the cruelty of children

–> back to facts and fiction

preview to short fiction appearing in Echo Ink Review (new issue comes out next week)

It wasn’t a dead baby. It wasn’t cancer. There was nothing to be sad about. For God’s sake they should be celebrating. He says he believes she is right, but he can’t stop thinking about the teeth and the hair. There were also bones. The doctor said that’s not unheard of in a teratoma tumor. Not even the worst he had seen. He told James about the one a few years back, took it from a forty-five-year-old man’s scrotum—same as James. He said the tumor had hands. It looked as if it were reaching right up at him. “It wanted a little hug,” he said.

She says the doctor is a jackass. “He shouldn’t have told you that. Why did he have to show you pictures of the damn thing? He should’ve just sewn you up and ended it there. We didn’t need to see those pictures.”

He is still a little out of it when they drive home. Floaty. He closes his eyes and sees two balloons filled with helium. One goes up. The other won’t ascend. Both of them are foil sacks on the same string.

“Do you think it’s going to rain?” He asks. His stitches itch. Outside the sky of a Los Angeles winter is all broken jars of terra cotta. When he swallows he feels the place where the anesthesiologist pulled out the plastic breathing tube. A plastic tube, he thinks. For one whole hour a tube did the breathing for him.

His wife never answers about the rain.

In the night he is afraid of something that isn’t there. He paces and sits, paces and sits, tries to make himself bored by looking out the window. “I should get to that back lawn this weekend,” he says. But that’s just to put something in the air. Later, there are more words to take something out of it.

She asks him if he’s in pain.

He says he’s not.

“Then come and watch some television with me.”

In bed he tells himself this: What they took from his body wasn’t alive. It wasn’t really alive. He thinks about the picture. “And see this? The surgeon had said. He leaned on James’ bed, adjusted the screen of his camera, cupping his hand against the fluorescent lights of recovery room. “That’s three strands of hair. There’s that bone piece I was telling you about. Here’s the teeth. Three teeth.”

When James moved his leg he felt the wad of gauze where his right testicle had been. There was a smell in the room like the inside of a toolbox.

Now his sleep is damp and cut up. For a long time he will dream of marsupials.

–> back to facts and fiction


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