|The Reg Mombassa artwork which inspired this story.|
Today is something rather different to usual. Today I’m going to tell you a story.
It seems slightly self indulgent to post fiction to this blog. I’m not sure why. The only reason I’ve decided to go against this feeling now is the absence of better ideas. But some of my best posts have come from an absence of better ideas so I’m running with it.
This is the story which won The Heading North Short Story Prize last year. Its one of which I’m rather fond. I could give you any number of preambles to introduce it but I’m not going to. Share and enjoy.
The egg cell is the largest cell in the human body.
It’s the only cell visible with the naked eye. I wonder if you know that. I’ve certainly never told you, it isn’t the kind of thing we discuss. I try to remember if you did Biology when we were at school, but following that train of thought recalls words like ‘zygote’ and ‘embryo’ so I stop. We’re at a funeral for goodness sake. You don’t think about these kinds of things at a funeral.
I should be thinking about Debra, the lady who used to live next door when I was little. I used to go over to her place when the bustle of home got too much for mum or for me. I always liked her, though I never understood why she didn’t own any cats. I like cats. I shouldn’t be thinking about cats at Debra’s funeral because obviously she didn’t like them. Do you like cats? I’ve never asked. We’ve been married for a year and I’ve never asked you if you like cats. Oh god. We’re not ready for this are we? I know I’m not.
Panic rising. Breathe Kathy, breathe.
That guy up the front doesn’t seem to be breathing. I’m sure I’ve seen him somewhere before. Don’t stare! You’re at a funeral Kathy, a funeral. Try and remember that. I glance sideways at you. You catch my sideways glance and smile. I smile back.
It’s nice to know that I still love you.
But there’s all kinds of love. I hope we’ve chanced upon the right kind of love to survive this. I haven’t even told you yet and already I’m scared about the next part. Can you see that in my smile?
We’re in a church. I should probably give praying a go while we’re here. Dear God, please do not let this tiny bubble of life be the end of my life as I know it. What the hell am I saying? Of course it’s going to be the end of life as we know it. It doesn’t matter what happens, how you react, how I react, how God decides to let the events play out. My life has already ended the way it was. I’m in denial and I’ve been denying it up ‘til now. There is no going back, even if I never told you, even if nothing ever happened, a teeny weeny part of myself has already changed.
The womb part for instance, that bit’s certainly different.
I’d rather pray at home anyway. I’ve already done it once or twice. First when I started to suspect something and again before yesterday’s doctor’s appointment. I went to the shade tree and just…sat there for a while, if that counts as praying. I’ve never been specifically religious but I can’t help but feel there’s someone else out there. I’m not really fussed whether it’s God or Budda or Allah or all three on some kind of roster. However the whole system works, I’ve never felt closer to it than when I sit under the shade tree.
I like the shade tree. It’s big and dark and cool. There’s something slightly ominous about the way the shadow it casts seems larger than the tree is capable of. I think its slightly sinister nature is just more evidence that some kind of god lives there. Even if it’s only a shade god I’m sitting with, it always makes me feel better.
I’ve never taken you there. Maybe I should.
I pick a hair off my cardigan. That’s how big the egg cell is you know- the width of a human hair. When I was younger I used the think that because they were visible one day I’d actually see one. I didn’t and don’t suppose I ever will. It’s funny though, when I was a teenager I used to remember that each month I had the capacity for life.
Not that I consciously thought about it, but the knowledge hung around in the back of my head sometimes. Then I met you and all that went away.
I really wish I’d never done Biology. Science can explain away every little bit of magic in the world. Like love. I fell in love with you for all kinds of reasons. You smell nice. You only ever buy me orange flowers because it’s my favourite colour, even though orange isn’t a colour most flowers have a natural affinity with. You don’t drink unless it’s champagne, in which case you drink too much. I’ve always really, really liked your hair.
According to science I fell in love with you because your features are symmetrical and your armpit pheromones are complementary to mine. This makes you an excellent candidate to father my children. Frankly, I hope science is right.
Not-breathing-man is getting up to speak. He says his name is Paul. Apparently he and Debra were dancing partners. He seems pretty sad about her dying. I’m fairly sad about it too; she wasn’t even old or anything.
Right now the issue in my stomach, which is quite literally multiplying by the second, is at the forefront of my mind.
I suppose it’s fitting. I can’t believe it’s taking me the whole funeral to work this out, but I have life here at a commemoration of death. They always say that funerals are a celebration of life. So maybe I should stop worrying and celebrate my little piece. Unfortunately I’m still terrified of the whole thing. If this baby is a girl I think I’ll call it Debra. And if it’s a boy its middle name can be Debra and I take no responsibility for any flack it gets at school. I like that.
I glance at you again and smile.