MONDAY: All and Nothing

BY DAWN WILSON

Copyright is held by the author.

LACKING SELF-AWARENESS is key for the unwed mother.

1: Delude self into Love. Or luv. Or even [heart].

2: Delusions of safety! Security! Comfort! Coddles and cuddles and a few snoodles to top it off.

3: Doncha know: men want marriage more than they want anything else on this planet, including bigamy and a 10-foot trout.

4: Of course, of course, men are responsible for their actions, they always think of you first, condoms are worn at all times, except when they must void the bladder. Be prepared! The Boy Scout motto.

5: An honest man takes you gently.

6: He will always be there in the morning.

7: Making pancakes.

8: Already picking out a ring with all his imagination.

***

Please, dear Lord, Kate prayed, don’t let me even for a moment have fallen prey to that delusion that I was just as special as last night’s girl.

***

9 AND 10: You are that delusional, girl. Yeehaw!

***

Practice Preventive Motherhood

***

Oh, and get his phone number up front.

Then call it before accepting semen prettily packaged to make sure you’re not connected with the local butcher at the local grocer four towns over.

Or worse, a joke, ha ha, connected to the direct line to the baby food aisle.

***

The first nightmare, fuzzy, dark, hot in a mythic baby food aisle:

Wahhhh! Wahhhh! Wahhhh!

What lungs on that thing; he must take after his father?

Honestly, I wouldn’t know…

***

There was a peppy girl in the pregnancy test aisle, drawing a box of tests into a thick notebook, herself eight months pregnant and bursting at all her seams. Shiny, so fucking glowing you could beat her over the head with a shovel and it still wouldn’t bring her back to earth. “It’s just the sweeeeetest thing, what you do, you write a message every day to your unborn baby, and then for the first year, and then you give it to her when she’s graduating and going away to college! Squee! You’ll miss her so much, it’s just darling, you know? An unbreakable bond!”

***

The second nightmare, on a street corner with bluebirds circling:

Awww, he’s so cute.

(You lie.)

But he doesn’t look like you; who’s the father?

(I’d kill you if I had the strength.)

A crowd gathered, examined her abdomen, a man shoved a hand up into her womb, proclaimed her nesting with an unknown bird. The crowd dissipated and threw past-dated fruit at her.

***

Sleep quickly became elusive. Tainted. Hateful.

***

Message to the baby: “Men are not a necessary part of the family pyramid. They will soon fall down the pyramid and be swallowed whole by seagulls on the beach.”

Message to the baby: “If you curse me, I will curse you back. Do NOT be a boy! That’s redundant. Women seduce men. Women head the family. Women make the bread, bring home the bacon. Women hold every job (unpaid) while men take up Welfare (on the sofa). The only place for a man is in sperm donation.”

***

Inside her, the zygote cried along with the pregnancy test, which read positive.

Passion, passion, she cried. She cried and tears fell. Joyful passion.

Too bad it hadn’t been, and there was no way to delude herself otherwise. Not with the memory of his hands still gripping her shoulders and holding her in place and ordering her not to move.

***

“That’s just the way it works, hon,” said an old woman in the ob-gyn waiting room. “The penis goes in, out pops a baby. I should know; I had eight. Then he died, thank the good Lord. Eight kids, you stop it with the sex thing, that’s for sure.”

***

At the supermarket she ran into the fling. Unexpected.

“Hi.” Smile, Kate, smile. Steady.

“Not me, not me.” He ran before she could mention their brand new bond: isn’t it lovely?

“Oh yeah, dickwad?” she yelled and threw a can of spinach down the aisle. It smacked into the floor.

“I’m sorry, miss, we’re going to have to ask you to leave,” a man said. Another flanked her. Store employees. She checked ring fingers and went quietly. Only married men had jobs.

***

“I don’t know how it happened,” she pleaded over the phone to her sister.

Belle laughed. “Uh huh.”

Play up the lack of self-awareness, Kate. Play hard. Sniffle a lot. Don’t say loneliness colours attentions sincere. Don’t say you were unaware that men can lie.

“Come on, tell me who the father is.”

“There is no father.”

Belle laughed harder.

Kate pondered the humour. Nope, she thought, none.

***

He mother laughed heartily. “I knew it was only a matter of time.” Her mother stopped laughing. “I am not going to raise that child!” And hung up.

“Who asked you?” Also hung up.

***

“She thinks it’s funny,” Kate told Belle. “She thinks I deserve it.”

“Don’t you?”

***

Falling.

Falling.

Falling.

Victim.

Her stance felt learned. Straight out of the unwritten handbook for the modern single mother.

Where did the ridicule stop? Where ended the suspicion? Would the infiltration of one sperm cause her necessarily to take advantage of everyone?

***

Lift up the mother in reverence, for not all can give birth. Lift up the woman trying to give a good life to self and child.

***

HEADLINE: Bay Woman Smothers Two Small Children

***

It was the first thing to make her smile in a week.

It made her nostalgic. Gave her heart pangs. Then she cried for her own weakness, that she couldn’t take her fate into her own hands, that everyone walked away.

***

Sayonara!

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

Sucker! Perpetuate this human race? You gotta be fucking us.

***

Message to the baby: “I pay so much for you, it appears I like you, wanted you, adore you, could eat you up, I’m soooo hungry, can’t sell you, why not pay the parents who birth the children, not the snotty teenage babysitter? Perpetuating the human race is a billion-dollar business. Where are the subsidies?”

Message to the baby: “No one likes you enough to watch you without requiring a stipend.”

***

“You can’t afford to be selfish anymore,” Belle said.

“Not even for one minute of silence? When’s the last time you had a deep breath? Mine was last Tuesday.” Kate cried. Alone, but never alone.

The baby cried, splashed by Kate’s hot hateful tears.

***

Message to the baby: “I worked my ass off. It fell off. My pants don’t fit. I’m starving. You keep crying.”

***

“I just need a shower,” Kate begged, junkie-like. “Just five minutes.”

Her sister hung up.

Her mother hung up.

The man in the baby food aisle hung up.

***

Even God said: It takes a village to raise a child.

Then he laughed and hung up.

4 comments

  1. Pingback: The Composition of White Light | Mine Own Oxymoron
  2. JAZZ

    I liked this piece – I liked it a lot. The internal monologue; caustic, sad, even funny at times laid bare the guilt, fear and loneliness of the single, unsupported mother. The last two lines were quite brilliant.

  3. Charles Pinch

    Smart, post-modernist writing that turns a sentence on its edge and exploits the formal possibilties of narrative convention. The dialogue zings wise ass snap and has the feel of good stand up scat comedy, both funny and sad. You played chimes with ‘hung’ four times in five consecutive sentences (and you can’t do that without an ‘inner ear’) so put down you’re knitting, Ms. Wilson, and go to the head of the class. A well-crafted, literate, focused story.

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