Jennifer Fendya and
KJ Hannah Greenberg

Jennifer Fendya

Death by Children
By KJ Hannah Greenberg
Inspiration piece

That morning marked the nineteenth during which Lani was troubled by fever. What had begun as an “innocent” upper respiratory infection has morphed into a fully-fledged case of bacterial bronchitis. In all, she had a dry cough, a runny nose, pink eye, and chest pains. Whenever she fell asleep, she did so to the sound of her own wheezing.

At first, the neighborhood small fry were of no concern to her. She had been so ill that she had slept through all sorts of sounds, even the noise made by city workers jackhammering the street nearest her and her husband’s home. Thereafter, as her temperature dropped, and as the intervals between her bouts of sneezes became measured by hours, rather than by minutes, her senses were gradually restored.

Lani was once more able to recognize her husband making breakfast from the smell of his eggs, coffee, and toast wafting toward their bedroom from their kitchen. Again, she was able to sense his nocturnal tossing and turning, despite her layers of blankets. Plus, as before, around the middle of the day, she could hear her spouse booming on Zoom. His radio announcer-like voice reached through his office and past her pillows even though their bedroom and his workspace were at opposite ends of their apartment.

Additionally, Lani could again infer the time of day based on the amount of natural brightness that seeped into her and her husband’s bedroom. Seven in the morning, when she woke for bathrooms breaks, was sunnier light than was two in the afternoon, when she sought her slippers and her midday dose of medicine.

Accordingly, it was not surprising that the songs and calls of the wee ones, who lived next to, above, and below her and her husband’s apartment, were among the stimuli that she increasingly noticed. It had never occurred to Lani, prior to her sickness, to mind that their apartment building’s sidewalk abutted the exterior wall of her domain or that her bedroom sat in her apartment’s most external corner. After all, when fit, Lani had always risen early.

Initially, Lani had welcomed the building’s children’s audio disruptions as further proof of her mending. However, as days became weeks and weeks became months, she began to resent the din that regularly resounded outside of her bedroom window. She tried to smile upon hearing little boys and girls chant, “Grandma, Grandpa, Mama, Dad. They’ll get the ruler if you’re bad,” or recite, in sing-song, “I love the birds, I love the trees, I love the flowers, and I love the breeze.” On balance, it was during the very hours that she needed to engage in supplementary sleep that those pipsqueaks were most discernable.

Whereas the caroling of the neighborhood birds, in the middle of the night, had been a surprise, such sounds had not frustrated Lani. A little Internet research had revealed that some avian species woo their mates and defend their turf when the sun doesn’t shine. Plus, birdsong is musical.

Contrariwise, when her neighbors’ small children woke her from any afternoon nap already punctuated by respiratory disturbances, she experienced discord. The children cried. They shouted. Their ruckus contained all manner of jarring elements.

At first, Lani tried gratitude. She prayed for the well-being of the small humans whose cacophony took place, daily, under her window. She gave thanks that a new generation was being nurtured by her neighbors. She gave thanks for having neighbors.

However, the other occupants of her building did not echo her sentiments. The rare times when she opened her front door to peer out at the world, if the children noticed her, they screeched and ran away. Not too long after scattering, those small fiends would return to chirrup directly under her window.

Lani’s husband implored her to call the sprogs’ parents, or to try to take her noontime rest on their sofa. Nonetheless, the former was impossible as the young ones’ minders rarely had returned her salutations when she had greeted them during healthier spans. The latter, too, was unworkable given her husband’s thunderous voice and their living room’s open plan.

Too tired to confront or to compromise, Lani merely arranged extra blankets and pillows and then cocooned herself in those added layers. Whereas those new wrappers somewhat muffled the vocalizations of her spouse and of the neighborhood youngsters, they failed to fully soundproof her sickbay. Lani’s infection exacerbated.

Six weeks into her struggle, Lani’s daughter telephoned to scold her, that is, to insist that Lani seek a doctor or even seek help from a hospital. Hacking, Lani ended that call; she was already on antibiotics and considered both clinics and sanitoriums as places where secondary and tertiary microbes lay in wait for imprudent patients. In her opinion, only well individuals ought to cross those places’ thresholds.

A short while later, when the local schools’ session was paused for holidays, the racket beneath her window grew worse. Instead of merely playing there for an hour after classes or for many hours on weekends, the local little darlings played by that casement all day.

Since the regional clime was not given to precipitation and since Lani’s building was home to many large families living in very small apartments, she didn’t blame the children’s mothers for encouraging them to play outdoors. Besides, the community sidewalk for far safer for kids than were the stairs that lead to all but the ground floor apartments.

Once, when Lani again stuck her head outside of her door and asked the children to play elsewhere, she had had quiet for an entire day. At no other time, though, did the youths cease their loud games.

At Lani’s funeral, her daughter claimed that Lani should have availed herself of stronger drugs and of other dedicated treatments. Lani’s husband, however, had merely shrugged in answer and had said that no matter the intervention that Lani might have used, she anyway would have, eventually, suffered death by children.


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