portion of the artwork for Kevin Spaide's story

Kevin Spaide

I pulled my wife’s shirt up and looked at her belly.

I saw him moving in there. I saw his spine pushing against the inside of her skin.

“We need a lawnmower,” she said.

“I hate lawnmowers.”

“Oh? The grass is knee-high and full of garbage.”

“Our lawn is the only butterfly sanctuary on the street,” I said. “If we cut it down, where would they go?”

“They might fly down to the river and live wonderful lives. But who cares?”

“Who cares? Who cares? What kind of attitude is that? We’re saving lives here. Those butterflies are part of this world.”

“We’ll lose him in there. He’ll wade in after some toy and we’ll never see him again.”

“OK, fine. I’ll cut the grass, and the butterflies can eat shit and die.”

My wife laughed and pulled her shirt down over our son.

We were sitting on the steps of our front porch. We used to sit out there and drink beer, but we stopped doing that when my wife became pregnant. I missed it. I missed it terribly. Why was I such a fool and a moron? Why was I such a nincompoop?

“Are you finally going down and open up a bank account this week?” she said.

“So now I need lawnmower and a bank account?”

“You might also consider a new pair of shoes.”

We looked at my sad, ridiculous shoes.

Then, to get her off the subject of my waywardness, I said, “So what’s it feel like having another person growing inside your body?”

“Oh, you get used to it.”

“I could never get used to something like that.”

“No, you’d complain ad nauseam. You complain about everything.”

“That’s unfair. And it’s untrue. You mistake my wonder for dissatisfaction. I just like telling you about the shit that baffles me.”

“You complain about everything.”

Maybe I did. Who knows?

I poked our son and said, “You lucky bastard.”

“Don’t wake him up.”

“How do you know he’s asleep?”

“When you have another person inside your body you know if that person is asleep or awake. It’s just one of those things.”

“Huh, I didn’t know that. Never really thought about it.”

The neighbor came out of his house and started watering a little pine tree he kept in his front yard.

“That tree is like his son,” I said.

“Jesus, is that your idea of fatherhood? Oh my God!”

“How would I know about fatherhood? How would I know?”

“Do you live in this world? Do you have a working set of eyeballs connected to a brain inside your head?”

“I bet it’s pretty cozy inside your uterus,” I said.

She looked at me.

I said, “A kind of hammock is what it is. I’d swap places with him in a heartbeat.”

“That’s disgusting,” she said.

“Lying around all day. Just lying there. Comfortable.”

“Jesus. I feel genuinely nauseated.”

After a moment of contemplation, I said, “We used to drink beer.”

“What? Go down to the corner and get some.”

“You’re in your third trimester.”

“Yeah, well. I could do with a beer right now. This heat! Whose idea was it to put a city here? They must have built this place in the wintertime.”

She gave me some money. “Go see your little friend.”

I walked past the neighbor. He held the hose in his hand and stared at the water coming out of it like he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Life was so magical and strange. Miraculous. We were all going to die someday, but no matter.

I continued on my way, the only non-child in our neighborhood, perhaps the entire city, who made daily use of the sidewalks. I was notorious for it. When I walked by a house, people came up to their windows to gaze at the car-less freak.

The girl who worked in our corner store was sixteen and unnervingly beautiful. I dreamed about her sometimes. I thought about her when I was alone. I confessed to my wife that I was in love with her and was only waiting for her to get a little older before making my move. My wife called me a dirty fucker and sent me down to the corner to humiliate myself. The girl was always in there reading comic books and walking around in her clothes. She drank bottled water. She burned me with her eyes. I never knew what to say to her. I was hamstrung. It was her age and her beauty, but it was also my pregnant wife waiting for a beer fifteen houses up the road. There was no way to speak to such a person anymore. I didn’t live in that world. She stared right into my brain and didn’t give a shit about anything she saw in there. I might as well have been dead as she said, “Three fifty-nine.”

I gave her the money.

I said, “You have nice hands.”

She held up her hands and looked at them. We both looked at them, admired them, adored them. She really did have nice hands.

I walked home with a six-pack dangling from my arm, a few coins in my pocket. I felt like some kind of urbanized gorilla, like I might drop to my knuckles at any moment and drag my cans along the sidewalk.

My wife was still sitting on the porch with my son growing inside of her. She saw me coming and said, “Hey, ask weirdo there if we can borrow his lawnmower.”

The neighbor was picking the pine cones out of his front lawn, one by one, and chucking them into the street.

“If you think that guy would let me use his lawnmower, then you’re off your rocker.”

“Just ask him.”

“Anyway, you’d need a scythe to get through all that. Look at it. It’s a tiny rainforest. You’d need a miniature chainsaw, a pair of motorized garden shears.”

“A little sickle would do. We have one in the garage.”

“What about the butterflies? They’re here because of us. They’re flourishing.”

“Don’t be a dumb-dumb. In a month you’ll be a father to a tiny baby.”

She took a can of beer and cracked it open.

“You think he’ll get drunk in there?” I said.

“Half for me, half for him.”

I drank four cans, she drank two—one for her, one for him.

Cars went up and down the street. Kids crashed their bikes. Birds flew by.

When the beer was gone I went into the garage and took the sickle off its nail. I chopped down the grass, pulled it right out of the planet, left it in a heap for the city workers.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 30 | Fall 2010