By Erika Murdey
Jill sits on a park bench at the fountain to rest her feet—she finds it harder to move in her fifth month of pregnancy. She had needed to get out of the house, to enjoy the sunshine and warmth. Other women sit around the fountain too: a woman in a blue skirt with a baby, a woman with red hair who looks eighteen months pregnant, and a woman in a yellow dress cuddling her own infant.
Beside her, the woman in the blue skirt takes a bite of her sandwich, chews it for a moment, and plucks the soggy lump out of her mouth and stuffs it past her baby’s lips.
“Oh, are you baby-birding?” the woman with red hair asks.
The blue-skirted woman smiles. “Yes, it lets my darling Juniper experience new flavors and textures.”
“How delightful!” the woman in the yellow dress says.
“I love it too. Such a natural experience for the baby. Maple loves to baby-bird, doesn’t she?” the red haired woman says to her stomach. Jill starts when a small white face pops out of the woman’s belly, skin damp, red hair plastered to its skull.
“You’re kangarooing?” asks Blue Skirt.
“Yes, I had a pouch cut into my abdomen right after she was born. It gives her the comfort of being in the womb, and she always feels close to me.”
“I did too!” says Yellow Dress. She then lays her infant on the towel-covered park bench. “So much nicer than pushing my little Boxelder around in a buggy. Those things are always being recalled.” The women shudder together; Jill tries to muster a small shake of her shoulders to fit in. Yellow Dress strips the infant of clothes, then diaper. The full diaper disappears into a plastic bag. Jill watches as the woman proceeds to lick the baby clean.
“Kittening?” Blue Skirt asks. Yellow Dress pauses to wipe a greenish-brown streak from her mouth and nods. “I kitten my baby too, but I wonder if it’s too late to kangaroo her?”
“Hard to say,” Red Hair says. “I wouldn’t imagine so. Though if you had wanted to cichlid your child, then it would be too late.”
“Cichliding? I never heard of that.”
“My friend had it done before her baby was born. She made the doctors unhinge her jaw when she discovered she was pregnant so the skin of her face could stretch. Now she carries little California Redwood in her mouth wherever she goes.”
Yellow Dress stops for a moment and claps her hands together, “Marvelous!” Her baby raises its glistening arms as though to fend off the next approach of the pink tongue.
Jill shifts on the bench. “I was thinking of suggesting Sea Horsing to my husband.”
The three women jerk their heads towards her, eyes wide. “What is Sea Horsing?’
“You know, like how with sea horses the male carries the eggs to term? I bet he’d fall flat to the floor if I mentioned it.”
Red Hair sniffs. Yellow Dress raises her eyebrows. Blue Skirt says slowly, “I never heard of Sea Horsing.”
“It’s not a real thing,” Jill says, “I was joking. But didn’t you wish sometimes, when you were feeling all sick and huge, that your husband was the pregnant one?”
The three women turn away, whispering among themselves. Jill sits for another minute, listening to the crashing water of the fountain, before walking home.
Erika Murdey is a student of the Central Michigan University MA program in English Language and Literature with an emphasis in Creative Writing. No human children, but more fur-babies than any reasonable person could be expected to count.