This man is not screaming properly. I have been watching him from my place under the tree that bears no fruit. He is one of this young generation that believe us old people to be fools. They hold our traditions in disdain, and so when you tell him, first time father, that he is to scream for his wife, to scream with his wife, like the fathers before him did, like his very own father had done so he could stand here today, he scoffs.
Bad spirits will feed today.
The young father-to-be is making a pantomime, his mouth open wide but no sound coming. His anguish is theatrical, and his friends gathered around him hold their sides and laugh. It is a foolish generation that we have bred, and I am thankful that I have planted no seed in it. The good spirits were kind for granting me no progeny.
I hear the woman’s screams from the birth chamber, and for a moment the young men pause. The birth attendant’s assistant hurries from the chamber with a handful of salt that she dashes at the doorway before rushing back in. This can be either a good thing or a bad thing, and so the young father-to-be lets his friends buoy him. But I know. The arch in my left foot is starting to itch.
It is a long time before the birth attendant’s assistant emerges from the chamber again, ringing the bell that says their work is done. The young father prepares to receive news, confident that it will be good; his friends are smacking him on the stomach. The assistant circles the birth chamber three times before stopping at the doorway, ringing the bell all the time. Now the world is frozen; the birth attendant comes.
We see the unmoving bundle wrapped in red in the birth attendant’s hands, and now my itch is gone. The bad spirits chose young blood this time. The not-to-be-father-to-be is still for a moment, but this time when he opens his mouth to scream it is from the pit of his stomach, from the newly formed cracks in his heart.
What does this picture say to you?