Nuclear Family

by | Jun 9, 2020 | Fiction, Issue Fifteen

Push. Would it be barely human? Would it suffer? Would the bombs take this too, reaching out in retroactive radiation, touching everything? She clenched teeth, winced, her toes curling against the black sand of Tennessee nuclear wasteland. A home birth, on ash dunes under the metal roof burnt wood shack makeshift, alone. Push. She squeezed the bent ring and wished that he was beside her, that she could squeeze his hand instead, squeeze the life out as if to say this should be your pain too. Push. She focused, truly forgetting for the first time in months his face like a cooking meatball, the white ash smell flash, people crushed, crawling, pushing. Press. Would it just be dirt and early dying for them? She looked to the corner at the jerry-built crib, built of lead, like a meat freezer. Her breathing grew harsher, more segmented. Push. She thought of her lungs, then her chest, and then if the milk would be toxic. Push. How many limbs could an infant live with? Press. How many mouths? How many hands or lack thereof? She felt the head crown. It had a head that felt round. Push. It slid out in what sounded like one piece. Please. She bent over quickly, and cut the cord with her front teeth, picking him up as he squirmed so new and inconceivable. Him. All the fingers all the toes but his face, just one eye adoring his forehead like a singular rounded opalescent green jewel, blinking. He had such long lashes. He cried. She looked at him with wide wet pupils, open mouthed, and held him closer. They swayed gently. He became a little quieter.

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