Noel shouldered through the door, lingering in the threshold as she wiped bloody hands on bloodier apron. Exertion mottled her cheeks, flyaway hairs escaped her failing updo, and Florian imagined her strewn pink and breathless beneath him, ravaged by wanting.

“It’s done,” Noel announced, grim. “It’s done, but…”

The rocking chair arm pressed between his ribs as Florian stretched for the spittoon. Babcock, paling, snuffed his Camel on the porch guardrail. “What is it?”

Noel looked to Florian. “I’m sorry.”

Flor hawked into the spittoon, replaced it. He sniffled and stood, modeling his own grimness after Noel’s as he marched into the wrecked kitchen. Flor’s wife was splayed thin on the mattress like marmalade on toast, steeped in clots and viscous fluid. From between her legs twisted a slimy umbilical cord, and attached to the end, cradled to her breast, was a pruny, gunky, breathless baby.

Babcock gasped.

“I’m sorry,” Noel said again.

Florian looked at dinner’s dishes hastily stuffed in the sink, then wandered back onto the porch. He spat the remainder of his snuff into the rye grass. The tobacco plants beyond sheened and dripped rain, stewing mud.

He hadn’t wanted a baby. Babcock and Noel’s twins, who just crested into toddlerhood, only served as headaches. Florian dreaded the nights Noel handed a child off her breast so she could mend or tidy house. His wife’s pregnancy, though—it was more enjoyable than he’d reckoned, watching her stout body grow soft and round, inflated by his seed. Each time she lamented morning nausea or aching, swollen feet, Flor tittered. And as she screamed tonight in the kitchen, Flor had wondered: wouldn’t there be a little thrill, too, if she died? If his bucking, unbridled sexual climax instigated her death?

Babcock joined him on the porch. Rain thrashed the awning. “We’re waiting on the afterbirth.”

“She should eat it still,” Flor said.

Babcock tapped a fresh Camel from the pack. “I doubt she’ll want to.”

“You said it’s what animals do,” Flor said, “what wolves do.”

“Yes, but at this stage, I wouldn’t expect it. How are you holding up?”

Approaching thunder grumbled past the horizon, hungry. Florian felt hungry, too.


Jenny Severyn holds a BA in English from Loyola University Chicago and an MLIS from Simmons University. She currently lives in Ohio with her fiancé.