At the entrance, a woman hands each of us a net. When I imagined this moment, I saw us being given a single net. We would move as one, four hands on the handle, catching our baby together.
“Twice the chance,” Rob hisses, snapping the net like a riding crop.
Yes, I think, yes. Double the opportunity. One-hundred-percent better. Yes, yes!
We run side by side down the corridor, with all the other hopefuls, into the dome. I see babies high in the roof space, they helicopter and dive. The air smells of talc and scalp. A Pink with putto thighs flies towards me and I shove past a man and try to net her. She dodges upwards and skims sideways. I jump high, knocking against the man again, but I miss.
“Get fucked!” the man screams at me and chases the Pink, arcing his net wildly but it meets empty air.
Up ahead I see Rob dip his net under a drifting Blue.
“Stop!” I shout, waving my arms. We agreed Pink and the rules are clear: one baby per couple. If Rob snags a Blue, it is over. “What the hell are you at?” Rob steps back from the Blue and holds his palms out in surrender. “Pink,” I snarl.
Then I see it, executing a cocky glissade above all the Pinks and Blues – a Yellow. Its face is turtlish but it looks strong. It seems unconcerned as it streels across the dome, surveying the waggle of a hundred nets and the anxiety of the would-be parents below. I catch the Yellow’s eye and it holds my gaze.
“Come to me,” I whisper.
Keeping watch on its robust body, I see it gravitate towards me. The Yellow’s eyes are clear and bright; it stares at me as if in recognition. I lift my net then let it fall to the floor. I open my arms and the Yellow descends, poised as a hawk.
The baby snuggles its head to my breast and Rob is suddenly at my side, placing his hand respectfully on the little one’s beautiful head. We look at each other and smile. We look back at the baby. Our golden child. Our Yellow.
Nuala Ní Chonchúir was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1970; she lives in East Galway. Her fourth short story collection, Mother America, was published by New Island in 2012. A chapbook of flash, Of Dublin and Other Fictions, was published in the US in late 2013 by Tower Press, and Nuala’s second novel, The Closet of Savage Mementos, will be out in spring 2014 from New Island.
Lead image: “Air de Bonheur” (via Flickr user Etolane)