When my husband lost the baby, no one understood our grief. We were in clinical
trials, the first human subject study approved by the FDA. At least he’s healthy, my
friends said, meaning At least he didn’t die. What they thought but didn’t say was Why
would he do this when you could carry his child?
The pilot experiments had gone well, but only tested the efficacy of the artificial
womb to sustain life, not generate it. Male subjects wore tethered balloons on their
stomachs. The early experiments used seeds in soil: roses, violets, and poppies. They
bloomed, bouquets. Photos went viral: male models whose rock-hard chests blossomed
My husband was not a model. His abs were soft from beer and pie. I was allergic
to roses and we both took bad photos. We just wanted a baby. His baby. Not mine.
I never wanted to carry a child. He loved this in me, as he loved all my ways. We
planned to adopt, but then he learned from a colleague about the new technology. They
were looking for subjects. It was something he wanted, so of course I said yes.
Three days after he lost the baby we were slumped on the couch, watching TV.
He’d gone to the hospital that afternoon to have his womb taken off. He was glassy-eyed,
weeping at diaper commercials. He scratched his leg, then swatted his knee.
Something just bit me. Does Theo have fleas?
On TV, a tall woman got into a hot tub with her maybe-future-husband.
She’s never going to pick him, I said. It’s never the dentist. Always some guy in
More swatting. Then he jumped off the couch and unzipped his pants.
Something’s caught in my pant leg. It feels like a mouse. He hopped around the living
room in boxers, shaking his khakis until his wallet fell out. Nickels and dimes spun to the
floor. A small furry something scurried away.
We stared at the tiny creature. It hopped around wildly until it found my
husband’s leg. Then it dug in and climbed onto his lap. He hadn’t lost the baby. The baby
had lost him.
I think it’s a baby kangaroo.
It probably wants to be swaddled. Will you get me a towel?
I picked out the softest towel I could find. My husband stroked its fur, then
wrapped it loosely with its head peeking out.
We named him Joey, because he was. Like all joeys he’d fallen and scrabbled
back up. Now he wanted a bottle. To be cuddled and swaddled while watching the world
from a makeshift pouch.
Carol Guess is the author of fourteen books of poetry and prose, including Darling Endangered and Doll Studies: Forensics. Forthcoming books include The Reckless Remainder, co-written with Kelly Magee, and Your Sick, co-written with Elizabeth J. Colen and Kelly Magee. She teaches in the MFA program at Western Washington University. Find her here: www.carolguess.blogspot.com
Kelly Magee is the author of Body Language (UNT Press 2006), winner of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction, as well as the forthcoming collaborative works The Reckless Remainder and Your Sick. Her writing has appeared in Kenyon Review, Crazyhorse, Gulf Stream, Ninth Letter, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Passages North, and others. She teaches in the undergraduate and MFA programs at Western Washington University. Find links to her work at kellyelizabethmagee.com.
A recipient of a 2015 NEA Fellowship for poetry, grants from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund and the Kentucky Foundation for Women, Staci R. Schoenfeld’s poems appear in or are forthcoming from Washington Square, Mid-American Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Muzzle, and Southern Humanities Review, among others. She is a PhD student at the University of South Dakota.