With Child
Marni Asplund-Campbell, editor

Thinking of Me
Julie Turley

[p.17]My husband’s cousin had to give the baby she had just adopted back after she had already named it. The court order made me laugh bitterly, and I choked on the Grape Nuts and soy milk I eat every night like a child. The man who contested the adoption was the father—a  septaugenarian from West Covina, California. He took the baby and stuck it in one of those plastic walkers. A trashed-out polaroid of this lands in my husband’s cousin’s post office box, and she brings it over and throws it on our trashed-out couch.

I finish my cereal and almost sit on it, the photograph. The cousin plops down beside me. If I weren’t Mormon, I would have a cigarette, I am so satisfied from dinner, that humble bowl. I bring my fingers to my mouth and inhale, faking it.

I have not told a lie in months. Except now I tell the cousin that she would have made an excellent mother, and that if I had seven babies, I would give her half. At my advanced age—thirty-three—I would need a little help.

We laugh together, and not one hour later, I am foraging through my cupboards for more food. But there is nothing, only powdered milk, powdered eggs, baby red lentil—-dry—and a magnificent fruit cake still boxed.

We have no baby. One has not been sent to us, boxed or otherwise.

My grandmother calls and hangs up when I answer. She thinks I am keeping a good old-fashioned pregnancy from her on purpose. Something is wrong with us here. Our bed is on wooden stilts. The skirt of our couch drags the surface of our battered parquet floors. We are in New York City, and our neighbor above us throws herself onto [p.18]the floor like a bomb.

“Nothing sticks,” the weatherman says, thinking of me. My husband’s face drifts. He is thinking of his cousin and the first baby she had named Hope who she lost in the ninth month before she could slam herself against the wall of her Westchester nursery and push it out of herself. The family buried it under the huge storm that swept us the winter of 1996.

In West Covina the seventy-year-old father drags the walker across the carpet. His baby’s legs dangle helplessly underneath.

Far away, in Utah, is where all babies are so effortlessly grown, attaching themselves to uterine walls like the snow on our fire escape that lengthens into ice.