Nance Knauer

I dreamt I gave birth to her, right there in the bed, all sleek and shiny, like an otter. I woke up and reached down under the covers, shaking so hard I woke Zeke. Too weak to sit up, I asked him to look and tell me if she was OK.

“Jesus, Shelley, you’re bleeding.”

“I think that’s all right. There’s supposed to be blood. Just tell me if she’s breathing.”

He was already in the kitchen. I could hear him on the phone while I tried to lick my lips. My tongue felt withered, like a dry stick without any buds. When I lifted my hand to my mouth I tasted the red salt. There was no earthiness to it, nothing that held breath.

Zeke was back, I could feel his hands pressing something cold against my legs and then his arms were around my neck and whispers, whispered, soft words wet my face.

“We got to get you in the truck, babe. They think something’s wrong, like maybe a stitch came loose. Hold on to me, now, everything’s going to be fine.”

Dreams were no good anymore, and there was no pain, no focus, not even a letting go. They made a mistake. They should have let me keep it all, the parts that didn’t work and the bits that grew without reason. Zeke and I could have done it somehow, she’d have been here with me and I’d have something to hold on to. I’d be whispering to her, just like he was to me, telling her lies because the truth could always come later.

The sun was in my eyes and I watched its edge shift and go black, and then I dropped my lids and listened to the whine of the tires as we crossed the bridge into town. When we hit the pavement on the other side, I started to cry. I don’t know why I waited so long.