Featured Writer

Jake McFadyen

Baby Monitor

The kids were asleep and Rick was left to the boxes he’d taken out of storage, piling up around him. He sat at their dining room table, the one they’d bought second hand, sanded, primed, and painted themselves to make their own. The chairs were from IKEA. In his hand was a can of Emu export, unopened, and in the other an unlit Dunhill blue.

It was half past midnight, but Rick wasn’t at all tired. He hadn’t slept in days. Besides, for years he’d worked the graveyard shift while Bec worked days. It wasn’t the best situation but they made the best of it. They always did. For over a year they only saw each other one day of the week, where their shifts didn’t touch and so neither did they: a long-distance relationship in the same household. Bec had always been the type to see the positives and for that he was grateful; he was a miserable bastard at the best of times.


The boys never suffered. Bec would cook them dinner, watch movies, and put them to bed, and he would see them at eight the next morning and take them to kindergarten. Rick was thankful that both were under five and that this wasn’t the normality to which they would grow accustom. Rick imagined that Bec never told him about the times Henry would ask where daddy was, or why he wasn’t watching Peter Pan fly across Neverland with them. It was probably hard to explain to a four-year old that daddy is driving road trains while slugging Red Bull after Red Bull just to afford the brussels sprouts on his plate, the same he so very much hated.

It was about six months in that the baby monitor was bought. The baby monitor, that’s what they called it, but honestly it was more than that – it was a lifeline, a gentle touch, a… thing that was theirs, a secret nobody knew about but them. Bec had picked it up for Patrick and given Rick the other so he could listen in and have company on the road, even if it were sometimes just a distant cry in the night and his wife’s snoring. Pretty soon, that baby monitor was on more than Nova 93.7. Rick would listen in to his favourite non-talk back show, near enough counting the minutes and kilometres until he was walking through his front door. Waiting, would be a message Bec had pre-recorded before leaving. Sometimes it would be trivial, like please remember to get milk, or put the bins out, but other times it would be about how much she missed him and couldn’t wait till their next day off. She would make plans in those messages, too. We’ll all go to the zoo, she would say, or go out for breakfast, but honestly it could have been to book in for a root canal for all he cared. He just liked the sound of her voice.

Sometimes he would finish his run earlier than expected, coming home to Bec still in bed. She always looked beautiful when she was sleeping. Rick could never work out how, but she did; at rest, totally calm, a hand pressed up under her cheek and lips slightly parted. Most of the time he couldn’t bring himself to wake her, so would just lie down still in his work clothes and watch as the sun started to come through the shutter blinds and shine light in her eyes. And when she opened them, she would smile, touch his stubbled face, and pull him on top of her before the boys woke up.

Bec died two days ago. Cancer got her. She didn’t smoke, drink – Hell, she didn’t even swear – but it still got her. Rick was sat at their table staring at the baby monitor, beer warm and cigarette limp between his fingers. The boys were grown now and it had been a long time since he’d driven a truck. The funeral had been earlier that morning and he was still dressed in his suit which was two sizes too big and shoes that were a touch too tight. The boys were with their grandmother, giving him time to sort things at the house. At least, that’s what he told her, but she wasn’t stupid – he wanted time to cry, to mourn, without his sons seeing. He was to be their rock, Bec had told him, be strong for them, she said. But when she’d died, so had a part of him, and that was hard to hide.

Rick quit smoking years ago, after he quit driving. After finding the baby monitor amongst their old things, he went straight to the nearest shop and got a pack after plugging it in to charge. He could almost taste the tobacco as he stared at the eggshell blue exterior of the monitor, feel the wind coming through his side window, see the road out in front of him as his high beams cut into the night’s wall of black.

Rick leant forward and turned the monitor on.

“Hey baby, missed you today,” Bec’s voice said. “Hope you drove safe and can’t wait to spend our day together.”

Rick took his lighter, lit the end of tobacco, and pressed replay.

“Hey baby, missed you today… ”