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Patty-Cake

June 4, 2009

The moment she knew she’d conceived she made two decisions: no doctors, no birth.

“Baby,” she said to the cluster of 15 cells adhering to her uterine wall. “Forgive me. It’s a harsh world. I can only think of one way out.”

Every cell of their collective body agreed. At the end of nine months there were no contractions, no birth.

By the end of the first in utero year he slept through the night and drummed on her lower left rib if he wanted a shot of caffeine. He liked reruns of Myron Floren on the Lawrence Welk Show and did not care for Chinese food.

She filled with song. He learned to crack his thumbs in time to her voice, a double-jointedness which ran through the family on her father’s side.

By the third year she began to thin. Lying nude in the backyard dosing them both with Vitamin D, she noticed how translucent her flesh had become, the centerline full of white striations pulling and stretching like a seam coming undone.

In the dome of her belly, two small hands pressed, and then between them, a face. Even pale and waterlogged, his hair a floating nimbus, he looked exactly like her uncle Vinnie. She smiled. The boy smiled back.

His finger with its long curled nail followed the path of a crow over the dome of his world, leaving a flush of pink in the fluid.

She called her sister, said she was leaving a present in the backyard. The sister said she’d be right over.

When the sister arrived, the boy, sitting upright in the pelvic girdle, was playing patty-cake in a small puddle of amniotic fluid, tears streaming down his face from the pure brilliance of the day.

by Karen Stromberg

Download the MP3 (reading by Beth Adams)

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  1. June 4, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Wow. No words. I’m staggered.

  2. June 4, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Me too.

  3. Maureen Jivani
    June 4, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    me three.

  4. June 5, 2009 at 10:09 am

    I’ll say four, which is also the number of times I’ve read this in the past day. Truly stunning. I can’t get that last image out of my head.

  5. john
    June 5, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    The symetry, balance, economy, sparkle, and depth of this piece makes ‘gem’ the perfect word to describe it.

  6. June 7, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Strange and beautiful. Thank you.

  7. August 1, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    SO bizarre and wonderful and perfect in each digit and detail :-) Love Myron Floren and Uncle Vinnie and the delicious weirdness of it all! Glad it doesn’t usually work this way tho . . .

  8. R. Westerfield
    June 22, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    Your writing is beautiful, moving, and powerful!

  1. November 30, 2009 at 3:49 pm
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