Thursday, January 17, 2013

Short Story: Abortion

Here's a short story I wrote a few years ago for a flash-fiction contest:

The cruel blade glinted in the sun and cast a splotch of light on the face of one of the soldiers beside my bed. More truthfully, the blade wasn’t cruel. It wasn’t even sharp. Okay, it wasn’t even really a blade. It was tinfoil.

My sister Gay had made it, twenty years before when she had been my age. It was hideous, but I admired it anyway. For a fifteen-year-old girl in 1930 to learn the language of heraldry, research her family crest, then give those strange old words new life in the form of an accurate model, was something worthy of admiration, if not wonder.

“How are you feeling?” asked Gay, swirling into the room in the wake of her skirt.

“Swell,” I lied, then recanted. “I think I’ll be alright as long as I don’t smell food.”

“The door to the kitchen’s tightly closed, and the children have all been strictly charged.”

“Gay, I said, “I believe you are the only woman your age who wears bobby socks.”

“Oh, do you know a man my age who wears them?” Gay asked, throwing me one of her signature impish eye-twinkles. “You’re as young as you feel, and I feel fifteen.”

“We’ve switched, then,” I replied, “because I feel thirty-five.”

“Oh, that’s the morning sickness. It goes away.”

I stared at the spot of light on the soldier’s face on the wallpaper, and said, “I spoke with Mother yesterday.”

“Oh yes, I heard she telephoned while I was at the butcher’s.”

“Gay,” I began, swallowed, took a deep breath and said again, “Gay.”

She stopped tidying up the room and stood beside the bed, quite close, watching me patiently.

“Gay, she’s not--they’re not--not going to let me keep the baby!” Tears came like a river in springtime.

My sister sat down and hugged me. She didn’t say anything but “Shh” and “There, now,” at first, while I sobbed into her blouse. Then she said, “Look at me, Peaches.”

I laughed, in spite of myself. “You haven’t called me Peaches for a long time.”

“You may be big, grown-up Georgia now,” she answered, “but you’ll always be my beloved baby sister Peaches. Listen, she may think she’s not going to let you keep the baby. But that’s just her plan. She’s not the baby’s mother; you are. You’re the one who’s responsible to make this decision.”

“But I’m underage, and...” I didn’t want to say the awful word ‘unmarried’.
Gay supplied a less embarrassing word. “Yes,” she said, “you’re underage and her daughter, but we can still fight this--if you want to.”

“I do,” I answered. “I want this baby more than anything. I know it will be hard work, but I’ll work hard. I feel my baby inside me. I love my baby!”

“You don’t need to convince me,” said Gay. “You don’t need to convince anyone. If you’re sure of your decision, then that’s all you need to say.”

“I’m sure of my decision,” I said, like it was a recitation, “but what about Mother’s plan?”

“Mother’s plan,” said Gay, “is going to be aborted.”


“Oh, heavens, I’m sorry!” she said, turning red and covering her mouth with her manicured fingertips. “I should have chosen a different word.”

I laughed again. “It’s okay. I like that word.”

I lifted the bedcovers and bent my head toward the roundness under my nightgown. “Did you hear that?” I said, “We’re going to have an abortion. We’re going to abort your grandmother’s plan and stay together forever--or at least until you go off to college.”

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