Saturday 15 June 2019

'Buttons of Flesh and a Beautiful Fish' by Maura Yzmore

My mother sleeps on her left side, with her hand under the pillow and her right arm draped over her belly. Inside it, I bob in the warm salty liquid, drowsy with the thunder in her heart, the wind in her lungs, the brook in her veins.

“About halfway through the pregnancy, the fetus starts to suck its thumb. You might see it on the ultrasound.”

I have no thumbs, no fingers, no hands. Just stumps with buttons of flesh where digits should have  grown.

“This drug is very effective at treating your condition and its potential side effects have been well documented for the general population. Unfortunately, we don’t really know if it’s safe for pregnant women. There have been some reassuring experiments on mice and rats, but nothing conclusive. I’m afraid that’s as rigorous of a confirmation of the drug’s safety as we’re likely to get. The truth is, no one wants to experiment on pregnant women in the first trimester, when the developing fetus is so vulnerable.”

I can see my mother’s dreams. Since the ultrasound, she’s been dreaming of a sad boy with scissor hands. Sometimes, he falls on his hands and his body goes still in a pool of blood. Sometimes, she takes off his scissors and kisses his stumps with buttons of flesh.

“Yes, I’ve heard those stories, too. I do believe that people who know us really well — our children, our parents — might seem like they are inside our heads… But no, I don’t believe that a psychic link, induced by the drug in utero, is a real thing.”

I send my mother a dream she will like — a beautiful fish, swimming inside her womb; its tail, the colors of cobalt and gold, brushing against the walls. My mother smiles.


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