Sometimes, I would catch her peering through a crack in my bedroom door as I changed, watching me with those blue dagger eyes. “Do you think you need some new bras?” she might say later, “those no longer seem to fit.” A way of letting me know what she’d seen. 

Locks were not allowed in our house, not even in the bathroom, and sometimes she would stand outside of the door while I bathed, chatting away like we were friends.  She’d rattle the doorknob, just to let me know she could come in if she wanted to.  

Come here, I want to tell you something, she’d say.  It always made my stomach drop, my throat freeze, a strong metallic taste creep into mouth.  “Your dad has some disease.  But he wants me to touch it anyway.  He wants me to put it in my mouth.”   

I was 12 and had kissed a boy once under the strobe lights at the roller rink.  He pressed his tongue between my lips.  He tasted like root beer and ripe bananas. 

Sometimes she would press up close to my friend, Rick, when he came to see me. “You’re too young for boyfriends,” she’d say. One time she gave Rick a Coke and sat on the porch in her black miniskirt, talking nonstop while he watched her crossing and uncrossing her legs. 

Come here, I want to tell you something. “My father used to beat my mother.  But I was always on his side.  She complained too much.  She whined all the time.  She deserved it.” 

Sometimes, she’d call me into the bathroom to keep her company while she bathed, the shower curtain wide open so I could see her rubbing her breasts with soap.  “Don’t forget our secret,” she’d say.  “A girl stays loyal to her mother. Always.”   

Once, I took a knife from the kitchen and crawled under my bed, pressed the sharp blade against my arm until the skin split, bloody and warm. If I were to cut her open what would I find inside? No pulsing organs. No human meat. A yellow, waxy slime. 

Sometimes I hid in the closet, beneath a pile of old blankets that smelled like mold, and tried to merge with the quiet and the darkness. I tried to melt into nothing, into non-matter, into liquid that evaporates, into dust that scatters, into rising ash.  

Come here, I want to tell you something.  “Lie down with me.  Hold me close. Consider yourself lucky.  You have me to take care of you,” she’d say.  “When I was a little girl, I had no one.”

Continue Reading...

THE BABY by Jamy Bond

One morning, she told me the story of how her friend’s baby died in a car accident. 

“They were stopped at a red light. Someone came up from behind and slammed into them. My friend thought immediately of her baby in the back seat, but when she turned around to reach for it, she saw the baby’s head pop off, its arms and legs break, its chest cave in.”

All I could think about at school that day was the baby. Its head popping off. We were supposed to practice writing our letters, but every time I came to the lower case i—with its slender body and bubbly, round head—I thought of the baby, its head ripping away from its neck, flying up into the air. Did it hit the roof of the car, I wondered, or roll onto the floor? Did it cry?

“How was school?”  she asked when I got home.

“I keep thinking about the baby.”

“My friend’s baby? Oh, what a tragedy. To think of a baby crushed to death!  What an awful thing. Honey, let me sit down for a minute. Put your arms around me. That poor, poor baby.” 

I dreamed about the baby. It wasn’t a baby in my dream, but a little girl like me, and I could see her from her mother’s perspective in the front seat: her eyes bugging out just as her head explodes. Blood spouting from her open neck, spraying the seats and windows in bright red.  

The next day at school, I kept hearing a baby’s cry. I heard it in the clang of metal lockers, in the slam of heavy classroom doors, in the screams of children on the playground. While I stood at the craft table cutting Valentine hearts out of pink construction paper, my hands started to shake and I broke out in a sweat.  

“What’s wrong, do you have a fever?”  Ms. Albert said.  

“No,” I told her. “I can’t stop thinking about the baby.”

“What baby?”

“The baby my mother told me about. The one in the car accident. The baby whose head popped off. The baby that was crushed to death.”

“Come here,” Ms. Albert said and led me down the hall to the nurse’s office. 

I told the nurse about the baby, the dream, my shaking hands.   

She called my mother.

I could hear the nurse’s voice go from puzzled to concerned to, finally, empathetic.

“Yes, they do tend to exaggerate. Even make stuff up.”  

She hung up the phone.

“Time to return to class, my dear,” she said and pulled me down the hall. 

Back in the classroom, it was story time. I lay down on a soft rug and listened to a story about cats.  

“What’s wrong with you?”  my mother said when I walked into the house. “I never said that.”


“I told you her baby died in a car accident. I never said anything about its head popping off or its arms and legs. That’s ridiculous. How embarrassing! You have a very vivid imagination.”

She sent me to my room to wait for dinner, so I played with the Baby Alive doll I’d gotten for Christmas. There were batteries at the small of her back, beneath her pink, lacy onesie, that made her mouth open and close. She came with food and diapers. Her food was a packet of cherry powder that you mixed with water until it turned into goo.  I loved feeding her that goo on a tiny pink spoon with a butterfly handle. Soon after she swallowed it, a creamy pink slime would appear in her diaper. 

I had used all of the food and diapers on Christmas day, and my mother refused to buy more because it was messy. So for now, I just pretended to feed my baby, scooping air into her pulsing mouth with that tiny spoon. 

“Eat up,” I said, “you must be hungry,” and I imagined her emaciated and starving, skin draping from her baby bones.  

Continue Reading...