Saturday, 6 June 2020

'The Keeper's Story' by Grace Palmer

The week Coco was due to give birth I stayed up for three nights with her. My gut-rumble was fierce, but I pegged it as stress, soothed it with peppermint tea. While Coco turned around in the straw in the early hours I observed and monitored, waited for her time to come.

Mum told me to go to the surgery, but I was used to indigestion. What with the birth and the camera crew I wasn’t paying attention.

Coco’s leathery palms stretched upwards on the gurney after we knocked her out and pulled the green gown over her belly. The vet called in the LRI consultants to do a C-section and afterwards the hairy baby clung to me while Coco recuperated. I hand-reared Jo-Jo, took her home to sleep skin to skin until I could no longer ignore my symptoms. My throat had become full of knives and I couldn’t eat chips.

My hearing fades. Chemotherapy infusions sting my nose; madder-red in my veins. Mum strokes her skirt, a toffee wrapper twisted golden in her soft hands.

After the last bitter suck, I ask, “Will you take me to the zoo?”

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