Postpartum by Cezarija Abartis
Even a bear–especially, a bear–loves its cub. But she wasn’t a bear. She wasn’t a wolf or a tiger, just a human. Her baby was helpless, and she felt like a bear. The baby was an armful of squamous tissue, gleaming, squirming, like a glistening, beating heart. Undirected, unfocused, barely human. If she squinted and looked sideways, it could have been a jelly mass, a wet sock with fingers, a wiggling pudding. She put Lala into his crib. His real name was Jason Junior, but he made that la-la sound a lot, and her husband joked that Lala should be the baby’s name. How did the world survive if mothers felt like her? A bear would take this alien species and crush the head. Or bite the face.
There would be no future. Maybe there wasn’t anyway. Did her mother feel this way the first time she looked into her eyes? She recoiled at the thought and scrubbed her face with her hands.
She dangled a rope above where Jason Junior lay, but no, this could be a frightening snake to a newborn, a baby dragon to the baby. She threw the rope against the wall, and it slid down and yowled. She didn’t think that snakes yowled.
She would sing to the baby:
Rock-a-bye baby, in the treetop
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall
And down will come baby, cradle and all
If only Jason would come home from work and save the Baby-Mommy. She felt the rope around her neck, the tiny hands tickling and strangling her. She needed to escape from the jelly monster in the crib. She would run away. She would not challenge it. She was terrified. She would run away. And save the baby, the monster baby. It was, after all, her flesh and Jason’s. On the wall was a photograph of the two of them when they first met and they walked on the golden beach, holding hands, and his friend took the photograph. She leaned toward the camera and smiled. “I’m a koala.” She had preened and smiled winsomely. “I’m a sloth,” he said. “But I’ll catch you. I love you so.”
She went into the kitchen, pulled out the drawer, and selected a knife, the big one they used for slicing turkey, and shuffled back. “Look at the shadows,” she said. There were shadows in the corners, the edges, on the ceiling, in the closet, in the hall, under the crib. What could she do? The knife felt heavy as she hefted it above her head. The jelly baby monster blew a bubble of spit on his soft mouth. The whole globe of the world was there. She heard a scrambling at the door, a scritch at the lock. She took a breath. She dropped the knife. It clattered on the floor, shining in the shadows.
Cezarija Abartis‘ Nice Girls and Other Stories was published by New Rivers Press. Her stories have appeared in Brain Harvest, Underground Voices, Slush Pile Magazine, Story Quarterly, and New York Tyrant. Recently she completed a novel, a thriller. She teaches at St. Cloud State University.
© 2012 – 2013, Metazen.