Judith didn’t want to force the boy, but Jacob refused the chance to be reborn in His image. Willow, the regression therapist, said he suffered a PTSD-like disease, and that simulating a second birth would release him from the trauma of years of processed food, daycare by television. And so she held tight the down blanket wrapped around his body, the mock vaginal lips that parted at the crown of his head. He kicked and screamed, and she whispered that soon they would be together again.
Willow said, Again?
And Judith imagined what it would be like to cut the crusts off of her boy’s sandwiches, chauffeur him to cotillion, and buy him his first semi-automatic weapon—everything that she didn’t get to do for her first Gift. Because God bestowed upon the faithful riches—Judith was a vessel for Him. Perfect posture, tiny steps, shirtsleeves past the wrists.
The boy vomited in his womb, and the therapist considered Judith’s many mounted animal heads—antelope, deer, and ram.
What would you call this room? Willow said.
An office, I guess.
And how many rooms do you have?
Twelve if you count the workshop out back.
Willow whistled a cartoon whistle, as if she was impressed. Judith sensed a twinge of contempt. But the therapist didn’t know how dearly she paid—a dead husband and organs.
Judith forced a smile. I’ve been blessed.
Willow said, It would be better for him to birth into your arms, so that you can wipe away the afterbirth from his eyes, nose, and lips.
But his mess, Judith said.
The first of many, I’m afraid.
And to have him otherwise could make him upset.
Well I’d rather not.
Ruin this blouse, I meant.
In his down womb, Jacob writhed, gagged, and spit.
Judith held the mock-opening against her chest.
Willow reached for the boy.
She yanked him away, shot the therapist a look like you’re next.
He could die, Willow said.
Every life comes with certain risks.
And then Judith hummed a lullaby until Jacob’s life passed through her—water through a sieve. The remnants: tiny deposits of sin. But now the boy was free to enter heaven. Or burn in hell, as God wished. And then Judith lay the boy’s body on the ground, rocked forward to a crouch, and lunged at Willow, pummeled her face and chest. She was surprised by how little blood stained her fists. When the bitch was good and dead, Judith looked over her shoulder to Jacob, and noticed the body fluids seeping through the comforter, blotting the carpet yellow and red.
She muttered, Shit.
Judith dragged Jacob by the feet, to the metal shed out back, and into the storage closet where he and Willow could be stashed. The following day she would dump them in a wastewater pit one county west. The chemical sludge would eat away their skin or at least the fingerprints that might tie her to them. But first, but now, she needed to ask for His forgiveness, receive His wisdom.
Judith sat in the last pew of Calvary Assembly. A gaggle of accordion-shaped matrons gathered near the front of the hall, around Joseph, the preacher, preaching The End. Their task was to hold one another witness to be saved from sin. And it was through such service they might glimpse heaven. Then Joseph said he had to take to the shop his Benz, but there was time if anyone would like to testify their faith to Him. Two women shot to their feet, gave one another a sideways glance.
Judith laughed, lifted her gaze to the heavens, and prayed: God, thank you for saving me. It’s been a long journey, and I’m trying my best, but sometimes I’m not sure if I’m cut out to be in Your service. I know the two followers I delivered to you today were unclean—that woman smelled like cigarettes and likely the boy couldn’t complete a quick slant. For this I ask your forgiveness, and another chance. Please give me a sign: a healthy prospect or a new, functional uterus. Sure every setback is an opportunity, but I’m at the end of my wits.
Judith parked her Escalade two blocks from the elementary. She waited for the last girl to lope down the schools front steps, toward her car, then held out the window a rope of saltwater taffy.
She said, Hungry?
The girl grimaced. Not for your garbage candy.
And why are you so creepy?
I don’t know what you mean, Judith said.
The girl plucked her cellphone from her pocket. Well maybe we should call the police, and see what happens then.