The Mysterious Case of the Missing Baby, by Ben Jeapes

Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

Years ago, a homeworking friend told me that he walked to work each morning. Not the few short steps to his spare room; instead he would go for a walk around the block, then disappear into the spare room. It helped set him up mentally for being at work, rather than just happening to be working at home. And of course, he got some exercise. At the end of the day he would walk home again.

It’s a great tip and I took it up myself; a clockwise or anticlockwise route, depending on whether it’s an even or an odd day, because of course I don’t want it to become stale through familiarity. Or to develop a roll, like horses. Anyway, I heartily recommend it. You can stop reading now if you like as I’ve achieved at least half my purpose.

Another benefit is guilt-free, mind-neutral thinking time. A chance to take in the world. Maybe be inspired.

Today I was walking behind a lady who was pushing a pram. As I slowly overtook her I noticed that the pram was empty.

The temptation to point this out – “I say, do you realise you’ve left your baby behind?” – was almost overwhelming. But I don’t generally approve of men making unsolicited comments to women they don’t know, especially when they think they’re being funny, and so I’m glad my self control was that little bit stronger. Anyway, no baby where a baby might be expected to be is automatically a charged situation where you really should establish the facts before proceeding any further.

Which is not to say that my mind has not been working away on explanations:
  • The baby was there but had slipped down below the blankets. (The most likely, face it.) 
  • She needed to get the pram from A to B, and pushing it was the easiest way of accomplishing the feat. (Next most likely, but open to possibilities. Maybe she’s a pram smuggler?) 
  • She really had forgotten the baby. (Comedy or tragedy.) 
  • Only she can see the baby. (Spooky.) 
  • There was a baby. (Definitely tragedy.)
Maybe one day I’ll follow up one of those lines of thought through the medium of fiction. Feel free to be inspired yourself – an early Christmas present from one writer to another. Plus the walking tip, also thrown in.

Happy Christmas!

Ben Jeapes took up writing in the mistaken belief that it would be easier than a real job (it isn’t). Hence, as well as being the author of eight novels and co-author of many more, he has also been a journal editor, book publisher, and technical writer.


  1. Great post! The home-working, walking tip is brilliant. Thanks! As for the baby, maybe she also works at home and had taken it to childcare, returning with the pram because the childcare facility had nowhere to park it, and did not want to take responsibility for it.

  2. Wonderful! Short and punchy and full of good things

  3. Excellent title, and some great ideas there. The tragedy one certainly made me wince.

    Hope you have a lovely Christmas, Ben.

  4. Explanation #6: It happened to me recently. Outside our house. I did address the mother, whom I knew slightly, then bent over to admire the very young baby in the pram. But there was none! Only then did I notice, under her coat the mother had it in a kangaroo bag, where it was happier than in the pram.
    Explanation #7: I've also once noticed a woman going shopping with an empty pram and returning with all her purchases in it.

  5. I gave up telling things to people in the street when I informed a lady holding an umbrella that it had stopped raining. I was only trying to be friendly - I thought she might not have noticed - but she gave me such evils and I was sure she was about to pull out a weapon so since then I've kept my thoughts to myself. You're right, though - she'd be a great character in a novel. Perhaps the umbrella is her imaginary best friend. Perhaps she is friends with no humans but only inanimate objects such as umbrellas, chairs and whisks. (Perhaps my head is filled with complete nonsense.)

  6. Thanks Ben for the walking tip. As for the empty pram, did you check if the lady was elderly. Some of them push prams to support their walking or shopping! Nice post. Blessings!

  7. Great tip about walking to work. My son-in-law was at home with his two children during lockdown, and he always walked with them several hundred yards as a going-to-school-at-home routine every morning.

  8. You reminded me of the grief I got once in a garden centre, taking my dad's wheels walking frame back to the car to swap for a wheelchair when he got too exhausted halfway round. It was so much easier to push than carry but the rude remarks I got as people assumed I was swinging the lead in some way!
    So important as writers - and people - to consider all the possibilities.


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