun shells, enough dental floss to circumnavigate the earth thrice, waxy Q-tips, Christmas ornaments, tons of kitty litter, little mummified turds embedded in its granules. All of it compacted, compressed on the bottom but looser on top.

Seagulls screeched above, rats below as the slug babies hissed and rattled like sadistic wind chimes in the back of the wagon. And still Boomer winced and wined, his nostrils red, inflamed.

“Jeb!” The leader of the Women Against the Generative Superstructure implored.

“Such a baby!” Jeb said. “Such a big fuck-in’ baby!” He saluted the landfill, took a slug from a brass flask in his hip pocket, then prepared to decapitate himself with a Bowie knife.

“Help him,” the women chanted, and to his surprise River did, managing with great effort to cut through the gristle.

“OK, Boomer,” River said, and with the ladies’ encouragement, tossed Jeb’s head to the top of the garbage heap. Unchained, Boomer lumbered out of the cart and murmured, “Personal Responsibility?” As River straightened the paper crown, Boomer looked upon him with curiosity and fondness. Then he clambered slowly up the ziggurat of garbage like a gorilla. There was an old lawn chair balanced at the top and he rested first his diapered buttocks on it, then his hand on Jeb’s bloody skull, tapping his pudgy fingers on the scalp. Now, he sat on his throne.

River cut the baby slugs loose and they slithered into the mound, happily eating all sorts of trash and occasionally leaping in the air to snap at the seagulls like marlins.

“Personal responsibility!” Boomer roared and beat his chest at the top of the heap

At first, the Rostraver-ians hated the giant baby as he would hurl TVs at them like feces, but he ate all the shale runoff and other garbage and they eventually grew to love him so much, occasionally, when Amazon wasn’t looking, they lured a delivery man to the heap.

As a member, albeit headless, of the greatest generation, Jeb was buried in Arlington with full honors. He’d left a note to the authorities explaining his actions, which everyone in Wilkinsburg thought was neighborly of him. River, for his part, having rid himself of the Boomer nuisance, felt he had finally found that deep sense of community and spiritual connection he had longed for his entire life.


[1] Story of the Deliveryman It’s not like there aren’t eight billion too many of us at all. He had a hard childhood, a single mother who inspired him to pursue his art school dreams. So now he was broke, indebted up to his neck in student loans, but Amazon liked him for not crying in the warehouse, and his eye for seeing the shelves artistically, visualizing them as he remembered surprisingly well where everything went in a space the size of Mayberry. So, they gave him a driver’s job which also required powerful logistic skills. Call him Reggie Bimrack.


Lewis Braham is a graduate of Brooklyn College’s MFA program in creative writing. His work has appeared in Litbreak Magazine, the Ekphrastic Review, Tuck Magazine, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Reuters, and Bloomberg.

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