The Sea is a Horse, Of Course

by | Dec 12, 2023 | Fiction, Issue Thirty-Six

A man named Beaver had a baby with his wife, Bunny. In the weeks before the birth, Bunny bulged big, and Beaver walked proud. Yet, when the labor came due in the maternity ward, the baby was born not from Bunny but through Beaver’s mouth.

This caused several complications.

When the wee babe’s scalp crowned, all of Beaver’s teeth fell out. All that precious ivory, yellowed so diligently with years of coffee cups and pipes of tobacco, gone.

I will need Bunny to nurse me like the baby, Beaver thought. Beaver thought, like my son, I will need to eat strained carrots.

When the umbilical cord was cut, it did not retreat down Beaver’s throat but flopped about his mouth like a second tongue, creating its own babble of poppycock and taradiddle.

My language has been confounded, Beaver thought, and my words will scatter away from my face until I can once again sift falderal from folderol.

As for the afterbirth, having nowhere else to go, it settled in Beaver’s gut, bloating his belly and hunching his back.

Once they had returned home, Beaver lay long in bed under the weight of the afterbirth. He resolved a reversal was in order. He told Bunny he would swallow the baby and let it be born again, through her. “Ith my birthrighth,” he gabbled.

Having none of that, Bunny slept on top of the baby every night, while Beaver haunted its crib, looking for his son while he gummed the bedposts.

One night, instead of covering the baby, she replaced it with a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes, and Beaver swallowed it.

The next day, Beaver visited Dr. Brevity to complain of a pain in his gut. The doctor poked his skin feeling the stone perched within atop the afterbirth, and diagnosed, you have a stone.

Will it pass? Beaver asked.

With luck commensurate to the size of the stone.

Whew, said Beaver, and he headed off to sea, to float on his back and find relief in the weightlessness of water. I will pee and let my salty sea join the greater sea and the greater salt and the stone will flow away from me.

But with each wave, the tide grew higher and Beaver sank lower, dragged down by the weight of the stone he could not discharge. As he began to drown, he said, this isn’t birth. He said, this isn’t right.

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