BOOKS BY CHRIS TUSA
The baby was a white fist of flesh. Mama had placed the ultrasound photo atop her dresser in a sterling silver frame. That night, when the pain bent her over in the kitchen, I imagined that same white fist punching her insides black-and-blue. When Daddy called from the hospital to tell us she’d lost the baby, my brother Cyrus said I shouldn’t worry. He said the baby didn’t feel any pain, that at nine weeks it wasn’t anything but a ball of meat squirming in Mama’s stomach. He said it hadn’t even sprouted arms or legs yet, that it still had a fish brain and gills growing in its neck.
That night, I dreamed of Mama’s flesh creaking as the doctor unstitched the trapdoor in her stomach. Her insides looked like crushed red velvet, and the baby’s skin was blue as a robin’s egg. I imagined the stitches in her stomach, tiny black mouths puckering between the folds of her belly. I remember wondering where the baby’s cries had gone, if they had stayed inside Mama’s body after the doctors stitched the trapdoor shut.
Nearly six months later, I was sitting in front of Ben Franklin High in my yellow flower dress, studying for my Science test, thinking about the baby again, my fingers tracing the pink gills of a fish in my Biology textbook. As I stared at the fish, I heard the crackle of gravel and what sounded like the faint moan of a car horn. I looked over my shoulder and saw a rusted blue Hyundai with a dented fender idling in the parking lot behind me. It was my brother Cyrus.