After “Other Babies” by Meredith Alling
Some of the grandmothers swim laps in bathrobes and flower petal swim caps. Their lungs are full of fish. They point at each goldfish in its plastic bag pond and name it, Linda, Anoush, Isabel, one for each grandchild. Other grandmothers never learned how to swim. They lay on the bank like moss-covered stones until their legs fuse back into tails. Some grandmothers unfold their bodies like tents in the shade of an apricot tree. They have trained their whole lives for this. Other grandmothers are the tree, and mostly this feels good to them—the leaves always whispering, so that they’re never lonely, the smooth turquoise eggs tucked in carefully-arranged nests. Sometimes the nests fall and the eggs crack like crème brulee and then the grandmothers would rather not be trees, would rather have limbs that move, fingers, soft hands, like the other grandmothers, but it’s not up to them. Some grandmothers are full of magma. The magma boils and bubbles in the mantle of their stomachs until their insides are nothing, only fire. When these grandmothers erupt, entire villages die. Some grandmothers have never felt heat. They are always cold, cold, cold, fingers blue, joints scraping like crochet needles. Some grandmothers are in the kitchen, slicing the heads off figs, pinching dough lifeboats around orphaned lambs, praying that blood is thicker, after all. Other grandmothers are the kitchen and all their cupboard doors have been left open and fruit is rotting on the counters. Some of the grandmothers are too scared to move. Their ears twitch like rabbit ears. They know the shadow of the hawk when it moves over them. Other grandmothers are the hawk. They gulp down rabbits like butter mints. They have barcode veins, so they can be returned to the store if damaged or broken. They count babies like old pennies, tilting them out of a milk bottle and dropping them back in one at a time, each one a wish, knowing how easy it is to lose things. How hard it is to keep them.
Lindy Biller is a writer based in the Midwest. Her fiction has recently appeared at Reservoir Road, Cheap Pop, Flyover Country, and Nurture Literary. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram @lindymbiller.
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