Holding your new baby, you hurry through the night, away from the house, down to the bottom of the garden, to the old railway carriage. It’s well past time to introduce him to your family. Late summer throbs from the purple buddleia.

No one know how this freight carriage came to be here. The neighbors say it was already there when they moved in, and that was fifty years ago. Chances are it was hauled in before they built the wall on the north side, where the grimy apartments squat. How else could it have gotten here?

Your husband refused your invitation to explore it, declared it trash. He swears he’ll tear it down someday.

The path smells of flint, sharp and granular. You pull your baby closer. Moonlight glows behind his frothy dandelion head. The hot ridges of his ear brand you.

The wooden walls have buckled in your absence, collapsing over the car’s windowless haunches. The rusted wheels bite deeper into damp devil’s food earth. It’s tricky to climb into the cockeyed carriage, in this dark night. The sour metal strip across the bottom of the doorway scrapes your shins.

Your carriage friends stretch out wavy tendrils for the baby. You’ll both be safe here, they reassure you, sighing tenderly. It’s true that their veinless leaves are far stronger than they seem, and of course they always work together.

Your husband wouldn’t want you here, he wouldn’t have let you come. But he’s not home, just now.

You lie cradled on the green. Frayed silver clouds rush against the moon, suffocate the light, grate pewter across the sky. The baby’s happy, you can tell, nestled on the lush velvet moss. He breaths are like puffs of prayer and promise. Before you forget, you tuck away these pocket memories of glistening blood, luminous shells, and the copper inside his wrist.

You’re shy. These friends haven’t seen you since the baby came. Although they’ve seen your breasts before, anticipation ripples across the carriage as you let one breast free. You understand, it’s so much bigger now, bigger than even you’ve seen. Resting on your knees, almost giggling as you turn in a circle, offer a panoramic view.

Their gaze sets your blood to thrum. To help your baby suck, you lie back, pull him to you, unfurl the sizzling current of your milk.

Your friends murmur and confer. It’s time, it’s not safe to wait, you don’t know when he’ll be home. The moss clambers over you both, spreading as quickly as a stain, so softly that you barely feel it. Emerald cortexes swell and you hear the thousands, millions of spores explode.

4 Comments

  1. Sarah Freligh

    Suzanne, I checked the board last night before I went to sleep at 10 East Coast Time and missed this! But here I am today.

    This is so atmospheric, especially when we’re in that freight carriage, and the “you” is working beautifully to establish the dreamy, imaginative voice of the narrator. I love the collision, too, of that against the harder edges here — the husband and his threats to tear this beloved place down and his evident warnings to stay away from the place–and how those create both conflict and motive. It’s the shadow here, the undercurrent, but it’s also the reason why she’s sought out this place. She’s safe here, among “family.”

    I got tossed by that first mention of “family,” probably because she’s moving “away from the house.” So I don’t know — maybe just go with “introduce him” early on or rather than family, maybe the “friends”?

  2. Suzanne van de Velde

    Sarah — thanks so much for going so far far beyond your duty! Super helpful — as was your whole course. Have been thinking how that ‘You’ can register as both an imperative and a warning, an alarm from the universe beyond and from inside your head.

  3. Kathryn Kulpa

    Hi Suzanne,
    I hope I’m not too late–I’ve been trying to catch up with reading at odd hours. How lovely and strange this is! I was thinking it was a bit weird to have her “friends” staring at her breasts, but then realized that the ‘friends’ were actually plants, which is still weird, but maybe in a less rude way! There’s something spooky about the title and the image of the mother and child being consumed by or absorbed into vegetation. It reminded me of the fungi in Mexican Gothic, but there’s also something nurturing about it. This overgrown carriage is her true home, unlike the “grimy apartments,” and the plants are her true family, unlike the husband who seems domineering at best, possibly even abusive. This could be read as suicide or a turn into madness, but I prefer to read it as an escape.

  4. Suzanne van de Velde

    Hi Kathryn — I’m running late as well and still posting comments, too! So glad the stories are still accessible. This was originally in first person, and I do really think it’s much better in 2nd, but of course I still have lots to do to make the beats work better, and up the tension. This place is her refuge from a husband who got much weirder after she gave birth. thanks for your thoughts — really enjoyed being in the workshop with you.

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