Posted in Contemporary, excerpt, Spotlight, women on July 2, 2015



Thirty-five-year-old Miranda Berenzweig is not an impulsive person. She’s been at her editorial job at Domestic Goddess for eight years, she has plenty of great friends, and even though she just broke up with her boyfriend, her life is back on track.  Having a baby isn’t even on her radar until the day she discovers an abandoned newborn in a Brooklyn subway station. Rushing the little one to the closest police station, Miranda hopes and prays that the newborn will be all right and that a loving family will take her. But Miranda can’t seem to get the baby off her mind—and she keeps coming up with excuses to go check on her, until finally a family court judge asks if she’d like to be the foster parent, and maybe even adopt her.  To her own surprise, Miranda jumps on the chance. But nothing could have prepared her for the ecstasy of new mother love—or the heartbreak she faces when the baby’s biological father surfaces, wanting to claim his child.


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The rocking of the train was making her sleepy; Miranda Berenzweig rested her head against the wall and closed her eyes. Just for a minute, she thought. Just one little minute. When she opened her eyes, she was still sitting in the subway car, entirely alone and freezing. She leaped up in a panic. Clearly, she had slept right past her stop, and several stops after that; she’d come to the end of the line. The doors were open and the platform was elevated; that’s why she was so cold. But where was she? Coney Island–Stillwell Avenue, that’s where—at least according to the sign.

Well, she’d just have to get a train going back; she could forget about finding a cab out here.

Miranda stepped onto the platform. Even from up here, she could smell the sharp, salt-laced wind coming from the ocean. It was a good smell, actually—clean and bracing. But she had to get home. She felt nervous being out so late by herself, a feeling that intensified when she went down the stairs. There were no longer any token booths; she could see the phantom spot where the booth had been, its ghostly perimeter still outlined on the floor, like something from a crime scene. There was not a soul in the station, and she was just about to sprint up the stairs to the other side when her attention was snagged by a neat, cream-colored bundle that sat right by the banister.

She paused. It looked harmless enough—a folded blanket or something—but in the post-9/11 world, she had to wonder. Could a bomb be concealed in those folds? How would she know, anyway? Did she even have a clue as to what a bomb looked like? While she was debating this, she saw something else even more startling: a tiny foot peeking out from one corner of the blanket. It flitted through her mind that this was the second bare foot she’d seen tonight. Only this one belonged to a doll.

A doll. Not too likely there was a bomb in there. Miranda could see the little toes, all five of them, lined up like tiny brown nuts. What a well-made thing. Clean too. Why would someone have thrown it away? Then the foot moved. Miranda stopped, not sure she saw what she thought she saw. She was exhausted, disoriented, and possibly a little drunk. The foot was an exquisite creation, crafted from something so smooth and pliant that she could not guess what it might have been. But when it moved again—this time causing the blanket on top to stir ever so slightly—she knew that it was no mere simulation. The cold she had been feeling ever since she woke up seemed to gather speed and force; it shot right through her, like a bullet. Carefully, she lifted a corner of the blanket away.

There, wrapped in a surprisingly clean white towel and cushioned by the bottom part of the blanket, was an infant. No, not an infant, a newborn, with cocoa-colored skin, black hair plastered to its tiny skull, and eyes that were tightly shut against the harsh light of the subway station. Oh. My. God. Was it even alive? Should she touch it? She remained that way for several seconds until the infant opened its mouth in a yawn that seemed to devour its entire face. The eyelids fluttered briefly before closing again. Definitely alive!

The yawn propelled Miranda into action. She lifted up the tiny creature. Under the towel the infant was naked; the umbilical cord, tied in a crude, red knot, looked as if it had been sawed off, and there were reddish streaks on her body. Was the umbilical cord infected, or was it supposed to be that way? She had no idea but wished she had some antibiotic ointment. Avoiding the red protuberance, Miranda shifted the baby gingerly in her arms. Around one wrist was a bracelet; the small pink glass beads were interspersed with white ones whose black letters spelled out baby girl. Someone had cared enough to place that bracelet on her wrist; was it the same person who left her here in the station? Miranda wrapped the blanket around the infant’s body. But that didn’t seem sufficient, so she opened her coat and positioned her close to her own body. That ought to keep her warm. Or at least warmer.

The station was still empty. What should she do? There was an app on her phone that would help her locate a police station. But she did not want to be walking around here in this strange neighborhood by herself. No, she’d rather head for the station house back in Park Slope. She waited downstairs for the train; it would be warmer than the windy platform. When she heard it arriving, she hurried up the stairs and got in as soon as the doors parted.

As the train chugged along, it occurred to her that the infant might be hungry or thirsty. Hungry she could not fix. But she had a bottle of water in her bag; also hand sanitizer, which she wished she had thought to use earlier. Damn! Gripping the tiny body under one arm, she managed to squirt the green gel over both hands and rub furiously. Then she wet her fingers with the water and held them to the infant’s lips. She opened her mouth and began to suck. Tears welled in Miranda’s eyes. She was thirsty, poor little thing. Naked, abandoned in a subway station, and thirsty too—the final and crowning indignity in a brand-new life that so far seemed comprised of nothing but.

When they reached their stop, Miranda made her way through the dark streets toward the police station. At least the rain had tapered off. Against her body, the infant felt warm and animate. Miranda was keenly aware of her breath, in and out, in and out. The rhythm calmed her.

Yanking open the heavy doors to the station house, she stepped inside. A bored-looking officer behind a bullet-proof shield was leafing through a copy of the New York Post; two other officers, one pale and seemingly squeezed into a uniform that was a size or two too small, the other brown as the baby Miranda held close to her heart, were chatting in low voices. Above, the fluorescent light buzzed like a frantic insect. The cop reading the paper finally glanced up. He looked not at Miranda, but straight through her. “Can I help you?” he said in a tone that suggested he would sooner endure a colonoscopy, a root canal, and a tax audit—simultaneously.

“Look,” she said urgently, opening her coat to reveal the infant in its makeshift swaddling. “Look what I just found!”


About the Author

Yona Zeldis McDonough is the author of six novels (with a seventh forthcoming) for adults, twenty six books for children as well as numerous essays, articles and short stories that have appeared in national and literary publications.  She is also the editor of two essay collections and is the fiction editor of Lilith Magazine.  She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, two children and two very noisy Pomeranians.

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