I was sterilized in the first round of cuts. I failed the test and, with me bein’ in the right age range, had to go to the doctor and get gutted. Ovaries, gone forever. Children, gone forever.
At first, it didn’t bother me. I had welfare ’til the day I died ’cause I accepted my summons to the doctor, and me an’ Brett were in love. Unlike a lotta folks, the sterilization didn’t take that away from us. I s’pose it wasn’t somethin’ hormonal between us, but somthin’ deeper. Maybe it was the weed. Lord, we smoked so much weed back then.
We was smokin’ when we found the egg. A gov’ment truck barrelled through the mountains where we lived, and the back door swung open. A box landed in the holler, so me an’ Brett went to investigate. Higher ’n kites, we took the egg home with the hopes to hatch a dragon.
I loved the egg. It was robin’s egg blue, shiny like a gemstone. The first few weeks we had it, I’d light up a bowl and just look at the beautiful thing. I thought ’bout the dragon inside, wondered if it’d imprint itself on me like the Queen of Dragons.
Before long, though, we ran out of propane and money. Though I didn’t know it’d be forever, gone now were the days I could laze about and smoke a bowl whenever I wanted. Brett and I got jobs to pay for heating the egg. I turned it, cuddled it, cooed at it. I loved my dragon inside, my Daenerys. My baby.
Bret…Brett never knew this. I never told him. But a couple weeks after I stopped using weed, I candled the egg again.
The thin strands we’d thought were the wing-fingers had thickened. I could tell they weren’t wings. I turned the egg while I looked at it through the sunlight, felt the fragile shell.
Then it hit me like a shoe at a political rally – it wasn’t a dragon. It took me a few more days of studyin’ to figure it was a spider.
Lord have mercy, I near ’bout had a heart attack. I realized Brett and I had gotten some crazy Yank disaster, that the box we’d took the egg from was labeled “Top Secret” for a reason.
But I couldn’t tell him. The thing inside the egg, no matter what it hatched to be, was my baby. Mine. The Yanks had taken any other baby from me, and I had taken their secret baby from them.
And she hatched. I didn’t care that she was a spider, ’cause she was crying for me. Her mommy. I wiped the egg gunk from her precious little body, cried ’cause I didn’t know what to feed ’er, ’cause I hadn’t prepared. I rocked her to sleep, held her tight.
A couple months after we’d had her, she wrapped a couple claws around my hand. I stroked her head – she was havin’ some awful headaches at the time ’cause the Yanks didn’t design her skull to be the right size – and sang to her, “Hush little baby, don’t say a word, mama’s gonna buy you a mocking bird…”
She latched onto my finger and sucked on it like a baby. She definitely knew how to bite to make it hurt, so I knew she’d done this out of a longing for comfort. She couldn’t suck a tit, not with them lips, but she wanted that comfort of a pacifier or a bottle. Something.
“If that mocking bird don’t sing, mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring…”
I loved her from the moment we found the egg, but it’s that moment I pick out as the time I knew she was my baby. Mine. Not someone else’s failed dragon, not a stolen creature, but my baby. Through thick and thin, sickness and health – ’cause lord have mercy, there’s been a bunch of sickness – I’d be there. And so she took my heart, ripped it right outta my chest, and kept it for herself.
Oh, no, I ain’t bein’ literal. I’m bein’ figurative, you limey bitch.
I let her suck on my finger as I finished my song. I cuddled her in her blanket, lulled her to sleep, then took her to the bedroom. Her black body stood out against the pink sheets we’d gotten her. The cloth diapers I’d made and sewed velcro on fit so awkwardly, but they were so cute I wanted to cry.
I spun the little mobile over her crib. It didn’t have music – we were too poor at the time – but her eyes followed the wood cutouts spinning. Brett had done a good job makin’ and balancin’ the thing.
I’d get her a real room, one day. One that wasn’t shared with us, one that had a working ceiling fan and a computer and everything a child could want or need.
’Cause she was my baby.