Thursday, June 13, 2013

Short-Short Story Contest Finalist

By Laurie McCulloch

"Monday's child is fair of face," my sister sings. "Tuesday's child is full of grace."

Too sweet. Like the lemonade I've just poured from the sweating pitcher on the picnic 

There's a baby somewhere in that cocooned bundle she's holding. I know because I spent 
the better part of last week coaching her through his birth.

"Wednesday's child is full of - oh!"




"Never mind," my sister says. "I'll keep you safe, Pumpkin. Yes, I will."

The heat of the day clings to me, thick and airless.

To keep from screaming, my sister poured all her energy into crushing the knuckles of my 
right hand. I was the only who broke the eerie silence in the delivery room until my nephew soldiered his way into the world and screeched victory from his raw lungs. And then?

He became a swaddled prisoner of war.

I believe he has ten fingers and ten toes. I haven't seen him since he was wrapped up in 
his straitjacket.

"He's going to be so handsome," my sister says. "Straight A student. Right, sweetheart? All the pretty girls swooning at your feet?"


Her smile is lazy and slow. "I've got it all planned," she says.

And the ants that have been marching over the peony heads begin to crawl across my 
skin. The sharp corners of the boxwood hedge close in. The rose stems look suspiciously like barbed wire.

At twelve, he'll be armored with knee- and elbow-pads, a helmet, 40 spf sunscreen, long sleeves and turtlenecks. He'll be tethered to his mother by a sticky strand of spider silk, unable to escape.

But what I thought was a lump of surrender in my sister's arms has become a vibrating secret since she reluctantly placed him in mine. There's a flutter inside this prison of blankets, a movement he's making with his hands. He's wiggling them to create a pocket of space. Soon they'll curl into fists and punch away the layers.

When she's not looking I'll unravel a thread. Just to give him a head start.

Thursday's child has far to go.

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