The Natural Mother of the Child
by Krys Malcolm Belc
Winner of the 2018 Flash Contest
After the pediatrician calls me Samson’s mother you say you will come with me to Target to buy cat litter and a couple of sticks of butter. You feel bad. I can tell. In the car you run your hands through my hair and say, It’s just so thick. You say it sexy like. Sometimes you think sex can fix anything. In the backseat, our boys whine for lollipops and complain that it’s snowing again. This is Marquette, Michigan, I say. Your fingers are long. Your nails are sharp. You pull my hair so hard it hurts. You never want to hurt me, but you do. When the pediatrician said while looking at me that Most boys get as tall as their Moms around twelve we both looked down and pretended she was talking about you. Samson stood in front of her. Samson with his thin, muscular legs and wide chest. Samson, with my face. Her stethoscope placed over his wildly beating heart. So alive, this child I made. Nobody had mistaken me for a mother in years, before the doctor. You have a beard, for God’s sake, you say in the car on the way to get cat litter and butter. When I looked back up at the doctor, after she called me Samson’s mother, she looked at me like she did not know what I was.
In moments like that I pretend to be someone else. A downhill skier. A news anchor. A grocer. A ticket taker on the train. I could stand in the quiet car while people held out their tickets; nobody ever looks up at the ticket taker, and everyone says Thank you in the same satisfying tone. There I’d be, holding my hole punch, tiny white punched-out paper circles fluttering to the train floor. I’d give a warm smile, having all the power but wanting people to know everything was OK. The doctor said that Samson is too skinny, but he is like me: too full of not knowing what to do with his body to stay still for very long. He was born in Philadelphia, a city with hundreds of parks and recreation centers, places to burn all that energy off. He has always been like this, so thin; you joked that I made skim milk. You and your jokes—you’re the one who joked about my height; you said, when the doctor said Samson was in the eighty-fifth percentile, you said, Wow, I wonder how old he’ll be when he’s taller than you. You’re the reason the doctor called me Samson’s mom. In the bottle, my milk always looked blue when held up to the light. I remember that, the whine and squeeze of the pump, the blue milk, barely a wisp of fat on top, sitting in our fridge in Philadelphia.
In the backseat our kids fight over bouncy balls they got from the free bin in the doctor’s office. Strapped in like they are there is only so much damage they can do. She called me she. She called me his mom. A thousand mile move, away from everyone who knew me before. Away from everyone who saw me carry him. After years, now, off testosterone, still this word: Mom. I can never get away. On the way to Target you pull my hair. You say, You are so lucky to have this hair, and this is what every woman who ever cut it completely off has said to me as it all falls to the floor. On testosterone, my hair keeps getting thicker, coarser. After I say nothing for a long time, you say that it must have been his birth certificate; once someone sees Samson’s birth certificate, you say, they can never unsee it. It must have been in his medical file, the one we transferred from Philadelphia, when we moved here, to a small town where it is always snowing. Yeah, I say. The birth certificate says Mother: Then my name. The doctor was never seeing me; she saw a mother. We used to love taking our kids to the pediatrician; their doctor in Philadelphia knew us, ended every visit with, Keep up the good work! The doors at this Target in Upper Michigan whoosh open with the same sound you can hear anywhere in America. A sound not unlike a train door. Warm air washes over the five of us: you, me, and the three children we took turns making. Rows of items wait the same here as they do everywhere, so many ways to make us feel better. Lightweight cat litter has changed our lives. With four sticks of butter I can make dozens of cookies. White chocolate macadamia. Brown butter oatmeal. I’ll rest the dough in the fridge so they come out absolutely perfect. You want to make me, your children’s father, feel better, so you buy me a hot coffee, load the kids all into a single cart, and insist that you steer.
Published September 15th, 2018
Krys Malcolm Belc's chapbook of flash essays, IN TRANSIT, is forthcoming from The Cupboard Pamphlet. His essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, Tin House Online, The Adroit Journal, Redivider (as the winner of the 2018 Beacon Street Prize), and elsewhere. His work has been supported by the Sustainable Arts Foundation. He lives in snowy Marquette, MI with his partner and three small children and is a student in the MFA program at Northern Michigan University.
Born in Venezuela and later moving to the states Andrea Mora developed a passion to uncover the truth within different cultures and communities. As a creative writer and an award-winning photographer she has the ability to fuse both mediums allowing the viewer to interpret her work more profoundly. Mora is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree at the Savannah College of Art and Design.