This week’s TNY fiction is available online. (image: carolita johnson)
Adina, Astrid, Chipewee, Jasmine, by Matthew Klam. Not for the lily-livered. Serves as an interesting foil to the fascinating and well-illustrated New York Times article, One thing they aren’t: maternal, about “bad mothers’’ in nature, in its Science Times section this week.
Mother-to-be, Julia, who smells like custard and breaks her water with a vibrator after watching a Brad Pitt movie, isn’t exactly the kind of cockles-of-the-heart-warming example of maternity Al Jolson would sing “Mammy” to on Mother’s Day. I may find the idea of pregnancy with its incumbent gestation, lactation, and drooling, incontinent infants to be the ultimate birth-control, but still, I believe if you’re gonna do it, do it right! Right? Well, apparently it doesn’t come naturally to all of us. “Get it out of me,” as Julia says, is a phrase I’ve heard before. Luckily it came from a woman who turned out to be a great mother. She was just a little tired of the whole prenatal shebang.
Kevin, the father who has already grown to hate his wife after being forced into the role of stud (the requisite screwing, the livestock feeling of it, the injunction against fiddling with himself),and she into pure baby-making machine (the menstrual cycle on the refrigerator, the shots he gave herâ€”big injections in her ass, little ones in her stomach. The pills she shoved in her pussy to make the lining more hospitable) begins naturally to explore the complications of getting rid of his wife while preserving the life of the baby. Naturally? If the main goal of their relationship has become baby-manufacturing, she is on the verge of becoming useless.
Explicit mention is made of the high murder rate of pregnant women by their mates. And yet once the baby is born, the predator in him intersects with the visceral, innate father and protector he apparently is, even beyond his own understanding. He is at once repulsed (She was entirely fishlike and more purple than Kevin had feared, her tiny private parts swollen, her eyes sealed shut, and they wiped her face off as she tried to grab and hug the air in front of her) and moved to tears. His ambivalence is summed up in these words: Oh, God, he thought as she screamed. Now there are two of them.
The way Julia wants the baby “out of her,” while the man wants the woman out of his life, imagining how he might be able to murder her while preserving the life of the baby reminded me of this article in The Onion, about the “anti-abortion pill,” that kills the mother while preserving the fetus. And the scene of carnage which is Julia’s cesarean fully illuminates the point Nicole Loraux makes about the Ancient Greek word for the blood of childbirth (mysarÃ³s) being related simultaneously to the noble blood of warfare, the deeply staining blood of particularly abominable murders, and filth.
For those of us who need a moral to the story, this story is a parable for those who feel ambivalent about reproducing. It’s to baby-making what Eric Schlosser’s new book “Everything you didn’t want to know about fast food” is to MacDonald’s.