Breath by Phil Arnold

Baby Boris was imbued with a kind of contrariness that was evident from the moment of his birth, when he quite definitely, quite defiantly, refused to breathe. Even as he emerged from his mother’s straining birth canal, apparently already aware of the moral ambiguity of the world he had entered, he simply decided not to continue the journey.

Cut to the chase, he seemed to say. Please, not seventy more years of this.
It was not a situation with which night nurse and occasional mid-wife, Maria, was unfamiliar, and she had long-since ceased to demonstrate concern on such occasions, regardless of her elevated heart beat. She reasoned that the child’s parents would be much less likely to panic if she didn’t appear to.

So, she took the bloody parcel in her confident hands, and employed the time-honoured method of inducing inhalation: she gave the child an almost imperceptible shake. When this, and a more vigorous repetition of the process, failed to produce the desired result, she set her mouth in a grimly determined line, narrowed her eyes, and gave the child, whose skin was developing a decidedly blue-ish tinge, a sharp smack on his bloody behind.

Unfortunately, this, too, failed to convince Baby Boris to inhale, and so Maria laid him on the nearest available horizontal surface, closed her eyes, sent a silent prayer to whichever god might be listening, and, having detected no sign of any obstruction in his mouth, she, ever so gently, because, despite her no-nonsense style she was capable of great gentleness, breathed a small amount of air into Boris’s tiny, infant lungs.

Then, much to Maria’s relief, and his parents’ great joy, Baby Boris let out a prolonged and piercing wail, and, finally, if reluctantly, consented to breathe – a decision he, nevertheless, saw as subject to constant review.

Phil Arnold is a teacher, musician, composer, playwright and fiction writer living in Sydney, Australia. Though he spends most of his professional time directing community and school band programmes, he is also a freelance writer/editor, having had articles included professional magazines, and written several musical plays, all of which have been performed several times.

Phil has written fiction since childhood and completed a Masters degree in Creative Writing through the University of Sydney where he studied under award-winning novelist Sue Woolfe. Since then, he has had several short stories selected for publication in a variety of anthologies – most recently ‘Letter to Grandpa,’ which was short-listed for the Lane Cove National Short Story Award, and selected as winner of the Resident’s Prize.

In 2017 Philip published his first novel, Journey to Warudhar.

Baby photo credit –

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