Excerpt of Daniel Isn't Talking by Marti Leimbach
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"I'm trying to help you," he says. He smiles and his teeth are
like piano keys, his lips like a sweet fruit, tender and large.
His children are grown now. That is all I know about him. "Tell
me what troubles you," Jacob says. I am meant to pour myself
into him as though he is an empty jug. This I cannot do.
At home I frantically organize clothes and toys, collect the
sticks from Popsicles, the interesting wrappers from packets.
Egg cartons turn into caterpillars; jam jars become pencil
holders, decorated in collage or made garish in glass paint.
Setting out the paints and crayons and shallow dishes of craft
glue, I prepare for when Emily wakes, my little girl who loves
animals and art. Daniel will not draw, will only break the
crayons in half, rip the paper. I tell myself he is young yet. A
voice inside me says, "Wait and you'll see!" But the voice isn't
real and the boy won't even scribble on paper. This is part of
"My son," I tell Jacob. He nods. I am meant to continue.
Every morning I take the children to the park, hanging on to
them as though someone might snatch them from me, drug them and
spirit them away from me forever. This is a great fear of mine.
One of my fears. The only reason I haven't been to the doctor
for Prozac is that I am convinced that the doctor would alert
social services who might then come and take the children away.
This is a completely ridiculous idea and I know it--but that's
why I'm at the shrink's. Although I have to admit I'm not
getting anywhere here.
I say now to my shrink, to Jacob, "Medicate me or I will fire
"What's that mean?" Jacob says. "Fire?"
I shake my head. I feel like a seed husk spent beside a loamy
soil, like an emptied wineskin drying in the sun. "It means I
stop paying you," I sigh.
He smiles, nods. But he does not, at this point anyway,
Emily has a mop of blond curls billowing around her face,
smiling eyes, aquamarine. Her baby teeth, spread wide in her
mouth, remind me of a jack-o'-lantern, and when she laughs it is
as though there are bubbles inside her, a sea of contentment.
She carries Mickey Mouse by his neck, and wears a length of cord
pinned to her trousers so that she, too, has a tail. Kneeling on
a chair beside the dining table, she instructs me on the various
ways one can paint Dumbo's relatives, who wear decorated
blankets which require much precision. Unlike most children, who
only paint on paper, Emily enjoys painting three-dimensional
objects and so, for this reason, we own nine gray rubber
elephants, some with trunks up and some with trunks down, that
she has decorated many times. She has yet to find an elephant
she thinks is a suitable Dumbo, and so we just have the nine so
Daniel has one toy he likes and hundreds he ignores. The one toy
he likes is a wooden Brio model of Thomas the Tank Engine. It
has a face like a clock, framed in black, with a chimney that
serves almost as a kind of hat. The train must go with him
everywhere and must either be in his hand or in his mouth. Never
in Emily's hand and never washed in the sink, as I am now doing.
No amount of reassurance from me, no promise that this will take
only one minute, less than a minute, does anything to
soothe Daniel, who pounds at my thighs with his small hands,
screams like a monkey, opening his mouth so wide I can see down
Excerpted from Daniel Isn't Talking by Marti Leimbach
Copyright © 2006 by Marti Leimbach. Excerpted by permission
of Nan A. Talese, a division of Random House, Inc. All
rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced
or reprinted without permission in writing from the